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environmental crisis


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A term that is used to describe the sum of the environmental problems that we face today. Key contemporary environmental problems include the greenhouse effect and global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, and tropical forest clearance. New dimensions to the environmental crisis include emerging threats and the global nature, rapid build‐up, and persistence of the problems. Whilst the problems appear to be largely physical (environmental), the causes and solutions lie much more in people's attitudes, values, and expectations. A number of factors have helped to create these problems, including developments in technology, which have given people a greater ability to use the environment and its natural resources for their own ends (particularly since the Industrial Revolution); the rapid increase in human population in recent centuries, which has significantly increased population densities in many countries and led to a significant rise in human use of natural resources; the emergence of free market economies, in which economic factors play a central role in decision‐making about production, consumption, use of resources, and treatment of wastes; attitudes towards the environment, particularly amongst western cultures, which regard it as freely available for people to do whatever they like with; and the short‐term time horizon over which many people, companies, and countries make decisions, which means that short‐term maximization of profit has generally been taken more seriously than long‐term sustainable use of the environment. There are many symptoms of the so‐called ‘crisis’. According to the UNEPGlobal Environment Outlook 2000 report: there will be a billion cars by 2025, up from 40 million since 1945; a quarter of the world's 4630 types of mammals and 11% of the 9675 species of bird are at serious risk of extinction; more than half of the world's coral is at risk from dredging, diving, and global warming; 80% of forests have been cleared; a billion city dwellers are exposed to levels of air pollution that threaten human health; the global population will reach 8.9 billion in 2050, up from 6 billion in the year 2000; global warming will raise temperatures by up to 3.6°C, triggering a ‘devastating’ rise in sea level and more severe natural disasters; and global use of pesticides is causing up to five million acute poisoning incidents each year.

Subjects: Environmental Science.


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