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Environment

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Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste product are emitted into local water sources each day.1 Human waste product is the leading water pollutant — 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.2 Twelve percent of the global population practices open defecation.3 Greenhouse gases, hazardous chemicals, smoke, industrial pollution, pollen and exhaust can form layers of smog — particularly over cities and metropolitan regions — all of which raise health and environmental issues. In 2016, 197 nations agreed to reduce their usage of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), emissions produced by machinery like refrigerators and air conditioners, under the Kigali Agreement. This amendment to the Montreal Protocol is projected to prevent 80 billion metric tons of emissions over the next 30 years.4 HFCs, though they account for a small percentage of all greenhouse gas emissions, are some of the most harmful and are significant contributors to climate change.5 Recycling is the process of gathering, treating and repurposing or recreating materials into a new, usable product.6 Germany, Austria, South Korea and Wales each recycle between 52 and 56 percent of all municipal waste, and have the highest national recycling rates in the world. Europe as a whole recycles 30 percent of all its plastic waste.7 The United States, in comparison, recycles just 9 percent of its plastic waste.8 Pollution, unsustainable development and high population levels are all considered to be threats to the conservation of natural resources.9 The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15-20 percent by 2050, as well as reduce natural resource consumption by 26 percent.10 Show References
1 https://www.pacinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/water_quality_facts_and_stats3.pdf 2 Ibid 3 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.STA.ODFC.ZS 4 https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/recent-international-developments-under-montreal-protocol 5 Ibid 6 https://www.epa.gov/recycle/recycling-basics 7 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/germany-recycles-more-than-any-other-country/ 8 https://www.epa.gov/recycle/how-do-i-recycle-common-recyclables 9 https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-are-natural-resources.html 10 https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/resource-use-expected-double-2050-better-natural-resource-use
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Explore Environment Subcases

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Climate Change
Deforestation
Pollution
Overfarming and Land Misuse
Environment Other
Natural Resources
Agriculture
Recycling
Natural Disasters
Horticulture
Parks and Recreation
Effects of climate change include higher temperatures, increases in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, weather-related natural disasters, increased drought and decreased food security.1 The annual global temperature, or Earth’s average surface temperature, has increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the 1880s. Two-thirds of that increase has occurred since 1975.2 Over 36 million kilotons of CO2 were emitted in 2014.3 Emissions in 2018 are projected to increase by 2.7 percent compared to a 1.6 percent rise in 2017 — emission rates had not increased in three years.4 China and the United States each produce about a third of the world’s carbon emissions.5 As of 2018, oil use continues to rise globally, as it has for five consecutive years.6 The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was an international Read More agreement intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but many nations failed to hold to the protocol’s standards. In 2018, the Paris Agreement was signed by over 200 nations with the purpose of preventing global temperatures from reaching a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase (2.0 degrees Celsius), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a rate where they can be naturally absorbed by the environment — all between 2050 and 2100. Under the Paris Agreement, developed nations agreed to subsidize the efforts of developing nations to meet the standards of the agreement and begin using more renewable energy sources. Progress will be reviewed every five years.78 Show Less
Forests cover approximately 30 percent of the planet. Yet, at the rate of deforestation today — over 18 million acres of forest annually — the world’s rainforests could be depleted in the next 100 years.1 More than 1.6 billion people rely on resources generated from forests, such as food, shelter, clothing, water and medicine,2 including the animal and plant products that make their homes in forests.3 Many pharmaceutical and medicinal products are made with the flora and fauna of the world’s forests, and advances in medicine and science are often made possible by high biodiversity.4 Seventeen percent of the Amazon Rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years.5
Daily, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste product are emitted into local water sources.1 Human waste product is the leading water pollutant — 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.2 Twelve percent of the global population practices open defecation.3 The United Nations World Water Assessment Programme estimates that the widespread safe storage and proper water treatment could eliminate over 120 million disability adjusted life years — avoiding $11.4 billion in health expenses being generated as a result of water-related issues today.4 Only 44 percent of wastewater — industrial, agricultural and human — is treated and reused, the remaining 56 percent is released as wastewater or agricultural drainage. Globally, 20 percent of the water released is untreated.5 Lower-middle income nations utilize Read More just 28 percent of their wastewater. In developing, low income nations only 8 percent of wastewater is reused.6 In terms of air pollution, greenhouse gases, hazardous chemicals, smoke, industrial pollution, pollen and exhaust can form layers of smog — particularly over cities and metropolitan regions — all of which can raise a number of health and environmental issues. In 2016, 197 nations agreed to reduce their usage of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), emissions produced by machinery like refrigerators and air conditioners, under the Kigali Agreement. This amendment to the Montreal Protocol is projected to prevent 80 billion metric tons of emissions over the next 30 years.7 HFCs, though they account for a small percentage of all greenhouse gas emissions, are some of the most harmful and are significant contributors to climate change.8 In 2016, the world produced over 2 billion tons of solid waste.9 Research shows that some developing cities spend 20 to 50 percent of their annual operating budget on solid waste disposal, though many of these cities still struggle to process waste safely and avoid water and soil contamination.10 The majority of such waste is transferred to landfills, yet just half is comprised of organic substances such as food.11 Landfills are monitored waste facilities with numerous “cells” designed to hold and contain waste for decades. Each cell is lined with a protective sheet that prevents waste and contaminants from entering the local water supply. Active landfills are monitored, and after closing can continue to be monitored for an additional 30 years. Methane gas and leachate — the liquid waste produced during decomposition — are piped and drained out of the cells to be control burned and treated, respectively.12 Show Less
Unsustainable agricultural practices lead to the degradation of land over time, infertile soil and food scarcity, among other issues. Overfarming can be the result of practices such as deforestation, planting new crops immediately after the previous crops are harvested and the misuse of pesticides — all depleting soil of its naturally occurring nutrients.1 Approximately 40 percent of soil used for agriculture is degraded or severely degraded. Seventy percent of the world’s topsoil — the part of the soil that enables plants to germinate — is also degraded.2 Soil erosion is most severe in China, Africa, India and South America.3 In Africa, nearly 75 percent of the farmland is depleted of the nutrients necessary for crop growth, and most farmers are unable to afford the fertilizer needed Read More to replenish the soil.4 As the population grows, and crop production decreases, many farmers continue to overfarm their land, resulting in smaller and smaller yields. Overfarming has exacerbated the hunger crisis on the African continent, affecting over 240 million people.5 If such practices continue, crop yields in Africa are projected to decrease by more than 30 percent in the next 15 years.6 Some crops are particularly problematic in contributing to soil erosion including soy, coffee, cotton, corn, palm oil, rice, sorghum, tea, tobacco and wheat. Brazil alone loses nearly 55 million tons of topsoil as a result of soy farming.7 The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative estimates that $6.3 to $10.6 trillion are lost annually as a result of soil degradation and the exhaustion of ecosystems.8 Show Less
The effects of global climate change include higher temperatures, increases in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, weather-related disasters, increased drought, and increased disease, and food insecurity.1,2 The annual global temperature has increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s and two-thirds of the entire warming process has occurred since 1975. 3 On September 17, 2014, the Arctic’s sea ice cover reached its minimum extent at 5.02 million square kilometers.4 This is the lowest recorded extent since 1979, when satellites first began tracking sea ice measures.5 Studies show that low-income and developing countries will be hit hardest by the effects of climate change.6,7 Third world countries face threats to their wellbeing and agricultural and economic livelihoods, such as droughts, monsoons, and cyclones.8 Along with climate change, deforestation Read More is another serious threat to the global environment. Over 30% of the earth is covered in forests, and 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, shelter, and clothing.9 However, deforestation is occurring rapidly and 46-58 thousand square miles of forests are lost annually.10 Forests are critical in absorbing harmful carbon emissions and 15% of greenhouse gas emissions result from the loss of trees and forests.11 Animal extinction and loss of biodiversity also negatively impact the environment. More than 500 million people around the world depend on the coral reefs for food, jobs, storm protection, and income.12 However, nearly 70% of the worlds coral reefs have been destroyed or are threatened.13 Additionally, of the world’s 5,490 mammal species, over 1,000 are endangered or highly vulnerable and nearly 80 are already extinct.14 This loss of biodiversity will limit the treatment of many diseases and health problems and will result in the scarcity of food and freshwater worldwide and a loss of agriculture and livestock.15 Air pollution results from emissions from factories, households, cars and trucks and fine particulate matter from pollution contributes to 16% of deaths from cancer worldwide, as well as 11% of COPD deaths and 20% of instances of heart disease and stroke.16 Low and middle income countries are disproportionately affected by air pollution.17 Over seven million deaths worldwide are linked to exposure to air pollution, making air pollution the world’s largest environmental health risk.18 1 http://data.worldbank.org/topic/climate-change 2 http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/global-warming-climate-change/help/facts-about-climate-change.xml 3 http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/decadaltemp.php 4 http://nsidc.org/news/newsroom/arctic-sea-ice-reaches-minimum-extent-2014 5 Ibid 6 http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/energy_around_the_world/2013/11/warsaw_climate_talks_developing_countries_will_be_source_of_greenhouse_gas.html 7 http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/sep/27/climate-change-poor-countries-ipcc 8 Ibid 9 http://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation 10 Ibid 11 Ibid 12 https://www.iucn.org/iyb/about/biodiversity_crisis/ 13 Ibid 14 Ibid 15http://www.who.int/globalchange/ecosystems/biodiversity/en/ 16 http://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/en/ 17 Ibid 18 http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/en/ Show Less
Natural resources are any resources found in the earth that are formed without human interference. Resources can be renewable or non-renewable. Non-renewable resources are not necessarily non-renewable, however, materials such as oil, precious minerals and gems take too long to develop naturally to be considered renewable. Renewable resources include animals and plants, water, wind and solar energy.1 Pollution, unsustainable development and high population levels are all considered to be threats to the conservation of natural resources.2 China’s natural resources are estimated to be worth $23 trillion in total, the majority of which being coal and precious earth metals. Saudi Arabia alone is home to 20 percent of the world’s crude oil resources, and the sixth biggest natural gas reserve.3 Canada has the third largest supply Read More of natural resources, worth $33.2 trillion. In India, mining accounts for 11 percent of the industrial GDP, with a net worth of over $104.6 billion.4 Brazil has the most renewable freshwater resources in the world, with 8,233 cubic kilometers. Russia is in second with 4,508 cubic kilometers. The United States falls in third, with 3,069 cubic kilometers. Canada is fourth, with 2,902 kilometers.5 Russia has the largest number of trees — 642 billion — followed by Canada, with 318 billion trees, then Brazil, with 302 billion.6 The UN Sustainable Development Goals is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15-20 percent by 2050, as well as reduce natural resource consumption by 26 percent.7 Show Less
Agriculture is the practice of raising crops and livestock for the production of food and other goods.1 Popular crops in North and South America include soybeans, corn, sugarcane, fruits, tree nuts, beets, cacao, vegetables and wheat.2 In Africa, popular crops include coffee, okra, yams, sorghum, pearl millet, lentils, corn, palm oil, bananas and vegetables.3 The Middle East and Western Asia’s leading crops include wheat, apples, barley, rice, cotton, fruits and vegetables. In Southeast Asia, popular crops are rice, soybeans, corn, wheat, palm oil, sugarcane, fruits and vegetables.4 Various crops require specific types of soil, latitudes and longitudes. However, some crops such as corn, wheat, potatoes and soybeans can grow in a variety of conditions. Recent satellite weather technology, data analytics and other new technologies aid farmers in Read More crop production and monitoring, and help reduce waste and environmental impact.5 The global population is projected to grow by over 2.3 billion people between 2009 and 2050. To meet new population demands, food production would need to grow by 70 percent by 2050.6 Show Less
Recycling is the process of gathering, treating and repurposing or recreating materials into a new, usable product.1 Germany, Austria, South Korea and Wales each recycle between 52 and 56 percent of all municipal waste, and have the highest national recycling rates in the world. Europe as a whole recycles 30 percent of all its plastic waste.2 The United States, in comparison, recycles just 9 percent of its plastic waste.3 Every 15 years, plastic production nearly doubles. Of the 8 billion metric tons of plastic produced to date worldwide, 6.3 billion metric tons has become waste.4 The sum of wood and paper products discarded each year in the United States would be enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years;5 the average U.S. household throws away 13,000 Read More pieces of paper annually.6 In one year, recycling in the United States creates 757,000 jobs and $6.7 billion in tax revenue.7 Show Less
A natural disaster is classified as any catastrophe that is naturally occuring, or is caused by physical, natural phenomena, that threatens human life. Natural disasters include earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, floods, drought, wildfires and cyclones.12 Some of the worst natural disasters in world history include:
  • The Central China Floods (1931); Deaths: 2 million
  • Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (2004); Deaths: 230–280,000
  • Haiti Earthquake (2010); Deaths: 316,000 3
  • Bangladesh Cyclone (1991); Deaths: 135,000–140,000 4
  • Haiyun Earthquake (1920); Deaths: 240,000
  • India Cyclone (1839); Deaths: 200,000 5
  • — Cyclone Nargis (2008); Deaths: 140,000 6
Recent, significant natural disasters in the United States include the California wildfires of 2018, Hurricane Michael, the Great Chicago Fire, Hurricane Maria, the San Francisco Fire and Hurricane Katrina.78
Horticulture is defined as the scientific and artistic curation of plants.2 One of the oldest national gardening organizations in the United States is the American Horticultural Society (AHS). The AHS releases horticulture publications, gardening classes and other educational programs throughout the calendar year, as do many other horticultural societies across the U.S.1 Horticulturalists and gardeners care for food supply, as well as recreational gardens, and are trained to care for, develop and breed specialty plants species.3 Globally, the horticulture industry produced 676.9 million metric tons of fruits like bananas, tropical, citrus and stone fruits in 2013, totaling in $105.26 billion of fruit imports around the world.4
Public parks and recreational areas have a number of environmental, health, social and economic benefits. In areas where parks and recreational opportunities exist, a Texas A&M University study found that property values are higher than those without such opportunities. A Center for Human Development study in Chicago showed engagement in the park system and other recreational activities reduced petty crimes and vandalism in the city. Research by the Center for Disease Control found that secondary spaces such as parks can improve public health, as they provide space for the surrounding population to be active and outdoors. Residents living near public parks are reported to exercise more than those who do not. In terms of environmental benefits, American Forests, a conservation organization, projects that trees in Read More metropolitan areas can save cities $400 billion in storm water retention costs. Parks and other protected areas are also shown to improve water and air quality.1 Show Less

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