The debate over the environment continues to rage around the world, with scientists almost evenly divided on the subject. Different organisations and governments’ interest in the environment has more than doubled across the world because it plays such an important role in people’s lives. Habitat is loosely described as the ecosystem in which humans live; in other words, the environment is the basis of not only human but also nonhuman life. Our lives are shaped by our surroundings, which defines our path and influences how we grow and develop. Scholars argue that the quality of an atmosphere has a significant impact on the outcome of social interactions. This is supported by the availability of basic needs like food, water, and shelter, which depends on the environment. For the continued supply of the vital three human needs, maintaining quality environment is a not just a requirement but a responsibility.
Human activities in the world for the past century have affected the natural environment in both positive and negative ways. A kind of a natural cycle exists between animals, human beings, plants and the environment. In other words, the harmful activities of human beings degrade the natural environment that in return affects living creatures. All human actions have both positive and negative impact on the ecosystem. For instance, the increase in demand for modern technology like transportation, industries, and communication among others has an immense effect on the ecosystem. As the human population continues to grow due to advance in technology, the pressure is manifest on the depletion of the natural environment as it is the leading provider of basic human needs. It is the demand for the needs that over the years resulted in rapid environmental degradation. Currently, the world faces these ecological issues, reduction of natural resources, diminishing percentage of world forest and wetland cover, a significant decrease of underground water soil and coral reef erosion among many others. Continued depletion of the environment according to scientist advocating for environmental conservation would result in a world that cannot sustain its population.
The opponents of conservation debate, on the other hand, had pointed out that it would be a couple of centuries before the world witnessed a significant ice age, treating the discussion on environmental conservation as a hoax. As is the case throughout the past couple of decades, changes in the environment have been significant. The paper assesses climate change and the contribution of human activities to the degradation of the external surrounding and effects of such actions.
Historically, the debate over climate change, according to Echterling (285) dates back to 1896 when a Swedish scientist by the name Svante Arrhenius who observed the impact of fossil fuel combustion on the environment. Arrhenius found the ratio between the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the temperature. The expert then found that averagely the surface temperature of the earth is 15 degrees when the amount of vapor and carbondioxide are at a balanced level. The name given to the condition described here is a natural greenhouse effect. The scientist continued with his observation doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase temperature by at least five degrees Celsius. Together with a partner known as Thomas Chamberlin, Arrhenius stated that human activities in the world would result in warming the earth by adding carbon dioxide to it.
After the bold findings, scientists and environmentalists forgot about the research for an extended period. The scientist then thought that human activities would have no significance compared to the force produced by nature. Some researcher believed then that the oceans would act as big carbon dioxide absorbers so no worry on human activities. Until in 1938, the debate over global warming and climate change were not active. During the mentioned period, a scientist known as Guy Callender explained that the changes in temperature experienced during the 19th century were as a result of an increase in atmospheric temperature recorded at 10 percent. Majorly the significant increase atmospheric carbon dioxide was as a result of combustion of fossil fuel. The observation by Callender did not alarm scientist than as most of them believed that the excess carbon dioxide had been absorbed in the ocean.
Development of infrared spectroscopy came in the 1940s, which boosted the measurement of long-wave radiation. The infrared spectroscopy supported the claim that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had a significant impact on the temperature. The experiment showed that increasing the gas on air absorbed the infrared radiation. The discovery also revealed that water vapor consumed the different type of radiation compared to carbon dioxide. In the 1940s, the argument that the oceans would still absorb excess carbon dioxide was held by most of the scientists. The notion changed however in the 1950s when evidence proved that the lifetime of carbon dioxide is approximately one decade. Some scientist pointed out that they did not know what would happen to carbon dioxide molecules after they dissolve in the oceans.
The most modern technology used in observing carbon dioxide then came in the late 1950s and early 1960s when scientist Charles Keeling a scientific finding to come up with a curve to prove the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The curves changed the debate on global warming and climate change. According to the curves, there was evidence of reduction of global annual mean temperature between the 1940s and 1950s. The fear for a new ice age crept in around the late 1960s. First, to 1980s, the earths temperature begun to rise that birthed the concern of another ice age; later on during the decade, the debate became ripe until government agencies and organizations adopted policies to reduce environmental degradation. In the early 1990s, scientists acknowledged that the worlds temperature was higher for the first time since the discovery of modern industries and technologies in1880s.
In the 1990s, the greenhouse theory became famous which led to the formation of intergovernmental panel to investigate further the causes and effects of climate change. Such organization aims to predict the possible outcome of global warming by the year 2050. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has achieved a lot in the conservation of the environment since its formation. For instance, the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiated in Japan came up with means to ensure that countries throughout the world reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted each year. Some common terms like carbon trade among other came up in the protocol, and it became famous as almost all nations in the world became a part of the agreement. By 2001 in Bonn, the decision to reduce carbon emission is nearly unanimous.
Human Activities on Environment
According to Torres (1360), it is a human being who is solely responsible for the deterioration of global environment buoyed by the discoveries made over the last century. The first is the use of fossil fuel which naturally exists on earth. The fossil fuel includes petroleum and coal deposits in the universe that human beings mine and use to generate power vehicle and electricity respectively. The environmental effects of burning fossil fuel are enormous as Simon (40) points out in their findings. When industries, cars et al. burn fossil fuels various chemicals and organic compounds find their way into the atmosphere. Some of the chemicals are dangerous, and the include mercury, sulfur, nitrogen oxide methane and most prominently carbon dioxide. The effect of mercury is immediately when released from burning coal as it drops directly to the seas and lakes and poisons fish. Chemicals like sulfur and nitrogen react with other naturally occurring gases to form acid rain that damage forests and contaminate soil. The greenhouse effect of fossil fuel, methane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, trap energy from the sun into the earth hence affects climate patterns. Warming of the worlds temperature affects the ecosystem in northern areas, which in the long run interferes with agriculture.
A second human activity that affects the environment is deforestation. Deforestation pegs on two human factors; the discovery of modern technology and population growth. The two elements interrelate as one leads to the other. As the human population continues to expand, the demand for the basic needs also grow. The people in the last century have exponentially grown to its fulltime high due to the discovery of modern medicine and technology. The vast population results in pressure on the environment. Forests are cleared for expansion of new humans who again raise families that would need a place to live in and foot to eat. Trees as the primary producers of oxygen are affected in the process hence nothing to balance the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. Animals too are affected as wildlife and human beings conflict over living space.
Water pollution is also a result of human activity on the environment. Each year according to Willett (560) tons of garbage are dumped into oceans in their raw form. The trash in most cases is non-biodegradable which have a long-term effect on the water bodies. The other chemicals that find their way into the oceans include fertilizers deposited in the place through rain, flooding, and winds or in other cases dumped in excess by the producers. The content of fertilizers provides nitrogen, an element essential for the growth of any plant. The Fertilizers, therefore, according to Echterling (280), are responsible for the growth of weeds in lakes and oceans and interfering with the ecosystem of the water bodies as some flora and fauna cannot stand the substantial effects of the fertilizer.
Finally, the changes witnessed in the environment manifests in the extreme weather conditions experienced the world over with irregular patterns. The United States, for instance, experienced one of the hottest summers in its history recently and even colder winter. In their findings, (Knight and Benjamin 512) posit that the changes in climate are responsible for the polar jet stream which the authors define as the boundary that exists between the cold air from the North Pole and a warm one from equatorial. The pattern is responsible for the sudden hot or cold weather conditions that take suddenly take place in some states. Other than the cold or warm weather, global warming is also responsible for some extreme weather conditions witnessed in different parts of the world. An example includes hurricanes and Tsunamis observed recently in some parts of the world. In some parts of the world, global warming leads to rising in ocean levels due to the melting of the iceberg in the North Pole.
In a few words, human behavior affects the environment that in the long run changes human and animals depending on the same. Efforts have been put in place to ensure that the destruction of the external surrounding of human beings is not severe, but this too faces challenges. Throughout the world, governments and organizations have enacted policies aimed at reducing incidences related to environmental degradation like climate change that in one way or the other have borne some positive results. Much needs to be done on the same to ensure full compliance with the rules and regulations set by the bodies are necessary to regulate human activities that have adverse effects on the environment. As is evident in the historical background of the evolution of environmental change and global warming, the world is facing massive challenge of ensuring a balance between development and environmental degradation. Some scholars argue that the benefits of modern day technology are better than the effects of the same on the environment, which is not true given the rapid change in climate and mostly temperature. Environmental degradation is a reality that needs intergovernmental efforts to overcome.
Echterling, Clare. “How to Save the World and Other Lessons from Children’s Environmental Literature.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 47, no. 4, Dec. 2016, pp. 283-299.
Knight, Kyle W. and Benjamin L. Messer. “Environmental Concern in Cross-National Perspective: The Effects of Affluence, Environmental Degradation, and World Society*.” Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 93, no. 2, June 2012, pp. 521-537.
Simon, Julian L. “Environmental Disruption or Environmental Improvement?.” Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press), vol. 62, no. 1, Mar. 1981, pp. 30-43.
Torras, Mariano. “Income and Power Inequality as Determinants of Environmental and Health Outcomes: Some Findings.” Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 86, Dec2005 Supplement, pp. 1354-1376.
Willett, Jennifer L. “Exploring the Intersection of Environmental Degradation and Poverty: Environmental Injustice in Nairobi, Kenya.” Social Work Education, vol. 34, no. 5, Aug. 2015, pp. 558-572.