What Causes Global Warming?
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
When greenhouse gases get accumulated in the air, heat and radiation get trapped in the atmosphere. These harmful emissions can last for decades and even centuries, heating our planet. This process leads to climate change and global warming. Our planet is getting warmer at an alarming rate, faster than any records present. What is producing all these emissions on such a large scale?
In most parts of the world, coal, oil, and gas are still used to generate electricity, which emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Studies suggest that only 30% or less of the entire world’s electricity and power is generated through renewable sources like solar, wind, and reservoirs.
Production of Goods
Major industries like cement, iron, steel, and plastic produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other emissions and pump them into the Earth’s atmosphere. Globally, the production industry generates one of the highest ratios of greenhouse gases.
Most forms of transportation rely on fossil fuels to run, making it a major producer of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide. In the years to come, it is expected that usage of transport will increase significantly, leading to more carbon-dioxide emissions.
Excess Consumerism and Wastage
Today, there is a massive surplus of products and goods in each sector of the consumer market. Due to the short lifespan of consumer goods, there is more waste thrown in landfills; humans are creating more waste than ever before in history. As the accumulated waste starts to decompose, it releases harmful fumes, worsening the process of global warming.
Industrialization harms the environment on a massive scale, as the waste produced ends up in the Earth’s environment. These harmful emissions threaten wildlife and the environment alongside us humans; they destroy wildlife and contaminate areas, rendering them uninhabitable.
Methane, a harmful emission more powerful than carbon dioxide, is produced when livestock is grazed on a large scale and from their waste. Moreover, the fertilizers used contain a very harmful chemical called nitrous oxide. All these powerful greenhouse gases get pumped into the air whilst the demand for agriculture grows every day.
Power plants burn fossil fuels to generate power, emitting harmful gases. The emissions not only enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but the toxic wastes make their way into the oceans as well. The usage of coal amounts to nearly half of the total global carbon emissions.
Every year, humans destroy approximately 12 million hectares of forest to create farmlands, pastures and infrastructure, and for wood. When trees are cut down, they release the carbon dioxide stored within them into the air. Also, when forestlands are removed, it limits the ability of our planet to filter the air and convert the carbon dioxide present into oxygen. Deforestation plays a major role in polluting the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing roughly a quarter of the total global emissions.
Causes of Deforestation
Although natural occurrences, which include forest fires and parasitic diseases, can reduce forestlands, human activities, by far, are the leading cause of deforestation globally. Studies suggest that forests all around the globe vanish exponentially due to deforestation. Scientists predict that if strict measures are not taken, forests will reduce considerably by the year 2050.
Pastures and Farmlands
One of the leading causes of deforestation is making space for agriculture and pastures. Enormous areas of forests are cut down by commercial and industrial agriculture every year to accommodate for grazing, crop cultivation, logging and production of biofuels.
Deforestation is further accelerated due to humans and their need for high-scale infrastructure to facilitate the increasing demands of living and trends of modern lifestyle today. Infrastructure aiding transportation facilitates access to places that were inaccessible to humans a few years ago. Similarly, big industries require infrastructure to process consumer goods. Moreover, to generate energy, hectares of forests are destroyed for mining, production of charcoal and extraction of other fossil fuels.
As the population of our planet continues to grow, more and more people shift toward urban areas. To facilitate the demands of the increasing population, forestlands in the surrounding areas are cut down. It is estimated that around 68% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by the year 2050.
Effects of Deforestation
Forests are home to numerous species of plants and animals apart from trees and plants, accounting for three-quarters of the world’s registered species. Forests are also responsible for the water cycles of the planet and for providing humanity with the medical advancements it has achieved today. If all the forests in the world were destroyed, the outcome would be catastrophic.
Forests are natural carbon sinks and deplete carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere. On the other hand, trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. When trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide stored within them discharges into the air, worsening global warming and leading to an increase in global temperatures, irregular weather patterns, and extreme weather occurrences.
Extinction of Numerous Species
Forests are home to several different and rare life species on Earth. With forests gone, many of these species will be put on the brink of extinction. Lack of foliage increases the risks of hunting, poaching, and their susceptibility to natural disasters, including climate. Many species are accustomed to certain regions and temperatures, and many perish due to large-scale deforestation. Surprisingly, several medicines come from various species of plants, gifted to us by nature that humans are proactively destroying.
Risk of Soil Erosion
Trees aid in retaining the topsoil, which is rich in natural nutrients. With trees gone, topsoil becomes prone to erosion due to heavy rainfalls and floods. The lands then become deserted, barren and defenseless against natural disasters. According to various studies, scientists state that an estimated 30% of the world’s rich soil has been washed away and lost due to soil erosion and other natural calamities. To cope with the lack of rich soil, farmers further cut down forests, keeping the cycle ongoing.
Impact on Livelihoods
Deforestation also affects the lives of the indigenous people who live in rainforests and rely on its resources for food, shelter and protection against dangerous wild animals. With the foliage gone, they face the risks of starvation and danger to their lives. The indigenous people are often evicted and forced to relocate, leaving their homes to be destroyed along with the forests. Moreover, deforestation causes millions of people living near the coastlines to fear the risks of floods, and farmers who depend entirely on agriculture fear the risks of their land becoming barren. Either way, lives are impacted profoundly.
If deforestation continues at the current rate, we will face severe consequences in the coming years and decades. Already a few implications are in front of us — the planet is heating at an alarming rate; natural disasters are more intense and frequent than ever; the poles are melting and increasing sea levels; and food shortages are arising due to loss of croplands and droughts.
Each of you can individually have an impact and improve the environment. Let’s start working together and rebuild our planet before it’s too late…