Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments and ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming, environmental degradation (such as ocean acidification), mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crisis, and ecological collapse. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects, which become worse as the problem of human overpopulation continues. Some human activities that cause damage (either directly or indirectly) to the environment on a global scale include human reproduction, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation, to name but a few. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss pose an existential risk to the human race, and overpopulation causes those problems.
The term anthropogenic designates an effect or object resulting from human activity. The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian geologist Alexey Pavlov, and it was first used in English by British ecologist Arthur Tansley in reference to human influences on climax plant communities. The atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen introduced the term "Anthropocene" in the mid-1970s. The term is sometimes used in the context of pollution emissions that are produced from human activity but also applies broadly to all major human impacts on the environment.
David Attenborough described the level of human population on the planet as a multiplier of all other environmental problems. In 2013, he described humanity as "a plague on the Earth" that needs to be controlled by limiting population growth.
Some deep ecologists, such as the radical thinker and polemicist Pentti Linkola, see human overpopulation as a threat to the entire biosphere. In 2017, over 15,000 scientists around the world issued a second warning to humanity which asserted that rapid human population growth is the "primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats."
Overconsumption is a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. It can be measured by the ecological footprint, a resource accounting approach which compares human demand on ecosystems with the amount of planet matter ecosystems can renew. Estimates indicate that humanity's current demand is 70% higher than the regeneration rate of all of the planet's ecosystems combined. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to environmental degradation and the eventual loss of resource bases.
Humanity's overall impact on the planet is affected by many factors, not just the raw number of people. Their lifestyle (including overall affluence and resource utilization) and the pollution they generate (including carbon footprint) are equally important. In 2008, The New York Times stated that the inhabitants of the developed nations of the world consume resources like oil and metals at a rate almost 32 times greater than those of the developing world, who make up the majority of the human population.
Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event [...] A world population of around a billion would have an overall pro-life effect. This could be supported for many millennia and sustain many more human lives in the long term compared with our current uncontrolled growth and prospect of sudden collapse [...] If everyone consumed resources at the US level – which is what the world aspires to – you will need another four or five Earths. We are wrecking our planet’s life support systems.
Humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants  The world's chickens are triple the weight of all the wild birds, while domesticated cattle and pigs outweigh all wild mammals by 14 to 1.
The applications of technology often result in unavoidable and unexpected environmental impacts, which according to the I = PAT equation is measured as resource use or pollution generated per unit GDP. Environmental impacts caused by the application of technology are often perceived as unavoidable for several reasons. First, given that the purpose of many technologies is to exploit, control, or otherwise “improve” upon nature for the perceived benefit of humanity while at the same time the myriad of processes in nature have been optimized and are continually adjusted by evolution, any disturbance of these natural processes by technology is likely to result in negative environmental consequences. Second, the conservation of mass principle and the first law of thermodynamics (i.e., conservation of energy) dictate that whenever material resources or energy are moved around or manipulated by technology, environmental consequences are inescapable. Third, according to the second law of thermodynamics, order can be increased within a system (such as the human economy) only by increasing disorder or entropy outside the system (i.e., the environment). Thus, technologies can create “order” in the human economy (i.e., order as manifested in buildings, factories, transportation networks, communication systems, etc.) only at the expense of increasing “disorder” in the environment. According to a number of studies, increased entropy is likely to be correlated to negative environmental impacts.
The environmental impact of agriculture varies based on the wide variety of agricultural practices employed around the world. Ultimately, the environmental impact depends on the production practices of the system used by farmers. The connection between emissions into the environment and the farming system is indirect, as it also depends on other climate variables such as rainfall and temperature.
There are two types of indicators of environmental impact: "means-based", which is based on the farmer's production methods, and "effect-based", which is the impact that farming methods have on the farming system or on emissions to the environment. An example of a means-based indicator would be the quality of groundwater that is affected by the amount of nitrogen applied to the soil. An indicator reflecting the loss of nitrate to groundwater would be effect-based.
The environmental impact of agriculture involves a variety of factors from the soil, to water, the air, animal and soil diversity, plants, and the food itself. Some of the environmental issues that are related to agriculture are climate change, deforestation, genetic engineering, irrigation problems, pollutants, soil degradation, and waste.
The environmental impact of fishing can be divided into issues that involve the availability of fish to be caught, such as overfishing, sustainable fisheries, and fisheries management; and issues that involve the impact of fishing on other elements of the environment, such as by-catch and destruction of habitat such as coral reefs.
These conservation issues are part of marine conservation, and are addressed in fisheries science programs. There is a growing gap between how many fish are available to be caught and humanity's desire to catch them, a problem that gets worse as the world population grows.
Similar to other environmental issues, there can be conflict between the fishermen who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and fishery scientists who realize that if future fish populations are to be sustainable then some fisheries must reduce or even close.
The journal Science published a four-year study in November 2006, which predicted that, at prevailing trends, the world would run out of wild-caught seafood in 2048. The scientists stated that the decline was a result of overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors that were reducing the population of fisheries at the same time as their ecosystems were being degraded. Yet again the analysis has met criticism as being fundamentally flawed, and many fishery management officials, industry representatives and scientists challenge the findings, although the debate continues. Many countries, such as Tonga, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and international management bodies have taken steps to appropriately manage marine resources.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released their biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2018 noting that capture fishery production has remained constant for the last two decades but unsustainable overfishing has increased to 33% of the world's fisheries. They also noted that aquaculture, the production of farmed fish, has increased from 120 million tonnes per year in 1990 to over 170 million tonnes in 2018.
The environmental impact of irrigation includes the changes in quantity and quality of soil and water as a result of irrigation and the ensuing effects on natural and social conditions at the tail-end and downstream of the irrigation scheme.
The impacts stem from the changed hydrological conditions owing to the installation and operation of the scheme.
An irrigation scheme often draws water from the river and distributes it over the irrigated area. As a hydrological result it is found that:
These may be called direct effects.
Effects on soil and water quality are indirect and complex, and subsequent impacts on natural, ecological and socio-economic conditions are intricate. In some, but not all instances, water logging and soil salinization can result. However, irrigation can also be used, together with soil drainage, to overcome soil salinization by leaching excess salts from the vicinity of the root zone.
Irrigation can also be done extracting groundwater by (tube)wells. As a hydrological result it is found that the level of the water descends. The effects may be water mining, land/soil subsidence, and, along the coast, saltwater intrusion.
Irrigation projects can have large benefits, but the negative side effects are often overlooked. Agricultural irrigation technologies such as high powered water pumps, dams, and pipelines are responsible for the large-scale depletion of fresh water resources such as aquifers, lakes, and rivers. As a result of this massive diversion of freshwater, lakes, rivers, and creeks are running dry, severely altering or stressing surrounding ecosystems, and contributing to the extinction of many aquatic species.
Lal and Stewart estimated global loss of agricultural land by degradation and abandonment at 12 million hectares per year. In contrast, according to Scherr, GLASOD (Global Assessment of Human-Induced Soil Degradation, under the UN Environment Programme) estimated that 6 million hectares of agricultural land per year had been lost to soil degradation since the mid-1940s, and she noted that this magnitude is similar to earlier estimates by Dudal and by Rozanov et al. Such losses are attributable not only to soil erosion, but also to salinization, loss of nutrients and organic matter, acidification, compaction, water logging and subsidence. Human-induced land degradation tends to be particularly serious in dry regions. Focusing on soil properties, Oldeman estimated that about 19 million square kilometers of global land area had been degraded; Dregne and Chou, who included degradation of vegetation cover as well as soil, estimated about 36 million square kilometers degraded in the world's dry regions. Despite estimated losses of agricultural land, the amount of arable land used in crop production globally increased by about 9% from 1961 to 2012, and is estimated to have been 1.396 billion hectares in 2012.
Global average soil erosion rates are thought to be high, and erosion rates on conventional cropland generally exceed estimates of soil production rates, usually by more than an order of magnitude. In the US, sampling for erosion estimates by the US NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) is statistically based, and estimation uses the Universal Soil Loss Equation and Wind Erosion Equation. For 2010, annual average soil loss by sheet, rill and wind erosion on non-federal US land was estimated to be 10.7 t/ha on cropland and 1.9 t/ha on pasture land; the average soil erosion rate on US cropland had been reduced by about 34% since 1982. No-till and low-till practices have become increasingly common on North American cropland used for production of grains such as wheat and barley. On uncultivated cropland, the recent average total soil loss has been 2.2 t/ha per year. In comparison with agriculture using conventional cultivation, it has been suggested that, because no-till agriculture produces erosion rates much closer to soil production rates, it could provide a foundation for sustainable agriculture.
Environmental impacts associated with meat production include use of fossil energy, water and land resources, greenhouse gas emissions, and in some instances, rainforest clearing, water pollution and species endangerment, among other adverse effects. Steinfeld et al. of the FAO estimated that 18% of global anthropogenic GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions (estimated as 100-year carbon dioxide equivalents) are associated in some way with livestock production. FAO data indicate that meat accounted for 26% of global livestock product tonnage in 2011.
Globally, enteric fermentation (mostly in ruminant livestock) accounts for about 27% of anthropogenic methane emissions, Despite methane's 100-year global warming potential, recently estimated at 28 without and 34 with climate carbon feedbacks, methane emission is currently contributing relatively little to global warming. Although reduction of methane emissions would have a rapid effect on warming, the expected effect would be small. Other anthropogenic GHG emissions associated with livestock production include carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption (mostly for production, harvesting and transport of feed), and nitrous oxide emissions associated with use of nitrogenous fertilizers, growing of nitrogen-fixing legume vegetation and manure management. Management practices that can mitigate GHG emissions from production of livestock and feed have been identified.
Considerable water use is associated with meat production, mostly because of water used in production of vegetation that provides feed. There are several published estimates of water use associated with livestock and meat production, but the amount of water use assignable to such production is seldom estimated. For example, “green water” use is evapotranspirational use of soil water that has been provided directly by precipitation; and “green water” has been estimated to account for 94% of global beef cattle production's “water footprint”, and on rangeland, as much as 99.5% of the water use associated with beef production is “green water”.
Impairment of water quality by manure and other substances in runoff and infiltrating water is a concern, especially where intensive livestock production is carried out. In the US, in a comparison of 32 industries, the livestock industry was found to have a relatively good record of compliance with environmental regulations pursuant to the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, but pollution issues from large livestock operations can sometimes be serious where violations occur. Various measures have been suggested by the US Environmental Protection Agency, among others, which can help reduce livestock damage to streamwater quality and riparian environments.
Changes in livestock production practices influence the environmental impact of meat production, as illustrated by some beef data. In the US beef production system, practices prevailing in 2007 are estimated to have involved 8.6% less fossil fuel use, 16% less greenhouse gas emissions (estimated as 100-year carbon dioxide equivalents), 12% less withdrawn water use and 33% less land use, per unit mass of beef produced, than in 1977. From 1980 to 2012 in the US, while population increased by 38%, the small ruminant inventory decreased by 42%, the cattle-and-calves inventory decreased by 17%, and methane emissions from livestock decreased by 18%; yet despite the reduction in cattle numbers, US beef production increased over that period.
Some impacts of meat-producing livestock may be considered environmentally beneficial. These include waste reduction by conversion of human-inedible crop residues to food, use of livestock as an alternative to herbicides for control of invasive and noxious weeds and other vegetation management, use of animal manure as fertilizer as a substitute for those synthetic fertilizers that require considerable fossil fuel use for manufacture, grazing use for wildlife habitat enhancement, and carbon sequestration in response to grazing practices, among others. Conversely, according to some studies appearing in peer-reviewed journals, the growing demand for meat is contributing to significant biodiversity loss as it is a significant driver of deforestation and habitat destruction.
Introductions of species, particularly plants into new areas, by whatever means and for whatever reasons have brought about major and permanent changes to the environment over large areas. Examples include the introduction of Caulerpa taxifolia into the Mediterranean, the introduction of oat species into the California grasslands, and the introduction of privet, kudzu, and purple loosestrife to North America. Rats, cats, and goats have radically altered biodiversity in many islands. Additionally, introductions have resulted in genetic changes to native fauna where interbreeding has taken place, as with buffalo with domestic cattle, and wolves with domestic dogs.
The environmental impact of energy harvesting and consumption is diverse. In recent years there has been a trend towards the increased commercialization of various renewable energy sources.
In the real world, consumption of fossil fuel resources leads to global warming and climate change. However, little change is being made in many parts of the world. If the peak oil theory proves true, more explorations of viable alternative energy sources, could be more friendly to the environment.
Rapidly advancing technologies can achieve a transition of energy generation, water and waste management, and food production towards better environmental and energy usage practices using methods of systems ecology and industrial ecology.
The environmental impact of biodiesel includes energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and some other kinds of pollution. A joint life cycle analysis by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Energy found that substituting 100% biodiesel for petroleum diesel in buses reduced life cycle consumption of petroleum by 95%. Biodiesel reduced net emissions of carbon dioxide by 78.45%, compared with petroleum diesel. In urban buses, biodiesel reduced particulate emissions 32 percent, carbon monoxide emissions 35 percent, and emissions of sulfur oxides 8%, relative to life cycle emissions associated with use of petroleum diesel. Life cycle emissions of hydrocarbons were 35% higher and emission of various nitrogen oxides (NOx) were 13.5% higher with biodiesel. Life cycle analyses by the Argonne National Laboratory have indicated reduced fossil energy use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions with biodiesel, compared with petroleum diesel use. Biodiesel derived from various vegetable oils (e.g. canola or soybean oil), is readily biodegradable in the environment compared with petroleum diesel.
The environmental impact of coal mining and -burning is diverse. Legislation passed by the US Congress in 1990 required the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a plan to alleviate toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. After delay and litigation, the EPA now has a court-imposed deadline of March 16, 2011, to issue its report.
The environmental impact of electricity generation is significant because modern society uses large amounts of electrical power. This power is normally generated at power plants that convert some other kind of energy into electricity. Each such system has advantages and disadvantages, but many of them pose environmental concerns.
The environmental impact of nuclear power results from the nuclear fuel cycle processes including mining, processing, transporting and storing fuel and radioactive fuel waste. Released radioisotopes pose a health danger to human populations, animals and plants as radioactive particles enter organisms through various transmission routes.
Radiation is a carcinogen and causes numerous effects on living organisms and systems. The environmental impacts of nuclear power plant disasters such as the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the Three Mile Island accident, among others, persist indefinitely, though several other factors contributed to these events including improper management of fail safe systems and natural disasters putting uncommon stress on the generators. The radioactive decay rate of particles varies greatly, dependent upon the nuclear properties of a particular isotope. Radioactive Plutonium-244 has a half-life of 80.8 million years, which indicates the time duration required for half of a given sample to decay, though very little plutonium-244 is produced in the nuclear fuel cycle and lower half-life materials have lower activity thus giving off less dangerous radiation.
The environmental impact of the oil shale industry includes the consideration of issues such as land use, waste management, and water and air pollution caused by the extraction and processing of oil shale. Surface mining of oil shale deposits causes the usual environmental impacts of open-pit mining. In addition, the combustion and thermal processing generate waste material, which must be disposed of, and harmful atmospheric emissions, including carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Experimental in-situ conversion processes and carbon capture and storage technologies may reduce some of these concerns in future, but may raise others, such as the pollution of groundwater.
The environmental impact of petroleum is often negative because it is toxic to almost all forms of life. Petroleum, a common word for oil or natural gas, is closely linked to virtually all aspects of present society, especially for transportation and heating for both homes and for commercial activities.
The environmental impact of reservoirs is coming under ever increasing scrutiny as the world demand for water and energy increases and the number and size of reservoirs increases.
Dams and the reservoirs can be used to supply drinking water, generate hydroelectric power, increasing the water supply for irrigation, provide recreational opportunities and flood control. However, adverse environmental and sociological impacts have also been identified during and after many reservoir constructions. Although the impact varies greatly between different dams and reservoirs, common criticisms include preventing sea-run fish from reaching their historical mating grounds, less access to water downstream, and a smaller catch for fishing communities in the area. Advances in technology have provided solutions to many negative impacts of dams but these advances are often not viewed as worth investing in if not required by law or under the threat of fines. Whether reservoir projects are ultimately beneficial or detrimental—to both the environment and surrounding human populations— has been debated since the 1960s and probably long before that. In 1960 the construction of Llyn Celyn and the flooding of Capel Celyn provoked political uproar which continues to this day. More recently, the construction of Three Gorges Dam and other similar projects throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America have generated considerable environmental and political debate.
Compared to the environmental impact of traditional energy sources, the environmental impact of wind power is relatively minor. Wind powered electricity generation consumes no fuel, and emits no air pollution, unlike fossil fuel power sources. The energy consumed to manufacture and transport the materials used to build a wind power plant is equal to the new energy produced by the plant within a few months. While a wind farm may cover a large area of land, many land uses such as agriculture are compatible, with only small areas of turbine foundations and infrastructure made unavailable for use.
There are reports of bird and bat mortality at wind turbines, as there are around other artificial structures. The scale of the ecological impact may or may not be significant, depending on specific circumstances. Prevention and mitigation of wildlife fatalities, and protection of peat bogs, affect the siting and operation of wind turbines.
There are conflicting reports about the effects of noise on people who live very close to a wind turbine.
Artificial light at night is one of the most obvious physical changes that humans have made to the biosphere, and is the easiest form of pollution to observe from space. The main environmental impacts of artificial light are due to light's use as an information source (rather than an energy source). The hunting efficiency of visual predators generally increases under artificial light, changing predator prey interactions. Artificial light also affects dispersal, orientation, migration, and hormone levels, resulting in disrupted circadian rhythms.
The environmental impact of cleaning agents is diverse. In recent years, measures have been taken to reduce these effects.
Nanotechnology's environmental impact can be split into two aspects: the potential for nanotechnological innovations to help improve the environment, and the possibly novel type of pollution that nanotechnological materials might cause if released into the environment. As nanotechnology is an emerging field, there is great debate regarding to what extent industrial and commercial use of nanomaterials will affect organisms and ecosystems.
We get leather from animals. Animals are also part of the environment and we are harming them. So this is also a part of destroying the environment.
The environmental impact of paint is diverse. Traditional painting materials and processes can have harmful effects on the environment, including those from the use of lead and other additives. Measures can be taken to reduce environmental impact, including accurately estimating paint quantities so that wastage is minimized, use of paints, coatings, painting accessories and techniques that are environmentally preferred. The United States Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and Green Star ratings are some of the standards that can be applied.
The environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behaviour at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanised harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity. This has led to a high level of consumption and waste. With the rise in environmental awareness due to the lobbying by environmental organizations and with increased government regulation there is now a trend towards sustainability in the pulp and paper industry.
Some scientists suggest that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
The environmental impact of pesticides is often greater than what is intended by those who use them. Over 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, including nontarget species, air, water, bottom sediments, and food. Pesticide contaminates land and water when it escapes from production sites and storage tanks, when it runs off from fields, when it is discarded, when it is sprayed aerially, and when it is sprayed into water to kill algae.
The amount of pesticide that migrates from the intended application area is influenced by the particular chemical's properties: its propensity for binding to soil, its vapor pressure, its water solubility, and its resistance to being broken down over time. Factors in the soil, such as its texture, its ability to retain water, and the amount of organic matter contained in it, also affect the amount of pesticide that will leave the area. Some pesticides contribute to global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer.
The environmental impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is largely speculative. PPCPs are substances used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons and the products used by agribusiness to boost growth or health of livestock. PPCPs have been detected in water bodies throughout the world. The effects of these chemicals on humans and the environment are not yet known, but to date there is no scientific evidence that they affect human health.
The environmental impact of mining includes erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from mining processes. In some cases, additional forest logging is done in the vicinity of mines to increase the available room for the storage of the created debris and soil. Besides creating environmental damage, the contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals also affect the health of the local population. Mining companies in some countries are required to follow environmental and rehabilitation codes, ensuring the area mined is returned to close to its original state. Some mining methods may have significant environmental and public health effects.
The environmental impact of transport is significant because it is a major user of energy, and burns most of the world's petroleum. This creates air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, and is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide, for which transport is the fastest-growing emission sector. By subsector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming.
Environmental regulations in developed countries have reduced the individual vehicles emission; however, this has been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles, and more use of each vehicle. Some pathways to reduce the carbon emissions of road vehicles considerably have been studied. Energy use and emissions vary largely between modes, causing environmentalists to call for a transition from air and road to rail and human-powered transport, and increase transport electrification and energy efficiency.
Other environmental impacts of transport systems include traffic congestion and automobile-oriented urban sprawl, which can consume natural habitat and agricultural lands. By reducing transportation emissions globally, it is predicted that there will be significant positive effects on Earth's air quality, acid rain, smog and climate change.
The health impact of transport emissions is also of concern. A recent survey of the studies on the effect of traffic emissions on pregnancy outcomes has linked exposure to emissions to adverse effects on gestational duration and possibly also intrauterine growth.
The environmental impact of aviation occurs because aircraft engines emit noise, particulates, and gases which contribute to climate change and global dimming. Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation. In the EU, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006. Among other factors leading to this phenomenon are the increasing number of hypermobile travellers and social factors that are making air travel commonplace, such as frequent flyer programs.
There is an ongoing debate about possible taxation of air travel and the inclusion of aviation in an emissions trading scheme, with a view to ensuring that the total external costs of aviation are taken into account.
The environmental impact of roads includes the local effects of highways (public roads) such as on noise, light pollution, water pollution, habitat destruction/disturbance and local air quality; and the wider effects including climate change from vehicle emissions. The design, construction and management of roads, parking and other related facilities as well as the design and regulation of vehicles can change the impacts to varying degrees.
The environmental impact of shipping includes greenhouse gas emissions and oil pollution. In 2007, carbon dioxide emissions from shipping were estimated at 4 to 5% of the global total, and estimated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to rise by up to 72% by 2020 if no action is taken. There is also a potential for introducing invasive species into new areas through shipping, usually by attaching themselves to the ship's hull.
The First Intersessional Meeting of the IMO Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships took place in Oslo, Norway on 23–27 June 2008. It was tasked with developing the technical basis for the reduction mechanisms that may form part of a future IMO regime to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, and a draft of the actual reduction mechanisms themselves, for further consideration by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
General military spending and military activities have marked environmental effects. The United States military is considered one of the worst polluters in the world, responsible for over 39,000 sites contaminated with hazardous materials. Several studies have also found a strong positive correlation between higher military spending and higher carbon emissions where increased military spending has a larger effect on increasing carbon emissions in the Global North than in the Global South. Military activities also affect land use and are extremely resource-intensive.
The military does not solely have negative effects on the environment. There are several examples of militaries aiding in land management, conservation, and greening of an area. Additionally, certain military technologies have proven extremely helpful for conservationists and environmental scientists.
As well as the cost to human life and society, there is a significant environmental impact of war. Scorched earth methods during, or after war have been in use for much of recorded history but with modern technology war can cause a far greater devastation on the environment. Unexploded ordnance can render land unusable for further use or make access across it dangerous or fatal.
Human activity is causing environmental degradation, which is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. As indicated by the I=PAT equation, environmental impact (I) or degradation is caused by the combination of an already very large and increasing human population (P), continually increasing economic growth or per capita affluence (A), and the application of resource-depleting and polluting technology (T).
Biodiversity generally refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth, and is represented by the number of different species there are on the planet. Since its introduction, Homo sapiens (the human species) has been killing off entire species either directly (such as through hunting) or indirectly (such as by destroying habitats), causing the extinction of species at an alarming rate. Humans are the cause of the current mass extinction, called the Holocene extinction, driving extinctions to 100 to 1000 times the normal background rate. Though most experts agree that human beings have accelerated the rate of species extinction, some scholars have postulated without humans, the biodiversity of the Earth would grow at an exponential rate rather than decline. The Holocene extinction continues, with meat consumption, overfishing, ocean acidification and the amphibian crisis being a few broader examples of an almost universal, cosmopolitan decline in biodiversity. Human overpopulation (and continued population growth) along with profligate consumption are considered to be the primary drivers of this rapid decline. The 2017 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity stated that, among other things, this sixth extinction event unleashed by humanity could annihilate many current life forms and consign them to extinction by the end of this century.
It is estimated that more than 50 percent of all wildlife has been lost in the last 40 years. It is estimated that by 2020, 68% of the world's wildlife will be lost. In South America, there is believed to be a 70 percent loss. A May 2018 study published in PNAS found that 83% of wild mammals, 80% of marine mammals, 50% of plants and 15% of fish have been lost since the dawn of human civilization. Currently, livestock make up 60% of the biomass of all mammals on earth, followed by humans (36%) and wild mammals (4%). According to the 2019 global biodiversity assessment by IPBES, human civilization has pushed one million species of plants and animals to the brink of extinction, with many of these projected to vanish over the next few decades.
Because of human overpopulation, coral reefs are dying around the world. In particular, coral mining, pollution (organic and non-organic), overfishing, blast fishing and the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are serious threats to these ecosystems. Coral reefs also face high dangers from pollution, diseases, destructive fishing practices and warming oceans. In order to find answers for these problems, researchers study the various factors that impact reefs. The list of factors is long, including the ocean's role as a carbon dioxide sink, atmospheric changes, ultraviolet light, ocean acidification, biological virus, impacts of dust storms carrying agents to far flung reefs, pollutants, algal blooms and others. Reefs are threatened well beyond coastal areas.
General estimates show approximately 10% world's coral reefs are already dead. It is estimated that about 60% of the world's reefs are at risk due to destructive, human-related activities. The threat to the health of reefs is particularly strong in Southeast Asia, where 80% of reefs are endangered.
Domestic, industrial and agricultural wastewater makes its way to wastewater plants for treatment before being released into aquatic ecosystems. Wastewater at these treatment plants contains a cocktail of different chemical and biological contaminants which may influence surrounding ecosystems. For example, the nutrient rich water supports large populations of pollutant-tolerant Chironomidae, which in-turn attract insectivorous bats. These insects accumulate toxins in their exoskeletons and pass them on to insectivorous birds and bats. As a result, metals may accumulate in the tissues and organs of these animals, resulting in DNA damage, and histopathological lesions. Furthermore, this altered diet of fat-rich prey may cause changes in energy storage and hormone production, which may have significant impacts on torpor, reproduction, metabolism and survival.
Biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses and fungi in wastewater can also be transferred to the surrounding ecosystem. Insects emerging from this wastewater may spread pathogens to nearby water sources. Pathogens, shed from humans, can be passed from this wastewater to organisms foraging at these treatment plants. This may lead to bacterial and viral infections or microbiome dysbiosis.
Global warming is the result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations which is caused primarily by the combustion of fossil energy sources such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, and to an unknown extent by destruction of forests, increased methane, volcanic activity and cement production. Such massive alteration of the global carbon cycle has only been possible because of the availability and deployment of advanced technologies, ranging in application from fossil fuel exploration, extraction, distribution, refining, and combustion in power plants and automobile engines and advanced farming practices. Livestock contributes to climate change both through the production of greenhouse gases and through destruction of carbon sinks such as rain-forests. According to the 2006 United Nations/FAO report, 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions found in the atmosphere are due to livestock. The raising of livestock and the land needed to feed them has resulted in the destruction of millions of acres of rainforest and as global demand for meat rises, so too will the demand for land. Ninety-one percent of all rainforest land deforested since 1970 is now used for livestock. Potential negative environmental impacts caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising global air temperatures, altered hydrogeological cycles resulting in more frequent and severe droughts, storms, and floods, as well as sea level rise and ecosystem disruption.
Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Natural hazards are excluded as a cause; however human activities can indirectly affect phenomena such as floods and bush fires.
This is considered to be an important topic of the 21st century due to the implications land degradation has upon agronomic productivity, the environment, and its effects on food security. It is estimated that up to 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.
Of particular concern is N2O, which has an average atmospheric lifetime of 114–120 years, and is 300 times more effective than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. NOx produced by industrial processes, automobiles and agricultural fertilization and NH3 emitted from soils (i.e., as an additional byproduct of nitrification) and livestock operations are transported to downwind ecosystems, influencing N cycling and nutrient losses. Six major effects of NOx and NH3 emissions have been identified:
Human impacts upon the environment, such as pollution and global warming, in turn affect human health.
This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence. In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to human activities. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.
The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies
Carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere whenever people burn fossil fuels. Oceans play an important role in keeping the Earth's carbon cycle in balance. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, the oceans absorb a lot of it. In the ocean, carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid. This causes the acidity of seawater to increase.
The overarching driver of species extinction is human population growth and increasing per capita consumption.
A new study evaluating models of future climate scenarios has led to the creation of the new risk categories “catastrophic” and “unknown” to characterize the range of threats posed by rapid global warming. Researchers propose that unknown risks imply existential threats to the survival of humanity.
Much less frequently mentioned are, however, the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction, namely, human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich. These drivers, all of which trace to the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet, are themselves increasing rapidly.
The overarching driver of species extinction is human population growth and increasing per capita consumption.
The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.As of June 2019, neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) nor the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geologic time, although the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), voted to proceed towards a formal golden spike (GSSP) proposal to define the Anthropocene epoch in the Geologic time scale and presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress on 29 August 2016. On 21 May 2019, the 34 member AWG voted in favour of making a formal proposal to the ICS.Various start dates for the Anthropocene have been proposed, ranging from the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, to as recent as the 1960s. As of June 2019, the ratification process continues and thus a date remains to be decided definitively, but the Trinity test of 1945 has been more favoured than others. In May 2019, the AWG voted for a starting date in the mid 20th century, but the final decision will not be made before 2021.The most recent period of the Anthropocene has been referred to by several authors as the Great Acceleration during which the socioeconomic and earth system trends are increasing dramatically, especially after the Second World War. For instance, the Geological Society termed the year 1945 as The Great Acceleration.Anthropogenic
Anthropogenic is an adjective which may refer to:
pertaining to anthropogeny, the study of the origins of humanityCounterintuitively, anthropogenic may also refer to things that have been generated by humans, as follows:
Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment
Anthropogenic climate change, or human induced global warming
Anthropogenic greenhouse gases
The biocapacity or biological capacity of an ecosystem is an estimate of its production of certain biological materials such as natural resources, and its absorption and filtering of other materials such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.Biocapacity is expressed in terms of global hectares per person, thus is dependent on human population. A global hectare is an adjusted unit that represents the average biological productivity of all productive hectares on Earth in a given year (because not all hectares produce the same amount of ecosystem services). Biocapacity is calculated from United Nations population and land use data, and may be reported at various regional levels, such as a city, a country, or the world as a whole.
For example, there were 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water on this planet in 2008. Dividing by the number of people alive in that year, 6.7 billion, gives a biocapacity of 1.8 global hectares per person . This assumes that no land is set aside for other species that consume the same biological material as humans.Biocapacity is used together with Ecological Footprint as a method of measuring Human impact on the environment. Biocapacity and Ecological Footprint are tools created by the Global Footprint Network, used in sustainability studies around the world.Bird extinction
Out of the approximately 10,400 known bird species, about 1,300 (13%) are classified as threatened with extinction, 9% as near threatened and of the remaining 78% many populations are declining. There is a general consensus among scientists who study these trends that if human impact on the environment continues as it has one-third of all bird species and an even greater proportion of bird populations will be gone by the end of this century.Since 1500, 150 species of birds have become extinct. Historically, the majority of bird extinctions have occurred on islands, particularly those in the Pacific. These include countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.DPSIR
DPSIR (drivers, pressures, state, impact and response model of intervention) is a causal framework for describing the interactions between society and the environment: Human impact on the environment and vice versa because of the interdependence of the components.Daniel Beltrá
Daniel Beltrá is a photographer and artist who makes work about human impact on the environment.
The focus of Beltrá's recent work has been fine art aerial photography of landscapes and environmental issues. His best known project is a series of photographs of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, titled Spill, which have been exhibited in galleries and museums across Europe and North America. Other topics he has photographed are tropical deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and global warming in the Arctic, Patagonia and the Southern Ocean. In September 2012, he documented the record-lowest summer sea ice level in the Arctic, which were later included in his "Ice" exhibition.Disturbance (ecology)
In ecology, a disturbance is a temporary change in environmental conditions that causes a pronounced change in an ecosystem. Disturbances often act quickly and with great effect, to alter the physical structure or arrangement of biotic and abiotic elements. Disturbance can also occur over a long period of time and can impact the biodiversity within an ecosystem. Major ecological disturbances may include fires, flooding, storms, insect outbreaks and trampling. Earthquakes, various types of volcanic eruptions, tsunami, firestorms, impact events, climate change, and the devastating effects of human impact on the environment (anthropogenic disturbances) such as clearcutting, forest clearing and the introduction of invasive species can be considered major disturbances. Not only invasive species can have a profound effect on an ecosystem, but also naturally occurring species can cause disturbance by their behavior. Disturbance forces can have profound immediate effects on ecosystems and can, accordingly, greatly alter the natural community. Because of these and the impacts on populations, disturbance determines the future shifts in dominance, various species successively becoming dominant as their life history characteristics, and associated life-forms, are exhibited over time.Ecological footprint
The ecological footprint measures human demand on nature, i.e., the quantity of nature it takes to support people or an economy. It tracks this demand through an ecological accounting system. The accounts contrast the biologically productive area people use for their consumption to the biologically productive area available within a region or the world (biocapacity, the productive area that can regenerate what people demand from nature). In short, it is a measure of human impact on Earth's ecosystem and reveals the dependence of the human economy on natural capital.
Footprint and biocapacity can be compared at the individual, regional, national or global scale. Both footprint and biocapacity change every year with number of people, per person consumption, efficiency of production, and productivity of ecosystems. At a global scale, footprint assessments show how big humanity's demand is compared to what planet Earth can renew. Since 2003, Global Footprint Network has calculated the ecological footprint from UN data sources for the world as a whole and for over 200 nations (known as the National Footprint Accounts). Every year the calculations are updated with the newest data. The time series are recalculated with every update since UN statistics also change historical data sets. As shown in Lin et al (2018) the time trends for countries and the world have stayed consistent despite data updates. Also, a recent study by the Swiss Ministry of Environment independently recalculated the Swiss trends and reproduced them within 1-4% for the time period that they studied (1996-2015). Global Footprint Network estimates that, as of 2014, humanity has been using natural capital 1.7 times as fast as Earth can renew it. This means humanity's ecological footprint corresponds to 1.7 planet Earths.
Ecological footprint analysis is widely used around the Earth in support of sustainability assessments. It enables people to measure and manage the use of resources throughout the economy and explore the sustainability of individual lifestyles, goods and services, organizations, industry sectors, neighborhoods, cities, regions and nations. Since 2006, a first set of ecological footprint standards exist that detail both communication and calculation procedures. The latest version are the updated standards from 2009.Environmental issue
Environmental issues are harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organizational or governmental levels, for the benefit of both the environment and humans. Environmentalism, a social and environmental movement, addresses environmental issues through advocacy, education and activism.
The carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere has already exceeded over 9000 parts per million (NOAA) (with total "long-term" GHG exceeding 455 parts per million) (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Report). The amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is possibly above the threshold that can potentially cause climate change. China, India and various countries that contribute to pollution are a major risk in many areas of pollution...It's not next year or next decade, it's now." The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated "Climate change is not just a distant future threat. It is the main driver behind rising humanitarian needs and we are seeing its impact. The number of people affected and the damages inflicted by extreme weather has been unprecedented." Further, OCHA has stated:Climate disasters are on the rise. Around 70 percent of disasters are now climate related – up from around 50 percent from two decades ago. These disasters take a heavier human toll and come with a higher price tag. In the last decade, 2.4 billion people were affected by climate related disasters, compared to 1.7 billion in the previous decade. The cost of responding to disasters has risen tenfold between 1992 and 2008.Destructive sudden heavy rains, intense tropical storms, repeated flooding and droughts are likely to increase, as will the vulnerability of local communities in the absence of strong concerted action.Environment destruction caused by humans is a global problem, and this is a problem that is on going every day. By year 2050, the global human population is expected to grow by 2 billion people, thereby reaching a level of 9.6 billion people (Living Blue Planet 24). The human effects on Earth can be seen in many different ways. A main one is the temperature rise, and according to the report ”Our Changing Climate”, the global warming that has been going on for the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities (Walsh, et al. 20). Since 1895, the U.S. average temperature has increased from 1.3 °F to 1.9 °F, with most of the increase taken place since around year 1970 (Walsh, et al. 20).Erle Ellis
Erle Christopher Ellis (born 11 March 1963 in Washington, DC) is an American environmental scientist. Ellis's work investigates the causes and consequences of long-term ecological changes caused by humans at local to global scales, including those related to the Anthropocene. As of 2016 he is a professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he directs the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology.Human impact on the nitrogen cycle
Human impact on the nitrogen cycle is diverse. Agricultural and industrial nitrogen (N) inputs to the environment currently exceed inputs from natural N fixation. As a consequence of anthropogenic inputs, the global nitrogen cycle (Fig. 1) has been significantly altered over the past century. Global atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O) mole fractions have increased from a pre-industrial value of ~270 nmol/mol to ~319 nmol/mol in 2005. Human activities account for over one-third of N2O emissions, most of which are due to the agricultural sector. This article is intended to give a brief review of the history of anthropogenic N inputs, and reported impacts of nitrogen inputs on selected terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.IMBER
IMBeR (Integrated Marine Biosphere Research) is a Future Earth-SCOR sponsored international project that promotes integrated marine research through a range of research topics towards sustainable, productive and healthy oceans at a time of global change, for the benefit of society.I = PAT
I = PAT is the mathematical notation of a formula put forward to describe the impact of human activity on the environment.
I = P × A × TThe expression equates human impact on the environment (I) to the product of three factors: population (P), affluence (A) and technology (T). It is similar in form to the Kaya identity which applies specifically to emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
The validity of expressing environmental impact as a simple product of independent factors, and the factors that should be included and their comparative importance, have been the subject of debate among environmentalists. In particular, some have drawn attention to potential inter-relationships among the three factors; and others have wished to stress other factors not included in the formula, such as political and social structures, and the scope for beneficial, as well as harmful, environmental actions.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by MDPI. The editor-in-chief is Paul B. Tchounwou. According to the Journal Citation Reports 2018 edition, the journal has a 2017 impact factor of 2.145, ranking 116/241 (Q2) in the ‘Environmental Sciences’ category and 73/180 (Q2) in 'Public, Environmental & Occupational Health' in the Science Citation Index Expanded.Kaiser Wilderness
The Kaiser Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness protected area located 70 miles (110 km) northeast of Fresno in the state of California, USA. It was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System by the United States Congress on October 19, 1976. The wilderness is 22,700 acres (92 km2) in size, is one of five wilderness areas within the Sierra National Forest and is managed by the US Forest Service.
The Kaiser Wilderness stretches along an east-west ridge and is separated from the High Sierra by the South Fork San Joaquin River canyon. It is a miniature version of the Sierra, with elevations from 7,200 feet (2,200 m) to 10,320 feet (3,150 m) at Kaiser Peak, and is composed of glacier-scoured granite blocks, cirques, lakes, granitic cliffs and alpine peaks. Although a small wilderness, it is part of the almost contiguous federal wilderness areas along the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range with the John Muir Wilderness on the east, and Ansel Adams Wilderness to the northeast. Immediately south is Huntington Lake, a rustic summer time resort area. China Peak Ski Resort lies south of the Wilderness as well
The forest consists of white fir, Jeffrey pine, red fir, western white pine, and mountain hemlock. On Kaiser Ridge there are stands of lodgepole pine, and at timberline whitebark pine and Sierra juniper grow in mats of krummholtz. Willows and alders grow along the perennial streams that form the drainage area of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River.
Some of the popular lakes in the Kaiser Wilderness are Nellie Lake, George Lake, and Upper Twin Lake, with Upper Twin Lake having a cave where the outlet stream disappears into and then flows underground for several hundred yards before resurfacing.
Recreational activities include day hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, rock scrambling, nature photography and snowshoeing. A wilderness permit is required for overnight trips into the Kaiser Wilderness. The Forest Service encourages the practice of Leave No Trace principles of outdoor travel to minimize human impact on the environment.Land consumption
Land consumption as part of human resource consumption is the conversion of land with healthy soil and intact habitats into areas for industrial agriculture, traffic (road building) and especially urban human settlements. More formally, the EEA has identified three land consuming activities:
The expansion of built-up area which can be directly measured;
the absolute extent of land that is subject to exploitation by agriculture, forestry or other economic activities; and
the over-intensive exploitation of land that is used for agriculture and forestry.In all of those respects, land consumption is equivalent to typical land use in industrialized regions and civilizations.
Since often aforementioned conversion activities are virtually irreversible, the term land loss is also used. From 1990 to 2000, 1.4 million hectares (3.5×10^6 acres) of open space were consumed in the U.S.. In Germany, land is being consumed at a rate of more than 70 hectares (170 acres) every day (~250 thousand hectares (620,000 acres) per 10 years). In European Union, land take is estimated approximately about to 1.2 million hectares in 21 EU countries over the period 1990-2006.
Urban growth reduces open space in and around cities, impacting biodiversity and ecosystem services
Land loss can also happen due to natural factors, like erosion or desertification - nevertheless most of those can also eventually be tracked back to human activities. Another slightly different interpretation of the term is the forced displacement or compulsory acquisition of a native people or settlers from their original land due to land grabbing, etc.. Again, in most cases, this will be due to economic reasons like search for profitable investment and commodification of natural resources.
Even though global land loss progresses at an alarming rate, the land footprint, the area required by some Western countries can a lot larger than the land actually used or even available in the country itself.While land prices have surged in the first few years of the 21st century, land consumption economy still lacks environmental full-cost accounting to add the long-term costs of environmental degradation.Lessepsian migration
The Lessepsian migration (also called Erythrean invasion) is the migration of marine species across the Suez Canal, usually from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and more rarely in the opposite direction. When the canal was completed in 1869, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other marine animals and plants were exposed to an artificial passage between the two naturally separate bodies of water, and cross-contamination was made possible between formerly isolated ecosystems. The phenomenon is still occurring today. It is named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat in charge of the canal's construction.
The migration of invasive species through the Suez Canal from the Indo-Pacific region has been facilitated by many factors, both abiotic and anthropogenic, and presents significant implications for the ecological health and economic stability of the contaminated areas; of particular concern is the fisheries industry in the Eastern Mediterranean. Despite these threats, the phenomenon has allowed scientists to study an invasive event on a large scale in a short period of time, which usually takes hundreds of years in natural conditions.
In a wider context, the term Lessepsian migration is also used to describe any animal migration facilitated by man-made structures, i.e. one which would not have occurred had it not been for the presence of an artificial structure.Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) is a major assessment of the human impact on the environment, called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, launched in 2001 and published in 2005 with more than $14 million of grants. It popularized the term ecosystem services, the benefits gained by humans from ecosystems.
Human impact on the environment
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