Climate change is not something that will happen in the future; it is already here according a Guardian story on climate change. According to the story, a greater proportion of international disasters are now related to climate. And climate change is just one of the environmental issues facing the world.
Environmental Issues and their Impact
What exactly are environmental issues and how do these specifically affect people? The answer to these questions can be quite revealing (and shocking) to many. Below is an overview:
- Global Warming: Increased emission of Carbon Dioxide and other hot gases into the environment is the perceived culprit in the climate change and consequent disasters. Climate change can not only result in such direct disasters as hurricanes and long winters but also affect agriculture and food availability.
- Loss of Biodiversity: It is biodiversity in the form of numerous organisms that makes life on the world sustainable. Organisms make the soil fit for cultivation, destroy pests and maintain climate, among other things. Killing these organisms by destroying forests and other such practices can make life on the planet very different and difficult.
- Water and Air Pollution: Persistent organic pollutants and toxic materials such as pesticides and industrial wastes can accumulate in living tissues disrupting endocrine systems, suppressing immunity functions and causing reproductive and developmental changes. And the pollutants can travel long distances crossing international borders through air, water and migratory species.
- Land Degradation: Unsustainable felling of trees and exploitation of water can lead to desertification of presently habitable regions while destruction of mangroves and other practices can lead to erosion of coastal areas.
It will be obvious from the above that life on earth will be a very different proposal in the future if current human practices continue unchecked. The situation will be aggravated when the non-renewable energy sources such as oil get exhausted without any sustainable energy sources replacing them.
Environment Protection Initiatives
Governments and leaders have begun to recognize how serious the situation is and many initiatives are being taken. The Copenhagen Economic conference focused on environmental issues, for example. However, political compulsions and inadequate resources and projects are hampering sufficiently forceful action.
The initiatives include:
- Creating awareness among the public is a major focus area. Results have also begun to appear with public resistance against many practices that lead to environment damage, such as cutting down trees and the preference for pesticide-free food.
- Government regulations that have made businesses to take specific actions and avoid others to protect environment and public health. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for example administers several laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and several others. Trees cut from forests need to be compensated by replanting, fish catch is restricted and pollution control is a major focus area.
- Research efforts are being intensified to tap renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind power and biomass energy. Biomass energy involves using waste materials such as wood chips, straw, sewage sludge and biowaste to generate energy. Unlike biofuels, biomass does not compete for resources that can be used for food.
- Reputed businesses are developing alternatives that use less energy. For example, Siemens claims at their website that their combined-cycle power plants use hot waste-gases (that were formerly released into the environment) to generate steam for downstream turbines, reducing fuel needed to generate power by as much as 60%.
- Standards and Reforms: ISO 14001, published by International Standards Organization, is a standard that seeks to focus the attention of industrial units on environmental issues. Accounting reforms seek to account for environmental costs of business operations, in addition to financial costs.
Businesses that act with environmental responsibility are even beginning to see improvements in their bottom lines.
Environmental management is more about managing the interactions of human societies with the environment rather than managing the environment. Human activities have led to considerable degradation of the environment and the situation is threatening to become dangerous to life on earth. Persistent toxic substances that do not degrade for months to years are already leading to poorer quality of life for people while climate change is leading to many disasters.