Environmental conservation is one of the most important initiatives embraced by governments and nonprofit organizations around the world due to extensive environmental degradation. Experts have warned that if the current rate of environmental degradation is not checked, humans and animals risk facing extinction in the near future. There are several environmental issues facing the world today such as air pollution, water pollution, and reliance on fossil fuels.
However, the most significant issue is climate change because of its numerous and adverse effects on human life, animal life, and the environment (Hardy 35). Over the past century, human activities such as combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation have led to changes in weather patterns and rise in temperature. I think that climate change is the most significant issue because other environmental issues such as air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, and reliance on fossil fuels contribute toward its existence.
Climate change can be described as shifts in weather patterns and increase in temperature over a long period of time. Scientists and environmental experts have concluded that the main cause of this phenomenon is over-reliance on fossil fuels. Combustion of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases that trap heat within the atmosphere thus causing global warming (Hardy 37). These emissions have adverse effects on ecosystems.
For example, they increase temperatures and cause droughts. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, global warming is a real problem that needs to be addressed quickly before it gets out of control (Shackleton 49). Climate change has several causes that include combustion of fossil fuels, industrial processes, agriculture and deforestation (Letcher 35). As mentioned earlier, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, and as a result, cause rise in temperature. Accumulation of these gases in the atmosphere over time causes changes in climate that affect human and animal welfare.
Scientists have stated that the average Earth’s temperature has increased by a significant amount over the past century and it is projected to increase further if certain human activities continue (Hardy 43). In many regions of the world, rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, and severe heat waves have been experienced due to climate change. The temperatures of water bodies are rising, glaciers and icecaps are disappearing, and sea levels are rising at an alarming rate (Letcher 39).
Environmental experts argue that these changes will present more challenges to humans, animals, and the environment if mitigation measures are not taken. Climate change can be attributed to human activities that pollute the environment by releasing toxic gases that accumulate in the atmosphere (Shackleton 52).
Effects of climate change
As mentioned earlier, climate change is the most significant environmental issue facing the world because of its severe effects on human life, animal life, and the environment. The survival of life on Earth depends on proper utilization of natural resources and conservation of the environment (Pittock 43). Over the past few decades, temperature rises due to human activities have resulted in climate change that is affecting the planed in several ways.
Effects on humans
One of the most severe effects of climate change on humans is deterioration of health. Fundamentals of population health such as food, clean air, and sanitary water are affected by climate change (Pittock 45). Higher prevalence of droughts and floods has unpleasant effects on water systems such as lakes and rivers (Letcher 46). Many people depend on these sources for drinking water. In addition, they supply water for farming and industrial use.
Interference with water systems will affect food and water supplies, and as a result, increase diseases related to nutritional deficiency (Reynolds 44). Moreover, floods perpetuate the spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid (Pittock 47). These challenges are experienced more severely by people in poor countries. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) found out that flooding increases the prevalence of malaria in Africa because by increasing the population of mosquitoes. Unsanitary water and food increases the prevalence of infectious diseases. Two main effects of global warming are changes in temperature and uneven rainfall patterns (Pittock 48).
These factors compromise agricultural production, and as a result, affect the global food supply. Low food supply affects both children and adults by compromising their physical and psychological well being (Reynolds 53). Physical weather disasters, amplified air pollution, and intense heat waves lead to impoverishment, displacement and displacement of people. People are displaced by disasters related to weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and rising sea levels (Shackleton 57).
These disasters compel communities to abandon their harsh habitats for more accommodating environments in other places. Other causes of displacement include conflict between communities over resources, hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes, snow storms, agricultural disruption, and flooding (Pittock 55). I think that people need to take responsibility for their actions in order to reduce global warming and address the issue of climate change to avoid extinction of human and animal life. Even though current initiatives such as exploitation of alternative energy sources are helpful, more needs to be done.
Effects on animals
Many of the world’s endangered species such as tigers, snow leopards, Asian rhinos, and African elephants are found in areas that are at risk of massive loss of habitats due to climate change. The declining number of tigers has been attributed to poaching and loss of habitat due to rising sea levels and forest fires. Snow leopards inhabit the Himalayas. However, due to increased warming, the population of snow leopards is gradually declining as the tree line recedes up the mountains due to loss of habitat (Pittock 59).
The prey that these leopards feed on is also declining and compelling them to attack livestock belonging to people living in the region. This is causing conflicts between wildlife and humans, and could push the population of leopards downwards. The current prevalence of droughts due to changes in weather patterns has affected Asian rhinos that rely on monsoon rains to replenish their food supplies. This has increased the rate of displacement from their natural habitat in search of food.
Similar loss of habitat is affecting African elephants, polar bears, and orangutans in different regions on Earth. It is unfair for animal species to face extinction because of the irresponsible actions of humans. Animal habitats in various regions are disappearing because human beings are interfering with the balance that exists in nature by destroying the environment (Shackleton 69). Lack of balance will result in increased loss of habitats especially at the northern and southern poles where many endangered animal species live. In addition, destruction of forests due to industrialization and agriculture is destroying animal habitats and risking the extinction of many species.
Effects on the environment
The major impact of climate change on the environment is loss of habitats and ecosystems. Polar regions are at great risk. For example, scientists have reported that Arctic summer sea ice is disappearing at a disturbing rate (Pittock 66). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, polar regions will be the most adversely affected by climate change over the next ten decades. The Earth’s north and south poles are very critical in regulating climate in order to maintain balance.
However, they are most susceptible to the effects of global warming. Wildlife and habitats are already being affected by climate changes in these regions. For instance, the number of penguins and polar bears has declined significantly (Schmidt and Wolfe 57).
On the other hand, the population and breeding patterns of polar bears have been adversely affected by loss of habitat and food unavailability. In the Arctic, a large portion of summer sea ice cover has melted leading to loss of habitat for both animals and people. The main danger of an ice-free Arctic is that it will be exploited by people for commercial and agricultural purposes thus increasing pollution and global warming.
Forests are a very critical environmental component because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide a habitat for different animal species. However, increases in temperature are affecting forests in various ways. Sub-arctic boreal forests are the most affected because tree lines are retreating north while temperate forests are more susceptible to fires and pests has increased significantly (Schmidt and Wolfe 561).
High levels of extinction have been reported in tropical forests such as the Amazon. Destruction of forests is detrimental to the livelihood of local communities and animal species because less forest cover lowers the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere thus increasing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the environment (Schmidt and Wolfe 72).
Water systems are also affected by climate change especially due to droughts and floods. Freshwater sources are being massively exploited due to drainage, silting, damming, and extraction. Climate change intensifies the impacts of these activities because of irregular rainfall patterns. In future, the prevalence of droughts and floods will increase and cause more displacement and destruction of water systems (Shackleton 98). Melting glaciers are affecting the supply of freshwater for agriculture, drinking, and sanitation. Experts have predicted that continued melting of glaciers will lead to tar shortages and adverse environmental challenges that will affect people’s lives negatively.
Climate change is the most significant environmental issue the world is facing today because of its severe effects on the environment, animals, and human beings. There is no other environmental issue that has such adverse effects. Loss of animal habitats, destruction of water systems and forests, and increased prevalence of droughts and floods are some of the effects of climate change. The most vulnerable are people living in developing and poor countries because these effects are felt more intensely due to financial constraints that deter them from mitigating them.
The world needs to act swiftly to ensure that the current increase in greenhouse emissions is lowered for enhanced survival life on planet earth. Proper mitigation of the climate change problem will solve almost all the environmental issues the world is facing today.
Hardy, John. Climate Change: Causes, Effects, And Solutions. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2003. Print.
Letcher, Trevor. Climate Change: Observed Impacts on Planet Earth. New York: Elsevier, 2009. Print.
Pittock, Barrie. Climate Change: The Science, Impacts, and Solutions. New York: Csiro Publishing, 2009. Print.
Reynolds, Matthew. Climate Change and Crop Production. New York: CABI, 2010. Print.
Schmidt, Gavin, and Joshua Wolfe. Climate Change: Picturing the Science. W. W. Norton, 2009. Print.
Shackleton, Robert. Potential Impacts of Climate Change in the United States. New York: DIANE Publishing, 2010. Print.