Environmental Impact: Impacts, in general, refers to the effect of any kind of activity. Today, a wide range of problems that the world is witnessing is majorly due to the numerous ways in which humans have exploited the environment. Environment Impacts are widely associated with human activities related to the development of agriculture, industry, and development as a whole. All these activities have led to the degradation of our forests, land, air, water, and also biological diversity. Thus, are likely to face the consequences which will magnify up to many times in the future. In this article, we have discussed these Environmental Impacts in depth.
What are Environmental Impacts?
Environmental Impact in itself is a wider term to describe a varied range of impacts/effects of numerous natural and anthropogenic activities which are in some way interrelated to each other. Anthropogenic activities that have led to creating severe impacts include, the burning of fossil fuels, any developmental activities, and so on. The natural hazards also pose some negative impacts on the environment, although not in the same intensity, as it is due to human activities. Environmental impacts from natural events are created due to natural calamities such as volcanic eruptions, Avalanches, Earthquakes, Floods, etc. Human activities are more destructive as human development is widely concentrated on development at the cost of the environment.
Environmental Impacts are necessary to be focused upon and addressed, to ensure the wise and sustainable use of the resources available to us and pose a minimum threat to the environment for the survival of all. Usually, the impacts can be classified as negative impacts or positive impacts but while discussing the environmental issues, the impacts emerge to be considered negative due to the massive exploitation human beings have done to their environment. We are in every way surrounded by the environment and are thus very likable to see the impacts of our activities on the environment. Environmental Impacts can be witnessed around us in the air, water, land, climate, and other ecosystems. Some of the major impacts are discussed below:
Climate Change & Impacts on the Environment
Climate Change is the changes in the average weather conditions of Earth. The climate of Earth is changing at a great pace with the increase in global temperatures and the impacts of it are substantial enough to cause global level changes in the environment. Climate change today is an immensely discussed topic among diplomats and policymakers because of the disastrous impacts it is creating all over the world.
Today, Climate change is also known to have negative economic and social impacts. So, the discussion about climate change is going on all around the world but the topic needs to be addressed with urgency.
Global warming is a consequence of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emissions into the atmosphere. The GHGs emitted into the atmosphere, trap the Infrared radiations in the atmosphere. Thus, making it hard to escape which in turn increases the temperature of the earth as a whole, causing what is known as Global Warming. Global Warming causes changes in the global climate leading to the worldwide witnessed phenomenon of Climate Change. The warming of the earth’s surface may be attributed to the reduction in the availability of enough Carbon sinks in the environment. Trees, which act as a huge carbon sink are also under the threat of large scale deforestation due to urbanization and overpopulation.
Ozone Layer Depletion
While Ozone may be considered as the “Bad Ozone” / a pollutant in the troposphere, it has an important role in the Stratosphere i.e., to filter out the harmful Ultraviolet rays of the sun. But this ozone layer is also impacted today due to the use of various chlorine and bromine compounds such as HCFCs, CFCs, Halons etc. Although the use of such substances has shown substantial decrease since the “Vienna Convention” for the protection of the Ozone layer, 1985 which by now has been very much successful in phasing out of few halogen compounds such as Carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform by 2015 only and has shown a reduction in the usage of the other halogen compounds which are also promised to be phased out in the upcoming decades.
Acid rain is also one of the consequence of the huge amount of pollution humans have generated over the years. The contamination of these pollutants is to such an extent that they have now become a part of our water cycle. Acid rain formation takes place as the Sulphur dioxides and Nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere reacts with the moisture present in the atmosphere creating acidic compounds which in turn causes huge degradation as it falls in the form of rain on objects and plants. For the water bodies, the impacts can be seen on the biota i.e. the floral and faunal diversity of the aquatic life forms. Also, the impacts can be seen in the quality of the surface and underground water, which becomes unfit for consumption, irrigation, and other activities.
Photochemical Smog and London Smog
Sulphur smog is vastly known as the ‘London smog’ (1952) emerged due to the heavy use of coal in the industries which caused the death of around 4000 people in the aftermath created by the smog. London Smog formation takes place due to the pollutants in air such as the Sulphur dioxides whose source can be traced back to the numerous range of industries. The photochemical Smog is known as the ‘Los Angeles Smog’. Such smog is usually experienced in the urban areas because of the huge vehicular pollution which generates the oxides of Nitrogen which in turn creates further reactions called the photochemical reactions in the presence of the sun. Smog causes reduction in visibility creates effects such as irritation in eyes and also damages the plants.
Acidification of terrestrial areas and water bodies is also due to the air pollutants such as Sulphur Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen, which increase the acidic content in both soil and water. Thus, decreasing the pH and creating the phenomenon of acidification which in turn makes the ecosystem of the area unsustainable for the survival of flora and fauna. Ocean Acidification is also due to the increase of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is also known to be affecting the Coral species by thinning their skeleton making them susceptible to damage by waves and other predators.
Extinction of the Endemic Species
With all the development of humans, what is being lost the most is the native species which is quite clear with the impacts stated above. Endemic species are particular to their respective areas thus suffer the most and get neglected often. Today, these native species also fear the threats of climate change which has made the survival of these species more difficult.
Pollution & its Environmental Impact
Pollution of air, water, land, noise affects us all. The major causes of pollution include the release of various chemicals and gases into the atmosphere and the water bodies as well. In the air, the impacts can be witnessed in the form of Pollution in the ambient air consisting of large amounts of Sulphates, Nitrates, and Particulate Matter which is the cause of the abundant number of respiratory diseases among people. Impacts on land is the waste generated by humans which creates numerous diseases and when this waste gets into the water bodies, it affects the marine life as well, creating effects such as eutrophication, which increases the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) and decreases the water quality.
Of all the species, the one species that is affected the most by these impacts is the human species. Humans are the creator of these numerous problems and are also affected in turn by them, directly (by direct contact) or indirectly in the form of toxins/heavy metals that get incorporated in the food chain.
As the picture depicts, ‘There is no Planet B’. Earth is unique in every aspect and the best of what humans can ever have. Activities of humans oppress the environment in ways incomprehensible and the world is witnessing its consequences. The only way out is by maintaining the balance between development and the environment which often gets neglected.