Top 11 Causes of Environmental Problems

The Earth serves as home to men and other living creatures and factors that make for the sustenance of life must be preserved to avoid catastrophic events that would lead to the loss of life and potential extinction of a species of life.

Identifying the major causes of environmental problems is very important for tackling future environmental problems and preserving habitats that sustain life.

What Are Environmental Problems?

The environment refers to the whole of all living and non-living elements that make up the earth. Animals, plants, forests, fisheries, and birds all make up the living or biotic components of the environment whereas the non-living or abiotic elements include water, land, sunshine, rocks, and air.

Environmental problems are the consequences of human activity on the biophysical environment, the majority of which are negative and result in environmental degradation. The biological, as well as physical features of the environment, are included.

Causes of Environmental Problems

The causes of environmental problems are as follows:

  • Pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Landfills
  • Overpopulation
  • Natural causes
  • Creating non-biodegradable waste
  • Plastic pollution
  • Ozone layer depletion
  • Global warming
  • Agriculture
  • Nuclear waste

1. Pollution

Pollution, whether it’s in the form of air, water, land, or noise, is harmful to the ecosystem in any form.

  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Land pollution

1. Air pollution

Pollution of the atmosphere the environment occurs when the atmosphere is saturated with harmful gases emitted as a result of industrial or other economic operations.

The implications of air pollution can both be short and long-term:

The short-term implication of air pollution could include eye and nose irritation, seizure of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches, death in critical air contamination cases, etc.

The long-term effects of air pollution could lead to cancer, asthma, nerve, kidney, liver, and other organ damage. Contaminant gases include nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc.

2. Water pollution

Water pollution is the contamination of clean natural water resources. water resources used in drinking, cooking, cleaning, swimming, etc. are made unsuitable for use and habitation by aquatic life.

Draining chemicals in water bodies, oil spills, and dumping waste in water bodies are major causes of water pollution. The effect of water pollution leads to the spread of diseases such as typhoid, cholera, giardia, death of aquatic life, and growth in waterborne microorganisms.

3. Land pollution

Land pollution refers to the dumping of solid and liquid waste materials that contaminates the land surface, groundwater, block drainages, etc. Land pollution occurs when we do not follow correct waste disposal procedures.

As a result, the only option to handle this problem is to guarantee that there is an appropriate waste disposal system in place that does not water pollute the environment. Land pollution leads to contamination of drinkable water, soil contamination and loss of fertility, endangering of wildlife, etc.

2. Deforestation

Deforestation
Example of Deforestation

Deforestation is a major cause of environmental problems, it is the cutting down of forest trees to create more space for people, organizations, building houses, and energy sources. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that about 7.3 million hectares of forest are lost each year.

Man’s activities such as agriculture lead to around 80% deforestation worldwide as man’s demand for food is ever increasing, Illegal logging of trees, urbanization, mining, livestock ranching, etc. leads to large deforestation.

The importance of trees in the environment is so crucial for its sustenance as it brings freshness to the atmosphere, release oxygen to the atmosphere, and retrieve carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for conversion into glucose, trees are so crucial to the sustenance of the environment and undermining its relevance would lead to future catastrophe.

The environmental problems deforestation is quite devastating climate change, soil erosion, loss of greenhouse gases, acidic ocean, increase in global warming, and loss of vegetation are all implications of this activity, etc.

3. Landfills

Landfills

Landfills are designated waste disposal locations, which are important for proper waste management. Most landfills around the world are located in cities as waste from homes and industries is disposed of in such sites.

The multiplication of Landfills is rapidly increasing with the growth in population and demand for food, technological gadgets, etc.

Landfills are potential causes of environmental problems as they release gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, Chlorofluorocarbon, etc. methane gas is the most prevalent gas found in landfills due to the decomposition of organic waste.

The presence of landfills poses climatic and health hazards, in most landfills, waste burning is a common practice that leads to the evolution of unhealthy gases, leaching of landfills by rainfall affects nearby water bodies making them contaminated and unsafe for drinking, increases the growth of microorganisms.

4. Overpopulation

Population growth is of high concern to many economists today, for as the population grows it puts pressure on the earth’s resources thereby making it over-exploited and putting a strain on the earth’s resources, the agricultural sector, and energy generation sector, etc. Are affected by an increase in population density.

Hence, the activity of deforestation is increased and the utilization of fossil-based fuels. An increase in population leads to an increase in waste generation, demand for healthcare, transportation, etc. the rate of carbon dioxide emission through respiration increases thereby contributing to global warming.

5. Natural causes

causes of environmental problems

Avalanches, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and wildfires are potential causes of natural disasters. These can destroy animals and plant habitation, thereby cutting off the factors that make for their survival.

The climate is typically evolving, human activities have been a major reason for this and this affects the way the earth behaves. Natural disasters have become frequent in recent times and this has affected many economies, human and animal settlements, and survival and

6. Creating non-biodegradable waste

causes of environmental problems

The massive production of non-biodegradable waste has become of concern to environmental agencies as it forms a high threat to sustaining a healthy environment.

Non-biodegradable materials are those that do degrade easily by the microbial activity. examples include pesticides, metals, plastic bottles, glasses, batteries, rubber, and nuclear waste, the form hosts for the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Non-biodegradable waste block drainages, pollute land and agricultural soils, pollute water bodies, and cause death to animal life in ingestion. The presence of non-biodegradable waste in oceans and seas has become a source of ecological imbalance.

7. Plastic Pollution

causes of environmental problems

The high demand for rugged durable high resilient impact materials has led to the over-production of plastic materials, all over the world plastics are used for many purposes, including covering electrical and electronic materials, packaging food products, making safety equipment, etc.

Overproduction of plastics has brought about a worldwide garbage disposal emergency, for example in the United Kingdom over 5 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year with less than one-fourth of it being recycled.

Plastic waste is a global challenge as plastics do not decompose easily,  taking over 400 years or more to do so due to their chemical structure rather it easily breaks down into another form called microplastics with a size less than 5mm, this form of plastic waste has been found all over the world even in the farthest part of the arctic region.

Plastic waste pollutes soil and water bodies, hosts harmful microorganisms, kills millions of aquatic life and animals on injection, contaminates our food source, etc., most landfill sites are made up of mainly plastic materials and this constitutes a major threat to the environment, etc.

8. Ozone Layer Depletion

causes of environmental problems
The ozone layer depletion due to reaction with CFCs explained

The ozone layer is the earth’s protective covering against dangerous violet radiation coming from the sun such as the Ultraviolent ray, it is located 15 to 30 km above the earth’s surface. Ozone is a molecule of 3 oxygen atoms.

The Ozone layer protects the earth and its habitants by absorbing a portion of Ultraviolent light which is harmful to life on earth. The effect of its depletion has a broad spectrum of effects on life; plants, animals, humans, aquatic life, and the environment. The most evident effect of its depletion amongst humans includes causing skin cancers, cataracts, etc.

The production of several chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Methyl chloroform, Carbon tetrachloride, etc. attacks this layer and are among the major causes of ozone layer depletion.

Refrigerators and Air Conditioners, Aerosol Sprays, etc. host these chemicals, and when kept for long or disposed of improperly would expel these gases that travel to the stratosphere to destroy them.

When the sun’s ultraviolet light hits a CFC it breaks apart the chlorine atom which then goes on to attack one oxygen atom of the ozone molecule to form a chlorine-oxygen compound, when a free oxygen atom comes in contact with this chlorine-oxygen compound the oxygen atom combines with the oxygen atom of the chlorine-oxygen compound thereby releasing the chlorine atom to destroy more ozone.

9. Global warming

Global warming. How are humans destroying the earth, causes of environmental problems

Global warming has come to the center of concern of major environmental health organizations as it causes environmental problems, posing great danger to life on earth and earth’s climatic condition.

Global warming occurs when gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other pollutant absorb solar radiation that has bounced off the earth’s surface as they return to the solar system, the trapped heat in these gases increases the earth’s temperature.

Global warming causes drought, hotter heat waves, excess rainfall, powerful hurricanes, increase in sea levels, loss of islands and land space, warmer oceans, melting ice caps, ocean acidification, etc.

Causes of Global warming include crude oil exploration, gas flaring, burning of fossil fuel, burning of materials, respiration, automobiles, etc.

10. Agriculture

Massive agricultural work

Agricultural activities surprisingly are a leading cause of environmental problems, agricultural activities not only lead to deforestation activities but studies show that 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission comes from livestock and fishery, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, etc.

The use of fertilizers produces nitrous oxide, and pesticides and herbicides pollute the air and atmosphere also agricultural activities consume large volumes of freshwater thereby affecting its distribution in river basins.

11. Nuclear waste

Nuclear waste

Nuclear waste is a byproduct of fission reactions in nuclear reactors, they result from different human activities such as power generation, mining, research facilities, etc. The proper disposal of nuclear waste is very important as it poses a great danger to the environment and life.

If nuclear waste escapes its place of confinement into water bodies and places of human and wildlife settlement different kinds of disastrous events can happen; cancer, mutation, and genetic damage. Etc. can befall victims die to its radiation. The drinking water sources can be contaminated etc.

In the year 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan experienced a major disaster that led to the evacuation of about 30,000 people and it is estimated to take 40 or more years to clean it up.

It is estimated that the nuclear waste produced by the United States is over 2000 metric tons yearly and proper disposal is a problem as most of them end up being stored at the site of usage.

Why Should the Causes of Environmental Problems be Studied?

Our environment forms the most important unit for the existence and survival of life on earth and any form of imbalance or distortion of the factors that give for the sustenance of life would lead to massive disasters.

Studies that are focused on the environment are targeted toward developing strategies that would lead to the protection of the factors that would sustain life on earth.

Environmental studies investigate the causes, effects, and solutions to environmental problems, the rising activity of pollution, population growth, deforestation, and the exploitation of resources are moving at a breakneck speed as global development accelerates, humans, use land and woodlands to expand their companies without considering the implications.

People need to recognize the value of the environment, and the role it plays in the sustenance of life.

This cannot be accomplished solely via the education of students or educated individuals. Every person needs to study our environment.

The future of our environment is dependent on how much people get to know about the causes of environmental problems. Something must be done to address these causes of environmental problems as soon as possible. The major reason why people become agents of environmental problems is because of their ignorance.

Several activities can be carried out in educational institutions to give students an understanding of the harmful impacts of environmental destruction and how to mitigate them.

Also, environmental campaigns need to be carried out to enlighten uneducated people on this subject. Individuals can become more conscious of the usage of plastics and environmental degradation, as well as their role in such ecological damage, through awareness campaigns.

Now is the time for every citizen of the planet to become aware of the need to safeguard this wonderful environment and to actively engage in its preservation.

Effects of Environmental Problems

Below are the effects of environmental problems

  • Economic Impacts
  • Setbacks for the Tourism Industry
  • Prolonged heat waves
  • shifting habitats
  • Impact on human health

1. Economic impacts

The enormous costs of repair, rehabilitation, and rebuilding disaster victim countries bear are enormous in the happenstance of a natural disaster. The effect of the oil spills, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. cost millions of dollars in damage.

Many economies have been brought into recession, inflation, increased levels of unemployment, etc. because of environmental problems.

In the case of a high level of threat to life, many local governments can be forced to evacuate their residents from danger, hence causing loss of livelihood to people

2. Setbacks for the tourism industry

The degradation of the environment leads to significant misfortune for the tourism industry, which relies upon travelers for its day-to-day pay. Most tourists will be put off by environmental harm like loss of green cover, loss of biodiversity, huge landfills, and expanding air and water contamination.

3. Prolonged heat waves

According to the Metrological organization

Heatwave is a prolonged abnormally high surface temperatures relative to those normally expected. Heat waves may span several days to several weeks and are significant causes of weather-related mortality, affecting developed and developing countries alike.

This is a weather condition where the high pressure in the atmosphere pushes warm air to the ground level. This ground-level atmospheric temperature increases more as the pressure builds up. This can lead to heatstroke, hyperthermia, and heat cramps.

Global warming is the major cause of prolonged heat waves around certain regions of the world increased the number of people exposed to heatwaves increased  by around 125 million persons between the years 2000 and 2016

4. Shifting habitats

Animals have been compelled to relocate to higher altitudes because of deforestation, rising sea levels, and overpopulation which has led to the deforestation of their habitat.

This is terrible information for tree huggers because a large portion of them have started to die because of their inability to adjust to changing climatic circumstances, forcing them to extinction.

5. Impact on human health

The causes of environmental problems affect human wellbeing. Respiratory issues, for example, pneumonia and asthma can foster in regions presented with unsafe air contaminations. It is assessed that a large number of individuals have died because of air contamination’s indirect effects.

Conclusion

The environment is priceless as it is critical to the survival of life on earth, human activities that cause problems to its sustenance must be curbed to avoid further deuteriation of the earth’s ecosystem and would preserve the earth.

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A strong environmental health and conservation enthusiast, driven with passion to educate people on how to protect their environment and appreciate the beauty of nature.

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