Environmental pollution is a growing issue, but which pollutants are the main drivers that change our climate?
Air pollution is a huge problem, by both governments and activists, just like greenhouse gases and global warming are. Since the Industrial Revolution began, the process of burning fossil fuels has led to a 40% increase in the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, with its concentration having grown from 270 ppm to 400 ppm.¹ Carbon dioxide, along with water vapor, nitrous oxide, methane and ozone, is a greenhouse gas (GHG).
What are greenhouse gases?
A greenhouse gas is a gas in the earth’s atmosphere that absorbs and emits infrared radiation. Such gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere and reach the earth’s surface. But, once the sunlight hits the surface, some of it is reflected towards space in the form of infrared radiation. In other words, this happens in the form of heat. Gases that contribute to producing the greenhouse effect absorb some of this reflected heat, which impact the temperature of the surface of the earth.²
The average temperature of the surface of the earth should remain roughly constant, however, it has risen over the last 50 years as a result of human activity that has contributed to GHG emissions – especially carbon emissions. With temperatures being allowed to further rise due to such gases, ocean levels can also rise due to glaciers melting, affecting life in ports particularly. The coral reef is endangered, and an increased number of insects can affect agriculture and public health.³
Besides the typical drivers for environmental pollution, there are also other pollutants that have an impact on climate change. Human activity has also introduced chemicals, particulates and biological materials into the atmosphere, which can even cause disease or death amongst humans. All living organisms need to breathe and they depend on clean air, however, with air pollution, living organisms suffer damage, including the food crops we depend on.
We have to find solutions, so that human activity can continue without damaging the environment – for the sake of our present and next generations.
¹ Greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere reach yet another high, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/greenhouse-gas-concentrations-atmosphere-reach-yet-another-high
² Overview of Greenhouse Gases, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases
³ Effects of Global Warming, https://www.livescience.com/37057-global-warming-effects.html
⁴ Air pollution, explained, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/pollution/