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Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments[1] and ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources[2][3] caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming,[1][4] environmental degradation[1] (such as ocean acidification[1][5]), mass extinction and biodiversity loss,[6][7][8][9] 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.[10][11] Some human activities that cause damage (either directly or indirectly) to the environment on a global scale include population growth,[12][13] 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,[14][15] and human overpopulation is strongly correlated with those problems.[16][17]

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.[18] The atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen introduced the term "Anthropocene" in the mid-1970s.[19] The term is sometimes used in the context of pollution emissions that are produced from human activity since the start of the Agricultural Revolution but also applies broadly to all major human impacts on the environment.[20] Many of the actions taken by humans that contribute to a heated environment stem from the burning of fossil fuel from a variety of sources, such as: electricity, cars, planes, space heating, manufacturing, or the destruction of forests.[21]

Human overpopulation

Human population from 10000 BCE to 2000 CE, with its exponential rise since the eighteenth century.[22]

David Attenborough described the level of human population on the planet as a multiplier of all other environmental problems.[23] In 2013, he described humanity as "a plague on the Earth" that needs to be controlled by limiting population growth.[24]

Some deep ecologists, such as the radical thinker and polemicist Pentti Linkola, see human overpopulation as a threat to the entire <

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.[18] The atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen introduced the term "Anthropocene" in the mid-1970s.[19] The term is sometimes used in the context of pollution emissions that are produced from human activity since the start of the Agricultural Revolution but also applies broadly to all major human impacts on the environment.[20] Many of the actions taken by humans that contribute to a heated environment stem from the burning of fossil fuel from a variety of sources, such as: electricity, cars, planes, space heating, manufacturing, or the destruction of forests.[21]

David Attenborough described the level of human population on the planet as a multiplier of all other environmental problems.[23] In 2013, he described humanity as "a plague on the Earth" that needs to be controlled by limiting population growth.[24]

Some deep ecologists, such as the radical thinker and polemicist Pentti Linkola, see human overpopulation as a threat to the entire biosphere.[25] 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."[26]

Human overconsumption

Chart published by NASA depicting CO2 levels from the past 400,000 years.[27]

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%[28] 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.[29]

Reduction of one's carbon footprint for various actions.

The effects of overpopulation are compounded by overconsumption. According to Paul R. Ehrlich, speaking in 2017:

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.[30]

Human civilization has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants.[31] 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.[32][33] Global meat consumption is projected to more than double by 2050, perhaps as much as 76%, as the global population rises to more than 9 billion, which will be a significant driver of further biodiversity loss and increased GHG emissions.[34][35]

Fishing and farming

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.

Lacanja burn

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.[36]

Some deep ecologists, such as the radical thinker and polemicist Pentti Linkola, see human overpopulation as a threat to the entire biosphere.[25] 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."[26]

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%[28] 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.[29]

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.[29]

The effects of overpopulation are compounded by overconsumption. According to Paul R. Ehrlich, speaking in 2017:

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.

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.[30]

Human civilization has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants.[31] 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.[32][33] Global meat consumption is projected to more than double by 2050, perhaps as much as 76%, as the global population rises to more than 9 billion, which will be a significant driver of further biodiversity loss and increased GHG emissions.[34][35]

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.

nitrogen applied to the soil. An indicator reflecting the loss of nitrate to groundwater would be effect-based.[36]

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.

Fishing

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.[37]

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.[38]

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, 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.[38]

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.[39][40]

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released their biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2018[41] 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.[42]

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:

  • the downstream river discharge is reduced
  • the evaporation in the scheme is increas

    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

    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.[43][44]

    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.[45][46] 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.[47]

    Lal and Stewart estimated global loss of agricultural land by degradation and abandonment at 12 million hectares per year.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50] 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.[51] 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.[52]

    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.[53] 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.[54] 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.[54] 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.[53]

    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.[55] It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.[56] 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 [53] 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.[54] 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.[54] 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.[53]

    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.[55] It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.[56] 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.[57] It is estimated that up to 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.[58]

    Biomass of mammals on Earth[60]

      Livestock, mostly cattle and pigs (60%)
      Humans (36%)
      Wild animals (4%)

A village palm oil press "malaxeur" in Bandundu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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.[61][62] 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.[61] FAO data indicate that meat accounted for 26% of global livestock product tonnage in 2011.[63]

Globally, enteric fermentation (mostly in ruminant livestock) accounts for about 27% of anthropogenic methane emissions,[64] Despite methane's 100-year global warming potential, recently estimated at 28 without and 34 with climate carbon feedbacks,[64] 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.[65] 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.[66][67][68][69][70]

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”,[71&#

Globally, enteric fermentation (mostly in ruminant livestock) accounts for about 27% of anthropogenic methane emissions,[64] Despite methane's 100-year global warming potential, recently estimated at 28 without and 34 with climate carbon feedbacks,[64] 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.[65] 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.[66][67][68][69][70]

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”,[71] 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,[72] 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.[73]

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.[74] 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%;[52] yet despite the reduction in cattle numbers, US beef production increased over that period.[75]

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,[76] 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,[77] and carbon sequestration in response to grazing practices,[78][79] 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.[80][81][82][35] Moreover, the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by IPBES also warns that ever increasing land use for meat production plays a significant role in biodiversity loss.[83][84] A 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization report, Livestock's Long Shadow, found that around 26% of the planet's terrestrial surface is devoted to livestock grazing.[85]

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.[56] 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).[86][87]

Habitat Fragmentation

According to a 2018 study in Nature, 87% of the oceans and 77% of land (excluding Antarctica) have been altered by anthropogenic activity, and 23% of the planet's landmass remains as wilderness.[88]

Habitat fragmentation is the reduction of large tracts of habitat leading to habitat loss. Habitat fragmentation and loss are considered as being the main cause of the loss of biodiversity and degradation of the ecosystem all over the world. Human actions are greatly responsible for habitat fragmentation, and loss as these actions alter the connectivity and quality of habitats. Understanding the consequences of habitat fragmentation is important for the preservation of biodiversity and enhancing the functioning of the ecosystem.[89]

Both agricultural plants and animals depend on pollination for reproduction. Vegetables and fruits are an important diet for human beings and depend on pollination. Whenever there is habitat destruction, pollination is reduced and crop yield as well. Many pants also rely on animals and most especially those that eat fruit for seed dispersal. Therefore, the destruction of habitat for animal severely affects all the plant species that depend on them.[90]

Mass extinction