Earth day was first organised back in 1970 and has since then grown into a global environment event that is celebrated every year by more than a billion people of more than 190 countries. 2016 would be the year where the Paris COP21 of December 2015 would start being implemented worldwide starting with by resolving 6 most pressing environmental issues. The US who happen to be the largest polluter country in the world but also the most upfront in terms of understanding and rallying for a cleaner environment, some sort of a schism is apparently opening up between two groups calling for action on climate change: the dreamers and the plodders. As per a BROOKINGS article of today, the dreamers are panicked by the mountains of scientific evidence on climate change and call for a massive transformation of our energy system to keep the planet safe. The plodders advocate more realistic steps in the face of political gridlock. Of course, both arguments have their merits, but until these two groups reach a consensus on how to move forward, real solutions will remain on the horizon, just out of reach. Excerpts of an article by Josh Marks of Inhabitat of 20 April 2016 are reproduced here for very obvious reasons. Those of divulging this message of hope further afield. The 6 most pressing environmental issues stem basically from a certain knowledge of the present earth conditions together with a definitely profound familiarity with its inhabitants. Advice is also provided for each one of us at the end of each of the 6 issues paragraphs.
The 6 most Pressing Environmental Issues
More than four decades after the first Earth Day, there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change. But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. This Earth Day we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us all and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home.
While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again. U.S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U.S.
Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country.
Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution.
Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions.
As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index, biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years.
SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION
Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund, half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years.
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