Global Environmental Concerns: Water Pollution and Global Warming Essay Sample

Global Environmental Concerns: Water Pollution and Global Warming Pages
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Abstract

Environmental concerns have caused an alarm all over the world. This research paper discusses two of these major concerns. The first is global warming, a reason for people to worry about the future generations. The causes of global warming and suggested solutions to the problem have been discussed. The second concern is water pollution. Water is life, so we need to keep it as clean as possible. Causes of water pollution and the solutions to reduce it have also been explained.

Introduction

            There is enough evidence of the fast rate at which the environment is getting damaged. Human beings are at the fore front as the major contributors of the causes of environmental concerns. The problem is that every body seems to be talking about the need to conserve our environment, but no one seems to do anything about it. In this paper, I discuss two global environmental concerns- global warming and water pollution, examining their causes and solutions to the problems.

 Global warming

Global warming is a major global environmental concern. Its major causes are the green house gases. Since the past century, the earth’s temperature has increased by approximately five degrees Celsius. Research has shown that this is due to the increase in the concentration of the green house gases; carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons. These green house gases make the earth to become 33 degrees Celsius warmer that it would have been with the absence of the green house gases. This is called the green house effect, and it is named this way because its effects are similar to those produced by greenhouse’s glass pane. (Kuha, 2008)

The sun’s short wavelength radiation passes through the earth’s atmosphere, absorbed by the earth’s surface and warms up. Some of the absorbed energy is reflected back to the atmosphere, as long wave infrared radiations, while a part of it tries to escape back to space. However, at the atmosphere, the radiation can not pass through the green house gases. The gases transmit the infrared gases selectively, trapping some while allowing the rest to pass through into space. The trapped gases are then reemitted downwards, causing the lower atmosphere to become warm, hence a change in the climate, which is called global warming. The effects of global warming are evident today; increase in diseases like malaria, droughts and famine, to mention but a few. (Whitman etal, 2005)

Solutions to global warming

A number of solutions have been suggested to reduce global warming. The first step towards global warming solution is to control or to stop the emission of the green house gases. It has been said that the earth would still remain warmer even if we stopped emitting the green house gases. However, if every person were to put a little effort every day towards the reduction of the aforementioned, then we would be assured that the world would be a better place to live in tomorrow. (Bjørn, 2004)

Scientists have predicted that depending on the amount of effort we put towards reducing global warming, the earth would eventually warm up to as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit, or by as little as two degrees. The green house gases need to be stabilized to about twice the pre industrial levels, or around 450- 550 parts per million. Environmentalists believe that this is the rate eat which the most damaging impacts of climate change can be avoided, so with the current concentrations at about 380 ppm, we need to act fast. We need to reduce the green house gases emission by 50% to 80% of what they are today. (Bjørn, 2004)

Governments world wide are working hard towards cutting down the green house gases. Two researchers from Princeton University, Robert Socolow and Stephen Palaca have suggested an approach called ‘stabilization wedges’. This approach involves reducing the green house emissions from a variety of sources with technologies that will be available in the next few decades. They have suggested seven wedges that could each reduce emissions, and at the same time hold those at the current level for the next 50 years, hence a stable ppm of around 500. Power production from coal is one of the major contributors of carbon dioxide, the major green house gas. Recently, the International Energy Agency said that until the year 2030, coal will remain to be the world’s largest source of power. American coal burning power plants produce up to two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. (Voorspools, etal, 2007)

Environmentalists like Al Gore have tried to come up with solutions to reduce global warming by coal. The use of alternative sources of energy like the solar energy and the wind power which have no negative effects on the environment have been suggested. The use of such energy sources would be important in the conservation of the environment and the effect of global warming could definitely decrease. There is also the on going research on how the gases produced by coal can be cleaned before they are released to the atmosphere, reducing pollution. President Obama has supported this research, because he supports coal as the major source of energy for all of America. (Voorspools, etal, 2007)

            There is also a potential to capture the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuels and to store it underground, a process called ‘carbon sequestration’. Besides reducing the gasses emitted to the atmosphere, we can also increase efforts to increase the gases taken out of the atmosphere. This can be done by planting more trees to absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which would be like a natural way of sequestering carbon dioxide. Governments need to hold more campaigns on increasing the forestlands, and also to encourage more people to plant trees at their farms or backyards. (Mark, 2008)

Water pollution

Water pollution refers to any changes in the chemical, physical and biological conditions of any water body which would harmfully disrupt the balance of the ecosystem. Just like the other types of pollution, water pollution is as a result of waste from several sources of pollutants which is no longer accommodated by the natural ecosystem. When these wastes can not be destroyed as fast as they are made, they cause the water to be unfit for humans and all other living organisms. There are many causes of water pollution, but the main causes are categorized in to two. The first is the kind of pollution that comes from one specific location, called the point source pollution, such as the sewer pipes which empty polluted water in to the rivers, or an oil spill in to a river. The other pollution has multiple sources; it is called no point source pollution. An example of the non point pollution is the washing of the fertilizer from farm fields in to the river. Point source water pollution can be monitored and regulated, but it is difficult to regulate the non point pollution, so they account for a majority of contaminations in lakes and streams. (Gupta, etal, 2008)

Causes of water pollution

            Oil spills are a major cause of water pollution. An example of oil spill is the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska coast, and the 2005 spill at the coast of Spain. Water pollution causes a major problem in the availability if clean water for drinking to humans and wildlife, while affecting the coastal businesses mainly connected with fishing. Besides the oil spills, land based oil pollution is washed off to rivers and streams through rain water runoffs. Land based oil pollutions may be from fluids that drips from vehicles, drips of fuel and oil from industrial machinery and many others. Oil drips from different sources combine, causing a continual feed of petroleum pollution to world waters. (Gupta, etal, 2008)

Besides oil spillage, the discharge of oil-contaminated ballast water and wash water and oily wastes also add to the water pollution. Other possible causes of water pollution are drilling and extraction activities for gas and oil, which may contaminate the underground water or the ocean water. Also, leakages from storage tanks containing gasoline and gas additives are also a cause for water pollution. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 100 000 gasoline tanks leak chemicals in to the ground water. The effects of ground water pollution have been seen in Santa Monica, California, where half of the wells supplying half of the city’s water contain high levels of MTBE and have been closed.

Approximately 90 percent of the waste water in the developing countries is discharged directly to the rivers and streams without being treated in the developing countries. In the developed countries, poorly treated sewage, untreated sewage, or the overflow from the under-capacity sewage treatment facilities can dispose disease bearing water in to the rivers, leading to a spread of diseases. 850 billion gallons of raw sewage are sent in to lakes or rivers in the U.S, through leaking sewers and poor sewer storm systems that overflow during the heavy rains. Another cause of water pollution is the sediments. Poor farming practices which leave the soil exposed cause the soil to be washed away in to the rivers, causing water pollution. Also, when the forests are clear cut, root sediments that held the soil together dry up, causing the free soil to run down the rivers and streams. Other causes of water pollution include pesticides, fertilizers from farms, mining, personal care products, household cleaning products and pharmaceuticals, carbon dioxide, air pollution, heat and noise. (Peter, etal, 2008)

Solutions to water pollution

            The first and most important solution that the government should implement is enforcement of the existing laws concerning the environment. Making new anti-pollution laws without enforcing the old ones does not make sense if the existing laws remain un enforced. In reducing the water pollution as a result of oil and petroleum liquids, the first and major important step would be to stop letting a lot of oil and oil by products get in to the water bodies. Although it is true that a lot of oil seeps naturally in to the ocean from the underground geological sources, it should also be known that the marine thrive in these areas are already adapted to the conditions. The human caused pollution through petroleum happens at the areas where the marine life is not adapted to such conditions, causing them to die. That is why it is important to reduce the amount of petroleum getting in to the water bodies, whether from the non spill sources, which are even a greater cause of pollution than spills. To reduce oil spillages in the sea, governments can quicken the pace at which oil is transported in tankers, tightening the regulations that restrict the inspection of ships and boats. It can also educate the public on how to keep oil and petroleum products away from the waterways. Individuals too can be encouraged to practice the activities that do not cause water pollution. (Julie, 2008)

            The society should place high priority in upgrading the out of date or broken sewerage pipes that sometimes spew the sewer in to the drinking water pipes. The factories should also ensure that the underground water is not contaminated by their waste water disposal systems. The practice of deforestation should be avoided as much as possible. Forests act as a sponge because they soak up the rains when they come, holding the water and filtering it before it drains in to the rivers, streams and lakes. Encouraging planting of trees to increase the forest cover is also a good way to prevent water pollution. The chemical pollution in the rivers should be cleaned. Factories should look for alternative ways to dispose off their chemical wastes, as opposed to draining them to the rivers. (Cynthia etal, 2008)

References

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Planted Vegetation Strips Reduce Giardia Runoff Reaching Waterways, Agronomy Journal, J. Environ. Qual., Volume 37

Julie Stauffer, (1998), The Water Crisis: Constructing Solutions to Freshwater Pollution,

New York, Earthscan

Kuha Mai,(2009), Language and encology, uncertainty about causes and effects of global

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global warming, air pollution and energy security, volume 2

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Year Trends in Suspended Sediment in Seven Lake Erie Tributaries, Journal of Agronomy, 2008, Environ. Qual., Volume 37

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