Human impact on the environment


Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to and to s, , and caused directly or indirectly by humans, including , (such as ), and , , and . Modifying the environment to fit the needs of is causing severe effects. Some human activities that cause damage (either directly or indirectly) to the environment on a global scale include , , , , and . Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss, have been proposed as representing to the survival of the human race. The term ''anthropogenic'' designates an effect or object resulting from . The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian geologist , and it was first used in English by British ecologist in reference to human influences on . The atmospheric scientist introduced the term "" in the mid-1970s. The term is sometimes used in the context of pollution produced from human activity since the start of the but also applies broadly to all major human impacts on the environment. 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.

Human overshoot


Overconsumption is a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. It can be measured by the , 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 use) and the pollution they generate (including ) are equally important. In 2008, ' 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.Diamond, Jared: (2 January 2008)

Human civilization has caused the loss of 83% of 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. 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 and increased emissions.

Human overpopulation

Some scholars, environmentalists and advocates when examining express concern that is a driver of environmental issues. In 2017, over 15,000 scientists around the world issued a second which asserted that rapid human population growth is the "primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats." According to the ', released by the ' in 2019, human population growth is a significant factor in contemporary . A 2021 report in ''Frontiers in Conservation Science'' warned that population size and growth are significant factors in biodiversity loss and soil degradation, adding that "more people means that more synthetic compounds and dangerous throwaway plastics are manufactured, many of which add to the growing toxification of the Earth. It also increases the chances of s that fuel ever-more desperate hunts for scarce resources." Some scientists and environmentalists, including , and , posit that human population growth is devastating to . Wilson for example, has expressed concern when ' reached a population of six billion their that had ever existed by over 100 times. However, attributing overpopulation as a cause of environmental issues is controversial. indicate that population growth is slowing and world population will peak in the 21st century, and many experts believe that global resources can meet this increased demand, suggesting a global overpopulation scenario is unlikely. Other projections have the population continuing to grow into the next century. While some studies, including the 2021 ''Economics of Biodiversity'' review, posit that overpopulation and overconsumption are interdependent, critics suggest blaming overpopulation for environmental issues can unduly blame poor populations in the or oversimplify more complex drivers, leading some to treat overconsumption as a separate issue.

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. 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 to the . 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 , , genetic engineering, irrigation problems, pollutants, , and .


The environmental impact of fishing can be divided into issues that involve the availability of fish to be caught, such as , , and ; and issues that involve the impact of fishing on other elements of the environment, such as and destruction of habitat such as s. According to the 2019 , overfishing is the main driver of mass species extinction in the oceans. These conservation issues are part of , and are addressed in 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 grows. Similar to other , there can be conflict between the who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and fishery scientists who realize that if future fish populations are to be then some fisheries must reduce or even close. The journal ' 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 , 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 , 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. Populations of oceanic sharks and have been reduced by 71% since 1970, largely due to overfishing. More than three-quarters of the species comprising this group are now threatened with extinction.


The environmental impact of irrigation includes the changes in quantity and quality of and water as a result of 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 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 is reduced * the in the scheme is increased * the in the scheme is increased * the level of the rises * the flow is increased. These may be called direct effects. Effects on soil and are indirect and complex, and subsequent impacts on natural, ecological and conditions are intricate. In some, but not all instances, and 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 . As a hydrological result it is found that the level of the water descends. The effects may be , land/soil , and, along the coast, . 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.

Agricultural land loss

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 , 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.NRCS. 2013. Summary report 2010 national resources inventory. United States Natural Resources Conservation Service. 163 pp. 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. is a process in which the value of the is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. s 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 , the environment, and its effects on . It is estimated that up to 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.

Meat production

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, H. et al. 2006. Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Livestock, Environment and Development, FAO, Rome. 391 pp. 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 ,Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2013)
''Climate change 2013, The physical science basis''
. Fifth Assessment Report.
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 the 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 "", 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 . 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 as it is a significant driver of and habitat destruction. Moreover, the 2019 ' by also warns that ever increasing land use for meat production plays a significant role in biodiversity loss. A 2006 report, ', found that around 26% of the planet's terrestrial surface is devoted to livestock grazing.

Palm oil

is a type of vegetable oil, found in oil palm trees, which are native to West and Central Africa. Initially used in foods in developing countries, palm oil is now also used in food, cosmetic and other types of products in other nations as well. Over one-third of vegetable oil consumed globally is palm oil.

Habitat Loss

The consumption of palm oil in food, domestic and cosmetic products all over the world means there is a high demand for it. To meet this, oil palm plantations are created, which means removing natural forests to clear space. This has taken place in Asia, Latin America and West Africa, with Malaysia and Indonesia holding 90% of global oil palm trees. These forests are home to a wide range of species, including many , ranging from birds to rhinos and tigers. Since 2000, 47% of deforestation has been for the purpose of growing oil palm plantations, with around 877,000 acres being affected per year.

Impact on biodiversity

Natural forests are extremely , with a wide range of organisms using them as their habitat. But oil palm plantations are the opposite. Studies have shown that oil palm plantations have less than 1% of the plant diversity seen in natural forests, and 47–90% less mammal diversity. This is not because of the oil palm itself, but rather because the oil palm is the only habitat provided in the plantations. The plantations are therefore known as a , whereas natural forests contain a wide variety of flora and fauna, making them highly biodiverse. One of the ways palm oil could be made more (although it is still not the best option) is through , whereby the plantations are made up of multiple types of plants used in trade – such as coffee or . While these are more biodiverse than monoculture plantations, they are still not as effective as natural forests. In addition to this, agroforestry does not bring as many economic benefits to workers, their families and the surrounding areas.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

The RSPO is a non-profit organisation that has developed criteria that its members (of which, as of 2018, there are over 4,000) must follow to produce, source and use sustainable palm oil (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil; CSPO). Currently, 19% of global palm oil is certified by the RSPO as sustainable. The CSPO criteria states that oil palm plantations cannot be grown in the place of forests or other areas with endangered species, fragile ecosystems, or those that facilitate the needs of local communities. It also calls for a reduction in s and fires, along with several rules for ensuring the social wellbeing of workers and the local communities.

Ecosystem impacts

Environmental degradation

Human activity is causing , which is the deterioration of the through such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; ; the 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 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). According to a 2021 study published in ''Frontiers in Forests and Global Change'', roughly 3% of the planet's terrestrial surface is ecologically and lly intact, meaning areas with healthy populations of native animal species and little to no human footprint. Many of these intact ecosystems were in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples.

Habitat Fragmentation

According to a 2018 study in ', 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 . Habitat fragmentation is the reduction of large tracts of habitat leading to . 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. 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 plants 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.

Mass extinction

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 ), causing the of species at an alarming rate. Humans are the cause of the current , called the , 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 , , and the being a few broader examples of an almost universal, decline in biodiversity. (and continued ) along with are considered to be the primary drivers of this rapid decline. The 2017 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. A June 2020 study published in ' argues that the contemporary extinction crisis "may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible" and that its acceleration "is certain because of the still fast growth in human numbers and consumption rates."

Decline in biodiversity

is the loss of animals from ecological communities. It has been estimated that from 1970 to 2016, 68% of the world's wildlife has been destroyed due to human activity. In South America, there is believed to be a 70 percent loss. A May 2018 study published in ' 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 of all mammals on earth, followed by humans (36%) and wild mammals (4%). According to the 2019 by , 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. Whenever there is a decline in plant biodiversity, the remaining plants start to experience diminishing productivity. As a result, the loss of biodiversity continues being a threat to the productivity of the ecosystem all over the world, and this over ally impacts the natural ecosystem functioning. A 2019 report that assessed a total of 28,000 plant species concluded that close to half of them were facing a threat of extinction. The failure of noticing and appreciating plants is regarded as "plant blindness", and this is a worrying trend as it puts more plants at the threat of extinction than animals. Our increased farming has come at a higher cost to plant biodiversity as half of the habitable land on Earth is used for agriculture, and this is one of the major reasons behind the plant extinction crisis.

Invasive species

Invasive species are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as non-native to the specific ecosystem, and whose presence is likely to harm the health of humans or the animals in said system''.'' Introductions of non-native species into new areas have brought about major and permanent changes to the environment over large areas. Examples include the introduction of into the Mediterranean, the introduction of oat species into the California grasslands, and the introduction of privet, kudzu, and 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 with domestic cattle, and wolves with domestic dogs.

Human Introduced Invasive Species


Domestic and feral cats globally are particularly notorious for their destruction of native birds and other animal species. This is especially true for Australia, which attributes over two-thirds of mammal extinction to domestic and feral cats, and over 1.5 billion deaths to native animals each year. Because domesticated outside cats are fed by their owners, they can continue to hunt even when prey populations decline and they would otherwise go elsewhere. This is a major problem for places where there is a highly diverse and dense number of lizards, birds, snakes, and mice populating the area. Roaming outdoor cats can also be attributed to the transmission of harmful diseases like rabies and toxoplasmosis to the native wildlife population.

Burmese Python

Another example of a destructive introduced invasive species is the . Originating from parts of Southeast Asia, the Burmese Python has made the most notable impact in the Southern Florida of the United States. After a breeding facility breach in 1992 due to flooding and snake owners releasing unwanted pythons back into the wild, the population of the Burmese Python would boom in the warm climate of Florida in the following years. This impact has been felt most significantly at the southernmost regions of the Everglades. A study in 2012 compared native species population counts in Florida from 1997 and found that raccoon populations declined 99.3%, opossums 98.9%, and rabbit/fox populations effectively disappeared

Coral reef decline

Pollution by wastewater

Domestic, industrial and 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 , which in-turn attract s. 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 , 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.

Impacts on climate

Climate change

Contemporary is the result of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, which is caused primarily by combustion of fossil fuel (coal, oil, natural gas), and by deforestation, land use changes, and cement production. Such massive alteration of the global 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 s 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.

Acid Deposition

The fossils that are burned by humans for energy usually come back to them in the form of acid rain. Acid rain is a form of precipitation which has high sulfuric and nitric acids which can occur in the form of a fog or snow. Acid rain has numerous ecological impacts on streams, lakes, wetlands and other aquatic environments. It damages forests, robs the soil of its essential nutrients, releases aluminium to the soil, which makes it very hard for trees to absorb water. Researchers have discovered that kelp, eelgrass and other vegetation can effectively absorb carbon dioxide and hence reducing ocean acidity. Scientists, therefore, say that growing these plants could help in mitigating the damaging effects of acidification on marine life.

Ozone depletion

Disruption of the nitrogen cycle

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 . NOx produced by industrial processes, automobiles and agricultural fertilization and NH3 emitted from soils (i.e., as an additional byproduct of nitrification)Schlesinger, W. H. 1997. ''Biogeochemistry : An analysis of global change'', San Diego, CA. 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: # decreased atmospheric visibility due to ammonium aerosols (fine # elevated concentrations # and PM affects human health (e.g. s, cancer) # increases in and # decreased agricultural productivity due to deposition # ecosystem acidification and .

Technology impacts

The applications of technology often result in unavoidable and unexpected environmental impacts, which according to the 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 (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 , order can be increased within a system (such as the human economy) only by increasing disorder or 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.

Mining industry

The environmental impact of mining includes , formation of s, loss of , and contamination of soil, and 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. Even though plants need some heavy metals for their growth, excess of these metals is usually toxic to them. Plants that are polluted with heavy metals usually depict reduced growth, yield and performance. Pollution by heavy metals decreases the soil organic matter composition resulting in a decline in soil nutrients which then leads to a decline in the growth of plants or even death. 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. Heavy metals usually exhibit toxic effects towards the , and this is through the affection of the microbial processes and decreases the number as well as activity of soil microorganisms. Low concentration of heavy metals also has high chances of inhibiting the plant's physiological metabolism.

Energy industry

The environmental impact of and is diverse. In recent years there has been a trend towards the increased . In the real world, of fossil fuel resources leads to and climate change. However, little change is being made in many parts of the world. If the 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 and .


The environmental impact of 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.

Coal mining and burning

The environmental impact of coal mining and -burning is diverse. Legislation passed by the US Congress in 1990 required the (EPA) to issue a plan to alleviate air pollution from . After delay and litigation, the EPA now has a court-imposed deadline of 16 March 2011, to issue its report.

Electricity generation

Nuclear power

The environmental impact of results from the processes including mining, processing, transporting and storing fuel and fuel waste. Released pose a health danger to human populations, animals and plants as radioactive particles enter organisms through various transmission routes. Radiation is a and causes numerous effects on living organisms and systems. The environmental impacts of nuclear power plant disasters such as the , the and the , 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 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.

Oil shale industry

The environmental impact of the oil shale industry includes the consideration of issues such as , , and air pollution caused by the of . of causes the usual environmental impacts of . In addition, the and generate waste material, which must be disposed of, and harmful atmospheric emissions, including , a major . Experimental in-situ conversion processes and 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 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 , generate power, increasing the water supply for , 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 and the flooding of provoked political uproar which continues to this day. More recently, the construction of and other similar projects throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America have generated considerable environmental and political debate.

Wind power


Cleaning agents

The environmental impact of s is diverse. In recent years, measures have been taken to reduce these effects.


'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 will affect organisms and ecosystems.


The environmental impact of paint is diverse. Traditional painting materials and processes can have harmful effects on the , 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 guidelines and ratings are some of the standards that can be applied.



Some scientists suggest that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans. A December 2020 study published in ' found that human-made materials, or anthropogenic mass, exceeds all living on earth, with plastic alone outweighing the mass of all terrestrial and marine animals combined.


The environmental impact of s 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.Miller GT (2004), ''Sustaining the Earth'', 6th edition. Thompson Learning, Inc. Pacific Grove, California. Chapter 9, pp. 211–216, . 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.Part 1. Conditions and provisions for developing a national strategy for biodiversity conservation
Biodiversity Conservation National Strategy and Action Plan of Republic of Uzbekistan. Prepared by the National Biodiversity Strategy Project Steering Committee with the Financial Assistance of The (GEF) and Technical Assistance of (UNDP, 1998). Retrieved on 17 September 2007.
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 , its water , and its resistance to being broken down over time.Kellogg RL, Nehring R, Grube A, Goss DW, and Plotkin S (February 2000)

United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved on 3 October 2007.
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 and the depletion of the .Reynolds, JD (1997)
International pesticide trade: Is there any hope for the effective regulation of controlled substances?
''Florida State University Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law'', Volume 131. Retrieved on 16 October 2007.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care


The environmental impact of transport is significant because it is a major user of , and burns most of the world's petroleum. This creates air pollution, including s and s, and is a significant contributor to through emission of , for which transport is the fastest-growing emission sector. By subsector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming. s 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 to call for a transition from air and road to rail and , and increase and . Other environmental impacts of transport systems include and automobile-oriented , 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 , , 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 s emit , particulates, and gases which contribute to and . Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting and engines, the rapid growth of in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation. In the EU, from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006. Among leading to this phenomenon are the increasing number of Gössling S, Ceron JP, Dubois G, Hall CM, Gössling S, Upham P, Earthscan L (2009)
"Hypermobile travellers"
, pp. 131–151 (Chapter 6) in: ''Climate Change and Aviation: Issues, Challenges and Solutions'', London, .
and social factors that are making air travel commonplace, such as . There is an ongoing debate about possible taxation of air travel and the inclusion of aviation in an scheme, with a view to ensuring that the total of aviation are taken into account.


The environmental impact of roads includes the local effects of (public ) such as on , , /disturbance and local ; and the wider effects including from vehicle emissions. The design, construction and management of , 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 and . In 2007, emissions from shipping were estimated at 4 to 5% of the global total, and estimated by the (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 , 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 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. 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 . can render land unusable for further use or make access across it dangerous or fatal.

Light pollution

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 . Artificial light also affects , , and levels, resulting in disrupted .

Fast Fashion

has become one of the most successful industries in many societies with the increase in . Fast fashion is the cheap mass production of clothing, which is then sold on at very low prices to consumers. Today, the industry is worth £2 trillion.

Environmental Impacts

In terms of emissions, the fast fashion industry contributes between 4–5 billion tonnes per year, equating to 8–10% of total global emissions. Carbon dioxide is a , meaning it causes heat to get trapped in the atmosphere, rather than being released into space, raising the Earth's temperature – known as . Alongside greenhouse gas emissions the industry is also responsible for almost 35% of pollution in the oceans. Scientists have estimated that there are approximately 12–125 trillion tonnes of microplastic particles in the Earth's oceans. These particles are ingested by marine organisms, including fish later eaten by humans. The study states that many of the fibres found are likely to have come from clothing and other textiles, either from washing, or degradation. Textile waste is a huge issue for the environment, with around 2.1 billion tonnes of unsold or faulty clothing being disposed per year. Much of this is taken to landfill, but the majority of materials used to make clothes are not , resulting in them breaking down and contaminating soil and water. Fashion, much like most other industries such as agriculture, requires a large volume of water for production. The rate and quantity at which clothing is produced in fast fashion means the industry uses 79 trillion litres of water every year. Water consumption has proven to be very detrimental to the environment and its s, leading to water depletion and water scarcity. Not only do these affect marine organisms, but also human's food sources, such as crops. The industry is culpable for roughly one-fifth of all industrial water pollution.

See also

* * * * * , cleanup projects that people can take part in. * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * ' (2006 report) * ** ** ** ** * * * ' * *


Further reading

* . ', , 2005 and 2011 (). * * * (2011). ''Can Life Prevail?'' Arktos Media. * (2009). ''The Vanishing Face of Gaia.'' .
The Garden of Our Neglect: How Humans Shape the Evolution of Other Species
5 July 2012 * Sutherland W. et al. (2015)
''What Works in Conservation''
Open Book Publishers, .

External links

Climate Science Special Report
– US Global Change Research Program * (, 17 November 2014)
www.worldometers.infoEquation: Human Impact on Climate Change (2017)

Yale UniversityEnvironment in multiple crises – report
BBC. 12 February 2019.
The sixth mass extinction, explained
'. 17 February 2019. {{Doomsday *