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Environmental Problems Derived From Modern Societies Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1974 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Global warming is probably one of the most talked issues of our generation and ironically it is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects. Everyone talks about it without truly understand what it means for our future or what its horrifying consequences are. The dictionary defines global warming as “the rise in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation.” [1] 

This essay will analyze with more depth this definition and also make the students understand how serious this subject is about to become and how it is in our hands to slow down this process before it is too late.

Environmental problems derived from modern societies

The comfort we have in our modern life is leading us to use up many natural resources. So, it is important to understand what controls the fragile and complex climate on Earth.

The Earth temperature is controlled by the greenhouse effect. This effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface and the lower atmosphere, it results in an elevation of the average surface temperature above what it would be in the absence of the gases.

Life on Earth is only possible because of the green house effect. Actually, if this effect did not exist, the temperature on the surface would be around 34°C colder than it is in the present days.

With the rise of gas emissions of the green house effect, as in the gases which absorb and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range, the fragile and complex system that controls Earth climate is affected and consequently, the surface becomes warmer.

As Derek Markham states:

The main greenhouses gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halocarbons, ozone (O3) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases are not only produced by human action but there are also natural causes aggravating the situation. Starting by stating the main ones, such as, our ever-increasing addiction to electricity from coal burning power plants releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. [2] 

Every day, more electric gadgets flood the market, and without alternative energy sources, we are highly dependent on burning coal for our personal and commercial electrical supply.

Other big issue is the demand for more cars and consumer goods, which increased the use of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing caused its growth at an alarming rate among the population.

Other cause derived from the grown of the population is the enormous quantity of methane released into the atmosphere by the creation of animals in a large scale. The process of anaerobic decomposition that takes place in the intestines of herbivorous animal produced methane.

Furthermore Markham says:

“The use of forests for fuel (both wood and for charcoal) is one cause of deforestation, but in the first world, our appetite for wood and paper products, our consumption of livestock grazed on former forest land, and the use of tropical forest lands for commodities like palm oil plantations contributes to the mass deforestation of our world. Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this deforestation releases large amounts of carbon, as well as reducing the amount of carbon capture on the planet.”

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Analyzing the consequences

Although there are countless alarming consequences [3] there are a few that deserve more attention. For instant, with climate change, areas where precipitation was relatively constant now cease to be. With time, this situation generates a low irrigation of soil and consequently the desertification of soil. What happens it that the soil of these certain areas starts to become increasingly sterile and which means that the land does no longer have enough nutrients to grow new vegetation, both natural and planted by men. Without vegetation, less will rain, the soil becomes barren and lifeless and, of course, survival is very difficult.

Also, as global warming is associated with the rise of the planet’s average temperature, this increase passes on the heat to water sources present on Earth and therefore it is a reason of alarm because it is believed to be the main cause for some Fauna and Flora extinction once present in the deep ocean. Also, Joe Romm says:

“It is predicted more intense monsoons with climate change. Warmer air can hold more water and puts more energy into weather systems, changing the dynamics of storms and where and how they hit.” [4] 

Considering this scenario, what it is more likely to happen is that cities and towns will not be prepared for this impact in terms of infrastructures.

Another issue, and that might be the scariest, is the general reduction in food production:

“Due to this Nature’s immoderate behaviour and climate’s conditions, the profits in average crop will vary depending on its geologic location. This effect on productivity will lead to a reduction in global food production, resulting on the increase of cases of malnutrition.”footnote! http://www.carebadges.com/?p=15

This will also be followed by the fact that mosquitoes are extremely sensitive to climate variations and global warming will allow these species to travel to parts of the world that used to be too cold for them to survive, which means that tropical diseases will spread south from South East Asia and Africa to other places.

Lastly is the fact that the polar ice (ice accumulated on top of the land on both poles) is melting at an increasingly fast pace, a process triggered by surface heating. The problem is that our Planet has about 38 million cubic kilometres of ice, of which 85% are in Antarctica. Because ice is less dense than water, around 33 million of cubic kilometres of water would obviously go to the ocean. Considering that the ocean’s surface is 360 million cubic kilometres and if this surface remains constant, it would mean an increase of 60 meters of the sea level. Of course this is an irrealistic and extremist point of view and we can only predict based on results of the UN Climate Panel an increase of the sea level about 18 to 60 centimetres in the next century, which is not a big problem.

What have we been doing to minimise global warming?

Up to date, there have been major worldwide congresses and Talks to discuss the Global Warming issue and spread the word. From all of them, there are two that deserve attention:

The “World Summit River” in 1992 which took place in Rio de Janeiro, was the first major conference focused on this topic and to debate solutions to combat global warming. 117 representatives of countries around the world were present that day to sign the most important measure called Agenda 21, which committed these signatory nations to adopt the new methods of sustainable development, creating an economic background to serve as financial support in order to achieve the target set to cut carbon emissions by the year 2000, when carbon dioxide in atmosphere was 355 ppm.

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In the following years the involve countries did not accomplished the targets and in 1997, when the carbon emissions where 365 ppm at atmosphere according to IPCC, it was called the Kyoto summit. In the Kyoto summit there been established new targets to cut up 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels before 2012 and again the countries did no achieve this.

So it is understandable that we have been doing climate change policy but failed over and over again. It is time to realize the current approach is broken and we have to think about other solutions.

The solutions

As consequences, solutions are countless and should be put into practice more actively. The solutions presented next are the most important ones:

Starting by fossil fuels, probably the most difficult one to achieve because of its presence in society is to continually eliminate the burning of coal, oil and natural gas and replace them by other sources of energy such as solar energy, wind energy, water splitting, algae fuel, terra power, wave energy, urban cooling and geo- engineering

Infrastructure Upgrade is another measure that needs attention, buildings in cities contribute to about one third of all greenhouse gas emissions, even though investing in thicker insulation and other cost-effective, temperature-regulating steps can save money in the long run. But energy-efficient buildings and improved cement-making processes could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world and prevent them in the developing world.

Transportation is another major source of greenhouse gas emissions, so one action that could make all the difference for this situation is moving near to work or use other ways of transport such as walking, cycling or some other way that only requires human energy. Avoiding long-distance flights would be of great help too, for instant there are distances that can be achieved by train instead.

Consuming less should be the number one rule in developed countries. Consuming less results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to extract, less production and less shipping of products around the world. Following this thought, every citizen should do more with less and try not to waste our resources so easily, such as leaving the tap open or the lights turned on. The same applies to choose carefully what you buy, for instant choosing local food because it does not need to be transported. Following this thought, consuming less would have a big impact in cutting the trees and would help preserving the few existing forests because right now 33 million acres are cut down per year.

One option is to set a global tax on carbon, which is applied consistently across the globe. This would mean the biggest polluters pay the appropriate cost for the damage they are doing to the environment. Proceeds of this tax could be reinvested in renewable energy solutions and energy efficiency schemes. Tax credits could also be given for research and development schemes focused on reducing energy use, conserving water and other energy efficiency initiatives.


What should we expect from the future? Is there still hope?

As everyone heard before, the future is in our hands, especially in the leading governments. There is still no absolute idea about solutions probably there is no definite solution to solve global warming but there are solutions to gain time and make things last for longer. Countless organisations and scientists believe that every day.

We are not yet saved or doomed, which should be more than a motivation for us, citizens of the world, to act more efficiently and start thinking about new ways of living. I believe that we are not yet prepared for the possibilities of having to adapt our livings standards and probably the need to survive rather than living comfortably in our cosy homes.

But again it all depends on our governments and us all.


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