Global Environmental Issues: Types & Treaties

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  • 0:01 Global Environmental Concerns
  • 1:28 Global Climate Change
  • 3:00 Pollution Concerns
  • 3:58 Sustainable Development
  • 5:07 Global Environmental…
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson defines and then discusses examples of global environmental issues, such as global climate change and pollution. A short quiz will follow the lesson to check your understanding.

Global Environmental Concerns

Human life is all about adaptation, especially to our environments. If you live in Chicago, like myself, you know that the environmental conditions can change in a heartbeat. It's even an inside joke in Chicago that you can feel like you've gone through all four seasons in one day.

In fact, past civilizations were confronted with some of the environmental challenges that we are familiar with today. For example, environmental decay forced people to abandon the once-fertile region of the Middle East, known as the 'cradle of civilization.' Or in more modern times, the advent of the Industrial Revolution greatly increased pollution amounts in Western Europe. However, there are some significant differences between those issues and ones we currently find ourselves facing.

First, contemporary environmental issues have taken on a global scale, whereas in the past, such issues were confined to small parts of the globe. Secondly, current environmental concerns are often products of our own doing, whereas in the past, concerns were much more to do with the confines of nature. Lastly, current environmental concerns are worsening at a more rapid pace than in the past.

Ancient societies had more time and space to deal with environmental threats than we do today. Collectively, each of these qualities make an ecological challenge a global environmental concern. In this lesson, we will briefly cover some of the more major global environmental concerns, as well as discuss measures that are being taken to help correct them.

Global Climate Change

One of the biggest global environmental concerns is related to the increase of the average global temperature. You might at first think, 'Sweet - summer all year long.' Unfortunately, these 'summers' could become unbearably hot and lead to such things as floods, heat waves, diseases, and drought. Flooding comes from the changing weather patterns, which in turn lead to increased sea levels and heavy rains.

Heat waves can lead to more refugees and migration concerns, deaths from heat stroke, and forest fires. Warmer weather also encourages wetter weather conditions, which are ripe for insect-transmitted illnesses. Droughts can also lead to crop failure and a decrease in tourism, all of which would have an effect on the global economy.

There is a consensus among scientists that greenhouse gases are altering the atmosphere in ways that ultimately contribute to climate change and higher temperatures. Furthermore, the assumption is that human activities are the main causes of these climate developments due to the heavy development of industry, which creates pollution. What causes this situation is when the amount of carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere and traps solar radiation, which then increases the atmosphere's temperature. This is called the greenhouse effect. The increase of pollution in the atmosphere not only leads to the changing in the global climate, but it also leads to some other serious problems.

Pollution Concerns

Acid rain and ozone depletion are two other global environmental concerns. Even the word 'acid' should be familiar enough to most of us to know that it's not something we should be touching, because it may burn us. So the idea that acid may be falling down on us in the form of rain is even more scary. Acid rain can increase the acidity in lakes and rivers, which can disrupt animal and plant ecosystems.

We also face the danger of becoming burned by the growing holes in our ozone layer, which is a layer of the atmosphere that blocks UV radiation. Without this protection, UV exposure can lead to skin cancer, eye disorders, and genetic changes in plants and animals. Ozone depletion is most severe in Antarctica and in the Northern Hemisphere. Again, though, both of these concerns are primarily caused by the industrial activities of countries worldwide, namely by the burning of fossil fuels and the use of synthetic products called CFCs.

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