Environmental Issues and Solutions


Climate Change has been the most pressing issue of the 21st century. With impacts ranging from floods, droughts, severe heat-dome, cyclones, rising temperatures- climate change is making its presence felt in every part of the globe. The post-industrial revolution demand for fossil fuels has strained our planet’s ecological health, and the damage caused due to burning vast quantities of carbon-based fuels to run our development engines and modern economies have been immense.

The climate crisis is accelerating at an alarming rate, and the world at large is not prepared for it. While multiple factors impact the climate crisis, certain factors need a specific focus. Some of these environmental challenges are mentioned below:

1. Aligning Governance to the Challenges of Global Sustainability

By far, the above has been the most challenging environmental issue in the present time. More than 900 intergovernmental agreements with provisions on environmental protection are already in force. Some of the significant environmental summits – such as the Conferences of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and many such – regularly draw several participants and observers.

So, in which manner does environmental governance need to be revitalized? Firstly, at the national and local levels, experts found that sustainability concerns are not well integrated into the economy’s energy, water, and other sectors. It has been argued multiple times if the current approach, i.e., making decisions by consensus, is appropriate for dealing with environmental issues in the present day scenario.

Many scholars even argue that the role of the UN is not sufficient in addressing the road to sustainability. Many other experts voice their displeasure in stating that the current global governance system lacks sufficient means and mechanisms to help the most vulnerable countries carry out their sustainability programmes.

2. Food Waste

It has been observed that a third of the food intended for human consumption- around 1.3 billion tons- is wasted or lost, the food that is enough to feed 3 billion people at one go. Food waste and the loss associated account for nearly 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. As per the country size, food waste would be the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US.

According to the estimates: food waste and loss occur at different stages in developing and developed countries. In developing countries, 40% of food waste occurs at the post-harvest and processing levels, whereas 40% of food waste occurs at the retail and consumer levels in developed countries.

More than 50% of the food produced is thrown away at the retail level simply because it is considered “too ugly” to present to the consumers; this practice amounts to about 60 million tons of fruits and vegetables, making it one of the significant environmental challenges in the present times.

3. Desertification

Another environmental challenge that affects people globally is the challenge of land degradation or Desertification. UNCOD defines Desertification as “the diminution or destructing of the biological potential of land, which can ultimately lead to the desert-like conditions”. The causes of Desertification are plenty and require immediate and specific attention. As per the estimates, about 35 per cent of the Earth’s area, i.e., (about 6.1 billion hectares) and 900 million people are affected by Desertification. The challenge of Desertification leads to loss of vegetation, forcing humans to migrate to more profitable places of livelihood.

In 1994, the General Assembly established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It declared 17 June “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought” by its resolution A/RES/49/115https://www.un.org/en/observances/desertification-day/background Further, in 2007, the UN General Assembly declared 2010-2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification to mobilize global action to fight land degradation.

4. Deforestation

Human pressure has increased manifolds on the forests leading to another significant challenge in the 21st century: Deforestation. South America, West-Central Africa and South-East Asia are home to dense forests that are currently in danger.

The requirement for agricultural land, a constant demand for fuel and commercial wood, extensive dam construction, large-scale ranching and mining, and growing industrialization have exploited the forests ruthlessly, creating an imbalance to a large extent. Commercial exploitation is the root cause of deforestation affecting the lives and livelihoods of a considerable number of people.

Thus, forests need to be conserved to maintain the ecological balance as these forests help conserve the Earth’s oxygen and carbon balance. Conserving and preserving forests become even more significant since these protect from the dangers of cloud drifting, soil erosion, floods, wind erosion and groundwater evaporation. Additionally, they also protect a wide variety of flora and fauna and effectively control air pollution.

With such major significance of forests: FAO, UNDP, World Bank and other government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) express their concern about deforestation and have several suggested plans to protect and renew forests. In India, the Chipko Andolan and Narmada Bachao Andolan are the two popular movements that have developed consciousness among the people to raise voices against the ruthless destruction of forests.

5. Loss of Biodiversity

The United Nations declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity; having said the same, most people do not understand biodiversity. The last 50 years have witnessed massive human consumption growth, population, global trade, and urbanization, resulting in humanity utilizing more of the Earth’s resources than it can replenish naturally.

A WWF report recently found that the population of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians have witnessed a massive decline of an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. The report further attributes the biodiversity loss to various factors, mainly land-use change, i.e., the conversion of habitats: like forests, grasslands and mangroves, into agricultural systems for human use. The above has resulted in pangolins, sharks and seahorses being significantly affected by the illegal wildlife trade. The animal species of pangolins are critically endangered because of it. The impact of biodiversity is immense and affects every section of human society: as a development issue: biodiversity acts as a strategic asset in maintaining sustainable development since it plays a vital role in providing food, clean water, medicines, energy and other sources of livelihood. Further, it provides secure livelihood by regulating climate, air quality, freshwater quantity and quality, and pollination services.

The leading causes for the loss of biodiversity are:

· Overexploitation of resources

· Use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and oil pollution

· Loss of natural habitat, fragmentation and its modifications

6. Plastic Pollution

While plastic has many advantages, single-use disposable plastic has severe environmental issues. Globally, around one million plastic bottles are sold and then thrown away. By the year 1950, the world produced more than 2 million tons of plastic/ year. By 2015, the annual production swelled to 419 million tons of plastic bottles.

A report by the science journal Nature: determined that 11 million tons of plastic go into the oceans every year, harming wildlife habitats and the animals that live in them. The research further found that if there is no action, it will add 29 million metric tons per year by 2040 million tons by 2040. Including microplastics to the above: the cumulative amount of plastic in the ocean could reach 600 million metric tons. A study by National Geographic found that 91% of all plastic produced is not recycled, thus representing one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime and a massive market and economic failure. The study further states that about 12% is incinerated, while the remaining 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment. If the trends like these continue, our oceans will have more plastics than fish by 2050. The situation will get grim further if the producers of plastic do not manage their wastes effectively.

Because plastic takes nearly 400 years to decompose, it will be many generations until it ceases to exist in our environment.

7. Air Pollution

According to a research study by the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution globally every year, and that nine out of ten people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. UNICEF pointed out that 258 000 people died in Africa due to outdoor air pollution in 2017, up from 164 000 in 1990. The poor air quality is primarily due to industrial sources, motor vehicles, and emissions from burning biomass and dust storms.

A recent report by the EU’s environment agency mentioned that in Europe, air pollution contributed to 400 000 annual deaths in 2012 (the last year for which data was available). These startling figures emphasize reducing local and regional air pollutants to decoupling emissions from economic growth and limiting people’s exposure to polluted air. It further implies implementing effective pollution prevention and control policies and sustainable transport and mobility policies. Some of these policies can be:

·To reduce the use of dirty fuels for cleaner ones, focus on cleaner industries, reduce polluting products, and adopt cleaner technologies. Behavioural and lifestyle changes are also significant to bring air pollution under control.

·To provide incentives to a spectrum of firms and consumers who intend to be more cost-efficient than those that target an inefficient product, fuel or technology (e.g. subsidies for electric cars).

.To customize policies that are designed keeping in mind the local factors of a nation. For example, stringent rules in thickly populated areas or for emission sources located in the urban areas. Such policies will help achieve environmental objectives at less cost and be more effective due to local preferences.

8. Agriculture

Agriculture has massive impacts on the ecosystems that surround it. Studies by various research agencies conclude that the global food system is responsible for nearly one-third of human-induced GHG emissions. Of these one-third emissions, thirty per cent comes from livestock and fisheries. The crop production releases GHGs such as nitrous oxide through the use of fertilizers.

Agriculture covers a significant land area, but it also consumes massive amounts of freshwater, one of the biggest environmental problems. While arable lands and grazing pastures cover nearly 1/3rd of the land area, these further consume three-quarters of the most limited resource, i.e., freshwater resources. To combat the impact of agriculture, scientists constantly argue on the need to adapt to a more plant-based diet and rethink the present food system that would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the conventional agriculture industry.

9. Human Population

Overpopulation occurs when the number of individuals exceeds the number that the environment can sustain. Some of the possible consequences of overpopulation are environmental deterioration, impaired quality of life, and population crashes. It is a well-known fact that our planet faces severe environmental concerns due to water and air pollution. Of these multiple causes, one significant contributor to environmental challenges is population growth. In 2015 the global population was more than 7.3 billion people, more than seven billion three hundred million bodies that require all the natural resources available. The United Nations estimates that the global population will rise to approximately 9.2 billion by 2050. The impact of overpopulation on the environment leads to two significant disadvantages:

  • consumption of natural resources such as land, food, water, air, fossil fuels and minerals
  • Increase in waste products as a result of consumption such as air and water pollutants, toxic materials and greenhouse gases

Overpopulation leads to substantial environmental impacts ranging from land degradation, deforestation, loss of freshwater, global warming and increase in farming land, to name a few. All these aspects lead to a massive shift in environmental patterns leading to change in climatic conditions, which affects the human species significantly.

Overpopulation and the issues arising are plenty and need immediate focus to overcome. Initiatives such as switching to clean energy sources like solar, improving agricultural practices, better managing water resources, and fully embracing the circular economy’s principles will mitigate the impact of population growth. Additionally, policies such as family planning, education, gender equity, and other such measures may slow population growth and help reduce pressure on the planet.

Solutions to control Environmental Challenges

Highlighting some critical environmental issues, we must walk on the path of recovery and implement the solutions to curb environmental damage at all levels. Some of the global solutions are listed below:

1. Reduce Wastage

The most effective way to conserve the environment is to reduce wastage. One of the most efficient ways to reduce wastage is not to create the same in the first place. It is well known that creating a product involves many natural resources, so judiciously utilizing and reducing waste should be the utmost priority. It is, therefore, essential that we reuse the resources to avoid wastage at all levels. Reducing wastage and reusing natural resources are the best possible solutions to curb environmental hazards and protect the climate from changing. Some of the benefits of waste reduction and reusing the resources are as follows:

  • Help in preventing pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
  • Save the energy energy
  • Reduces GHG emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Help in sustaining the environment for future generations
  • Save money that can be used for further environmental protection schemes
  • Waste reduction help in reducing waste that needs to be recycled or sent to landfills
  • It further allows products to be used at the maximum capacity

The benefits mentioned above highlight how to reuse the existing resources, thereby preventing wastage; how can we achieve zero waste is another critical criterion. Let us discuss the same:

· Donate used and old electronics, other electronic gadgets and clothes that are no more in use at the community service, which will be of great help to others

· Switch off the electricity points to cut on energy usage that different sections of the society can utilize

· Ensure to make use of rechargeable batteries so that single-use batteries and their hazardous impacts can be curbed.

· Planting more plants and trees will help to avoid concrete and also increase soil fertility. Additionally, it will also help in creating organic farms around, which in turn will reduce pollution.

· Reduce wastage by utilizing the burnt wood and adding the same into compost to add to the nutrient value of the gardens

· At home, reduce wastage by carefully stacking the tools and equipment thus, preventing them from damage

· Instead of plastics, the use of newspaper to pack stuff while travelling will reduce the plastic footprint

· Ensure making use of recyclable material for travel and packing purposes

· It is a good idea to follow the instructions regarding the disposal of a used product soo that minimum wastage is there

· Adopt a clean and green lifestyle to reduce one’s carbon footprint

· Avoid leaving any footprint behind at the places one travels (i.e., use environment-friendly products)

· Use of public transport or carpool will ensure reduced air pollution

There can still be many ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the resources and achieve the zero-wastage target.

2. Environmental Governance

Another critical solution can be a change in the government’s role in conserving and preserving environmental damage. By creating a robust governance system, a nation can safeguard its environment and human rights and achieve all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Environmental governance is essential at all global and national levels. It must be a collaborative effort soo that governments can obtain environmental information for decision-making, enhance global and regional environmental cooperation, develop and apply national and international environmental law, advance national and regional implementation of environmental objectives, and bridge significant groups and governments in policy development and implementation processes. So how does a government can help in conserving the environment:

· Protect ecosystem

Protecting and respecting is prime for any government, and governments must conserve our ecosystems. As the ecosystem heals naturally, the entire natural cycle will bounce back to ensuring environmental wellbeing and prosperity.

· Promoting Green Energy

35% of the global GHG emissions come from energy production; however, the figure may increase since development and industrialization grow with each passing year. While energies like thermoelectric and hydroelectric are considered the cheapest options, technological developments have given humankind better, cheaper, and more efficient alternatives. With proper long-term planning and well-thought-out alternatives, nations can avoid old climate-aggravating energy sources and opt for slight wind, solar, geothermal, oceanic and other projects that adapt to a place’s unique characteristics.

· Choosing Adaptation over Mitigation

In our quest to protect the environment, we must aim to reduce emissions, stop their effects, and diminish future consequences known as mitigation. It is disheartening to know that many communities are already experiencing the consequences due to changes in climate over a short period. So, it is essential to act and prevent catastrophes, increase resilience, and reduce vulnerability, also called adaptation.

Projects that aim to mitigate emissions are more attractive financially than those designed for adaptation, which focuses on the most vulnerable communities. However, it is essential to adapt the significance it deserves so that the impacts of climate change are already a grave reality for many.

· Create policies and legislations

Another necessary solution is to create policies and legislation that promote sustainable governing and achieve sustainability at every possible level of a nation. It further means that government must emphasize penalizing the defaulters at all given levels. The above steps will ensure a smooth and robust environmental governance.

3. Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Another vital aspect is creating sustainable agricultural practices that reduce the impact on the environment. For agriculture to achieve sustainability, land and water resources must be used efficiently to reduce the negative impact on the environment and ensure resilience to climate change. However, it is essential to mention that we cannot achieve global food security without preserving our ecosystems as trees and forests provide. Further, one cannot sustain forests without thinking of how we will feed a growing global population.

Recently, many nations have managed to overcome environmental challenges, particularly in the nations that fall under the OECD and have improved the use and management of nutrients, pesticides, energy and water etc. These nations have adopted more environmentally beneficial practices, such as conservation tillage, improved manure storage, or soil nutrient testing.

Sustainable agricultural practices reduce the dependence on non-renewable sources of energy, thus creating a clean and green environment that is breathable, ensures soil fertility, reduces land degradation, ensures better crops, using less water, thus achieving overall environmental sustainability. Additionally, sustainable agricultural practices help to boost biodiversity by working with Nature rather than altering her. Sustainable agricultural practices like diverse crop rotation (by not using synthetic raw material) strengthens biodiversity in the environment. Sustainable biodiversity increases ecosystem productivity and allows various species to grow and prosper.

Sustainable agriculture further leads to the nourishment of soil that is directly linked to what we consume. Sustainable agricultural practices help sequester nitrogen and carbon in the soil, which significantly boosts environmental sustainability. Further, locking the carbon in the soil reduces the carbon emissions into the atmosphere, decreasing global warming. Understanding these benefits ensures environmental sustainability by adopting agricultural practices.

After having a detailed understanding of the solutions to achieve environmental sustainability, it is further essential to know how do we achieve our sustainability target; some of the ways are:

·Educate the future of any nation, i.e., the young ones must be educated at the very elementary level about the harsh impacts of fossil fuels and how we can achieve sustainability by adopting various conservation methods.

·Another aspect would be engaging the entire community in adapting to environment conservation techniques. This process will include taking suggestions from the people who are facing the harsh climate impacts in reality. Furthermore, initiatives like leaning up the beach or a street every weekend will involve the entire community.

· Create policies and penalty mechanisms to ban plastics and aim at achieving 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and, Recycle

There will be many ways to achieve environmental sustainability; however, we must adapt to the most effective measures per the local environments, creating an eco-friendly, sustainable, and free from hazards.

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *