Environment, Climate Change and Development

 Content

  1. Introduction
  2. Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Introduction

The field of environmental studies is very broad. It covers a wide range of topics and facets, which can be summed up as follows: the management and conservation of natural resources, biodiversity and ecology, Human population and the environment, environmental pollution and regulation, and social issues relating to development and the environment. The world's environmental research have drastically broadened in recent years. You will learn about the environment, the idea of ecology, ecosystems, biodiversity, and how humans have used environmental resources for their well-being and growth in this lesson. The globe is a beautiful place to live in because there are so many different living things, including plants, animals, and microorganisms, with whom we share this planet. From the highest mountain summits to the deepest ocean depths, from deserts to rainforests, there are living things practically everywhere. Their habits, behaviors, shapes, sizes, and colors all vary. Our planet's extraordinary diversity of life forms an integral and important aspect, but the ever-growing human population poses tremendous dangers to biodiversity.

The word "environment" is derived from the verb "environner," which meaning "to surround" in French. It was used to describe the elements of our immediate environment, such as the air, water, rocks, and soil. Over time, it became clear that the huge variety of earth's inhabitants, including humans, are an essential component of the environment. Therefore, it was vital to integrate the interactions and interrelationships of all living species with the physical surrounds in order to create a sensible definition of environment. Later, it was also acknowledged that all human social, cultural, and technological activities have a significant impact on a variety of environmental factors. Therefore, the environment must be viewed from a wider angle, taking into account both the external factors and how they interact.

Earnst Haeckel first used the word ecology in 1869. It's a combination of the Greek words for "house" and "learning," Oikos and logos. Therefore, ecology is the study of organisms in their native habitat, according to Ecomark of India. According to Odum (1963), ecology is the study of the composition and operation of the natural world, or the investigation of the interactions between living things and their surroundings. There are 4 fundamental ecological principles.
  1. The system of ecology is huge (ecosystem) and it contains a network of interrelations of its parts. 
  2. These interrelated network is inclusive of a structure that contains both the abiotic and biotic composition (environment). 
  3. The networks present in the ecological system has a control of the energy flow and also in the flow of nutrients. 
  4. Energy from our solar system has a control over the flow of all the nutrient and energy
The degree of natural diversity in the biosphere is referred to as biological diversity. The genetic diversity within a species, the variety of species within a community, and the organization of species in an area into various plant and animal communities are the three levels at which this variety may be seen. Ecosystem diversity is the combination of these three levels. Because there are so many conceivable gene combinations that might result in an individual's unique features, every member of every species of animal or plant is genetically significantly different from the others. For a species to have a healthy reproducing population, there must be genetic diversity. The variety of wild species serves as the "gene pool" from which our domesticated plants and animals have evolved over millennia. A region's species diversity is determined by the variety of plants and animals that live there. Both natural ecosystems and agricultural ecosystems exhibit this diversity. But a lot of new species are being discovered, particularly in insects and flowering plants. "Hotspots" of diversity are places with high species diversity. There are many different ecosystems on earth, and each one has its own complement of unique interconnected species based on environmental characteristics. For a given geographic area or a political unit like a nation, state, or taluka, ecosystem diversity can be described. Landscapes like forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, etc., as well as aquatic ecosystems like rivers, lakes, and the ocean, are examples of distinctive ecosystems.

The term "megadiversity" encompasses the broad definition of "biodiversity," but it places more emphasis on "species richness," "threatened species," and "endemic species." In contrast, the term "hot spots" places more emphasis on "exceptional concentrations of endemic species," along with "imminent threats of habitat destruction" (Norman Meyer). At least 70% of all existing species in the 17 "Megadiversity" countries are part of the megadiversity phenomenon. The hot spots idea is centered around regions with a high concentration of endemic species that are in grave danger of having their habitats destroyed soon. With the addition of "megadiversity" countries—those select few that are home to the majority of the world's species, whether they are threatened or not—a Hot Spots plan can be completed.

An ecosystem is a grouping of biotic and abiotic elements of the biosphere that functions independently. The ecosystem's structural elements include the climatic regime, inorganic and organic chemicals, producers, macroconsumers, and microconsumers. Energy flow, food chains, nutrient cycles, ecosystem development, and homeostasis are examples of functional processes in an ecosystem. The growth and spread of animals and plants are constrained by all the abiotic elements, including light, temperature, pressure, humidity, salinity, topography, and numerous nutrients. Through food chains and food webs, an ecosystem's entire living population is interdependent. Ecological imbalance results from the eradication of even one species from a community. Solar radiation, which is absorbed by autotrophs and transferred to consumers in the form of food, is the source of energy for all ecosystems (organic substances). Energy always moves in a single direction and downward. Gross primary productivity (GPP) is the total amount of solar energy that green plants are able to absorb and store as organic materials. The quantity of organic materials that remain in a plant after its own metabolism, or GPP = NPP + plant respiration, is known as net primary productivity.

Ecological pyramids are a visual representation of the trophic interactions between animals in an ecosystem. The producers are represented at the bottom of the pyramid, while the higher levels are represented by the layers that follow. More or less in a circular motion, nutrients pass from the nonliving to the living and back to the nonliving parts of the ecosystem. Biogeochemical cycles are the name given to these nutrient cycles. The fundamental elements of each biogeochemical cycle are:
  • The reservoir pool that contains the major bulk of the nutrients soil or atmosphere. 
  • Cycling pool which are the living organisms (producers, consumers and decomposers), soil, water and air in which it stays temporarily
The term "biodiversity" describes the full range of genes, species, and ecosystems found in a given area of plants, animals, or microorganisms. Recent realization of the importance of biodiversity for human life has made the study of biodiversity extremely significant. It has several medical, industrial, economic, and scientific applications. Genes for disease resistance and a number of other characteristics necessary for crop improvement can be found in the wild cousins of farmed crop plants. Aesthetic requirements, pollution reduction, soil conservation and improvement, soil fertility maintenance, and other vital functions are also provided by biodiversity. India is one of the world's 12 designated megadiversity countries and has an extremely rich biodiversity. Around 45,000 species of microorganisms, plants, and 81,000 species of animals have been described so far in India, which has had 70% of its land examined. Biodiversity has 3 levels -
  • i) genetic,
    ii) species, and
    iii) community or ecosystem. Species are distinct units of diversity and each species plays a specific role in a ecosystem. 
With environmental variety, species diversity frequently rises. The variety of species found in a given area is referred to as species diversity. Ecosystem biodiversity rises from high elevations to low elevations and from polar regions to the equator. Major threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, over-exploitation, environmental pollution, climate change, and the introduction of foreign species. According to estimates, 14,000–40,000 species are disappearing from tropical forests alone per year.

The most thorough global assessment of the conservation status of vulnerable plant and animal species is the IUCN Red List. Landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic resources must all be preserved; otherwise, humanity will face a survival dilemma. Ex-situ (off-site) and in-situ (on-site) procedures are both used in conservation strategies. The primary in-situ strategy is the protection of habitat. National parks, wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, holy groves, and sacred forests are all included in the Protected Area Network for habitat protection. Establishing botanical gardens, zoos, gene and seed banks, cryopreservation, and the preservation of germplasm are all examples of ex-situ conservation methods. Biodiversity Hot Spots are places that require immediate preservation in order to preserve biodiversity. There have been 25 hotspots for biodiversity identified worldwide, including two in India. An essential international tool for encouraging biodiversity protection worldwide is the Convention on Biodiversity. Among the top worldwide organizations devoted to the preservation of biodiversity are IUCN and WWF. At the national and international levels, the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the Biodiversity Act of 2002, and CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity all control commerce in biodiversity and support its conservation and sustainable use.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation

One of the most pressing issues of our time is climate change, which puts a great deal of strain on both our societies and the environment. The effects of climate change are unprecedented in scope, ranging from changing weather patterns that endanger food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding. Without immediate action now, future adaptation to these effects will be more difficult and expensive. As part of its Climate Change program, UNEP collaborates with nations to increase their capacity for climate change adaptation, advance the transition to low-carbon society, advance scientific knowledge of climate change, and increase public awareness of the planet's changing climate. The term "climate change" describes significant shifts in temperature, precipitation, snowfall, or wind patterns that endure for decades or longer. Natural and man-made elements both contribute to climate change:
  • Human causes include burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and developing land for farms, cities, and roads. These activities all release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 
  • Natural causes include changes in the Earth’s orbit, the sun’s intensity, the circulation of the ocean and the atmosphere, and volcanic activity
The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising as a result of human activity. Because they trap heat in the atmosphere and maintain a stable temperature on the globe, greenhouse gases are essential for life to exist on Earth. However, as a result of human actions (such the burning of fossil fuels), which increase the atmospheric concentration of these gases, the Earth's equilibrium is shifting, strengthening the natural greenhouse effect. Because forests play such a critical role in reducing the effects of climate change, as well as the numerous other vital roles they play in our lives and the fact that their destruction increases emissions, it has become obvious that we must slow deforestation and forest degradation and maintain healthy forest systems. As a result, the concept of "reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" was developed. This refers to supporting initiatives to halt the destruction or degradation of forests, which reduces the quantity of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This is the essence of "REDD," to put it simply. Governments, intergovernmental organizations, and agencies, however, have adopted the idea to reduce emissions from forest use and have refined it into a more specific idea: developed countries should donate money to developing countries in order for them to implement projects and policies that prevent the destruction and degradation of forests. Some of these suggestions, but not all of them, call for wealthy nations to be granted the right to burn a certain quantity of fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases in exchange for paying the preservation of forests. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, or REDD, is the name given to this specific set of policy recommendations.

All agricultural sectors are impacted by climate change in a variety of ways that differ from region to region. For instance, it makes seasonal weather patterns less predictable and raises the frequency and severity of severe weather events like hurricanes, cyclones, and floods. People who live in fragile ecosystems, such as drylands, mountainous regions, and coastal zones, as well as vulnerable groups, would be most impacted. While CO2 fertilization, longer growing seasons, and higher yields may temporarily assist farmers in some areas, the overall implications of climate change are anticipated to be negative, especially for the poor and disenfranchised. Increased temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events will have an impact on crop and livestock productivity. Climate change will have an impact on livestock in terms of the quantity and quality of feed supplies as well as the carrying capacity of pastureland. Due to the various geographical consequences of climate change, they will also have indirect implications on market pricing (UNFCCC, 2010). Increased water temperatures, sea level rise, lowered pH, changes in the patterns of current sea productivity, flooding, droughts, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and other extreme weather events are all likely to have a negative impact on fisheries and aquaculture production systems. Forests and rangelands will be vulnerable to climate change, weather extremes, and long-term changes, including changes in daytime, nighttime, and seasonal temperatures, storm patterns, the length and severity of heat waves, droughts, and floods, as well as the prevalence of pests and diseases and frost, snow, and ice cover. As a result of coral reefs being impacted by the warming climate, coastal areas would suffer. When combined with rising sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events, damaged reefs will no longer offer coastal protection, posing a direct threat to agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and other coastal livelihoods. The term "climate change" describes significant shifts in temperature, precipitation, snowfall, or wind patterns that endure for decades or longer. Climate change is caused by both naturally occurring and human-made sources.

Future weather pattern changes and climate change will have varying effects on different geographical areas. For example, farms and forests may be more productive in some places than others in the short term. Reduced carbon emissions into the atmosphere are made possible by reducing forest loss and degradation. However, preserving trees can assist in removing carbon from the atmosphere in addition to preventing carbon emissions. Carbon sequestration is the term for this.

Reference

  1. Banuri, T., and Gupta, S., 2000, "The Clean Development Mechanism and Sustainable Development: An Economic Analysis", Manila: Asian Development Bank. 
  2. Brundtland Commission, 1987, "Our Common Future", Oxford University Press. 
  3. FAO 2008. Climate Change and Food Security: A Framework Document. Rome, Italy. 
  4. Ghilarov, A. 1996. What does “biodiversity” mean - scientific problem or convenient myth? Trends in ecology & evolution 11:304–6 
  5. Stronza A, 2010: Commons management and ecotourism: ethnographic evidence from the Amazon. International Journal of the Commons, 4:56-77. 
  6. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2007b). Decision -/CP.13. Development and transfer of technologies under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. Advanced unedited version. Bonn, Germany: Author. Available at http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_13/items/4049.php 
  7. Yaffee, S.L. 1999: Three faces of Ecosystem Management. Conservation Biology Vol. 13, No.4: 713-725

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