Environmental pollution is an increasing issue nowadays. 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, 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. Greenhouse gases are commonly abbreviated to 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. Those, furthermore, 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 among others. The coral reef is endangered, and more and more insects can affect agriculture and public health. These are just some of the effects, but the bottom line is that it affects the natural balance and thus our life on Earth.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. These can cause simple discomfort or even disease and death in humans. All living organisms need to breathe and they depend on clean air. With air pollution, living organisms suffer damage, be they animals or plants, including the food crops we depend on.
We have to find solutions so that human activity can continue as needed but without damaging the environment. For the sake of our present and that of the 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/