The environment in which we live bears multifarious implications because of human activities. Despite revolutionizing services, technology, and society, the flip side of industrialization is that massive amounts of pollutants that are hazardous to human health are pumped into the environment. Without a doubt, global environmental degradation is seen as a multifaceted international issue that includes social, economic, legislative, and lifestyle considerations. All of these are directly related to climate change, and the repercussions for humanity can be serious in the event of danger. Climate change and Air Pollution Effects to the Environment have a major impact on a variety of ecosystems, producing difficulties such as food safety, ice and iceberg melting, animal extinction, and plant damage.
What is Air Pollution?
The release of pollutants into the environment that are damaging to humans and other living organisms is defined as pollution. Pollutants are toxic solids, liquids, or gases created in higher-than-normal amounts that degrade the quality of our environment.
The release of toxins such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, etc. into the air and their subsequent presence for a considerable time and in large amounts is termed as air pollution.
What is Climate Change?
The observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system and its associated air pollution effects correspond to the term “Climate change”. Greenhouse gases and other emissions caused by human activities are the prime reason for the rising temperatures of the earth, or global warming.
Climate change can add approximately 2,50,000 deaths until 2050. The direct health-related expenses are anticipated to reach between US$ 2-4 billion per year by 2030. Areas with poor health facilities, particularly in poorer countries, will be the least equipped to cope without support to prepare and respond.
How does air pollution affect the environment and health?
Climate change and air pollution go hand in hand; in fact, air pollution exacerbates the scourge of climate change, posing a global existential threat. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and aerosols restrict the quantity of sunlight that enters the atmosphere, negatively impacting global temperature and ecosystems. Consequentially, ice, icebergs, and glaciers are melting because of the rising temperature of the earth. Notwithstanding their short lifespan, SLCPs have substantially greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Air pollution can also affect the quality of soil and water bodies by contaminating precipitation that falls into these ecosystems. Notably, acid precipitation can alter soil chemistry by influencing plants, cultures, and water quality. Acid rain is more likely to affect soils with low calcium carbonate levels.
In fact, the flow of heavy metals into aquatic environments increases due to soil acidity, creating hazardous conditions for wildlife.
What are some effects of air pollution?
Air pollution has been found to cause various breathing issues, such as asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases. It can also cause cardiovascular issues, weaken the lungs, and increase the risk of heart attacks. Below are some of the visible effects of air pollution.
Acid rain is defined as precipitation containing hazardous levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide pumped into the atmosphere due to the combustion of fossil fuels produce the acids responsible for acid rain. These acids either fall as wet precipitation (rain, snow, or fog) or as dry precipitation (gases and particles) to the Earth. Some are transported for hundreds of miles by the wind. Acid rain harms plants and causes soils and water bodies to acidify, rendering the water unsuitable for some fish and other species. It also hastens the deterioration of buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our national history. Acid rain has harmed lakes, ponds, rivers, and soils throughout Massachusetts, causing wildlife and woodlands to suffer.
The phenomenon where a high amount of nutrients, such as nitrogen, boost the algae blooms, causing the loss of oceanic life, fauna, and a variety of animals, is termed eutrophication. Human activities boost the accumulation of nutrients in aquatic systems, accelerating the otherwise natural process of eutrophication. Power plants, vehicles, trucks, and other sources releasing nitrogen oxide increase the amount of nitrogen in aquatic habitats.
Ozone is present throughout the breadth and width of our environment. The stratosphere is the ozone found in the upper atmosphere and restricts the UV radiation of the sun from reaching the earth. The chemicals released into the atmosphere due to human activities are damaging the ozone and contributing to the catastrophe of climate change. Coolants, foaming agents, fire extinguishers, solvents, insecticides, and aerosol propellants were and are still made with these compounds. The damage to the ozone layer, or the good ozone, increases the amount of UV radiation that reaches the earth, causing a rise in skin cancer, cataracts, and immune system impairment.
Crops and Forest Damage
Air Pollution affects crops and plants in numerous ways. Ground-level ozone can diminish agricultural crop and commercial forest yields, stunt tree seedling growth and survival, and make plants more susceptible to disease, pests, and other environmental stresses (such as harsh weather). As previously stated, acid rain and increased UV radiation induced by ozone depletion can potentially damage crops and forests.
When sunlight collides with small pollution particles in the air, haze forms. Haze obscures what we see in terms of clarity, color, texture, and form. Power plants, industrial facilities, trucks and automobiles, and construction activities are the major contributors to the pollutants that cause the haze. Others are generated as gases discharged into the atmosphere (such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) combine to form particles as they travel downhill.
Toxic contaminants in the air or deposited on soils or surface waters can have a variety of air pollution effects on wildlife. Animals, like humans, can develop health problems if they are exposed to high enough amounts of airborne toxics over time. According to research, air toxics contribute to birth abnormalities, reproductive failure, and sickness in animals. Persistent hazardous air pollutants (those that degrade slowly in the environment) are especially problematic in aquatic ecosystems. These pollutants accumulate in sediments and may biomagnify to concentrations many times greater than those in water or air in the tissues of animals at the top of the food chain.
Air pollution affects everything; it is hazardous to our health and has a negative influence on the environment by lowering visibility, obscuring sunlight, creating acid rain, and causing harm to forests, wildlife, and agriculture. Greenhouse gases cause air pollution and climate change, which impact the entire globe.