deforestation effect on humans

What is the deforestation effect on humans?

Forests are disappearing at a shocking rate, and this loss comes at a major cost to people all across the world. It’s well known that forest destruction is a driving force behind the extinction of plants and animals.1 But what, exactly, is the deforestation effect on humans?

We should start by reminding ourselves that we humans are hugely dependent on forests for their ability to take-up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air.1 Planting more trees and restoring forests (afforestation and reforestation) would absorb more CO2, and thus could be part of global measures to mitigate climate change.

Now, imagine if we removed all the trees. There would no longer be the potential to use this mitigation measure.2 The impacts of climate change – water shortage, more extreme weather and food insecurity – will be a lot more intense. Of course, the consequences for humans do not end there. Deforestation puts many parts of our daily lives at risk – from the air we breathe down to our morning coffee.3

Before going any further, let’s have a quick recap of deforestation.

Deforestation

Deforestation is the process of clearing away forests to make way for other uses, such as roads, agriculture or palm oil plantations.4

Satellite data shows that tropical forests are being lost at a rate of about 31,000 square miles per year.5 In Brazil’s Amazon rainforest alone, an area about the size of New York City was cleared between January and March of this year.6

Everyone, no matter where they reside on the planet, benefits from the services provided by forests.7

Effect on Humans

So what is the deforestation effect on humans? First and foremost, deforestation leads to a reduction in CO2 uptake. The resultant increase in greenhouse gas concentrations results in global warming, leading to such impacts as desertification and a loss of food.2

Food stability is also threatened by the impact of soil erosion. This means that when the soil-binding roots are removed in the process of forest clearance, the exposed soil is vulnerable to strong winds, rain and floods. These can wash away all the nutrients necessary to grow crops, endangering our food supply.2

Health Concerns

Deforestation also poses a number of health-related risks, the first being the loss of air purification. Trees filter chemical pollutants out of the air, thus the oxygen they expel during photosynthesis is clean and safe for humans to breathe. Fewer trees means more contaminated air.8

What’s more, there is an increased risk of disease breakout. Clearing away forest habitat means some animals – such as fruit bats – are forced to find food elsewhere, carrying with them deadly diseases such as the Nipah Virus. In addition, edges of cleared rainforest provide ideal breeding ground for malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.9

These diseases are usually confined to wildlife and can exist harmlessly, having co-evolved with their host animals. By clearing forest habitat however, humans are disturbing this natural order and putting themselves at risk.9

Finally, the ingredients for modern pharmaceuticals (medicinal drugs) are often found deep within forests. Clearing forest habitat therefore risks the extinction of plant species potentially holding the cure to diseases such as cancer and HIV.8

And what of your morning coffee? Many wild coffee plants are at an increasing risk of extinction due to drought. This comes as a consequence of global warming, enhanced by the removal of forests.3 If nothing else, perhaps the threat of losing our favourite hot drink will encourage those responsible to preserve what forests remain.

References

  1. Nunez, C. (2019) Deforestation explained [Online] National Geographic [Accessed June 2020]
  2. WWF (2020) Deforestation and Forest Degradation [Online] WWF [Accessed June 2020]
  3. Mega, E.R. (2019) News: Wild coffee species threatened by climate change and deforestation [Online] Nature [Accessed June 2020].
  4. IUCN (2020] Deforestation and forest degradation. [Online] IUCN [Accessed June 2020]
  5. Conservation International (2020) Deforestation: 11 facts you need to know [Online] Conservation International
  6. Iglesias, S.P. (2020) Politics: Brazil to Boost Amazon Forest Oversight as Deforestation Jumps [Online] Bloomberg Green [Accessed June 2020].
  7. FAO (2020) The state of the world’s forests [Online] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [Accessed June 2020].
  8. WWF (2010) Human health linked directly to forest health [Online] WWF [Accessed June 2020].
  9. Zimmer, K. (2019) Deforestation is leading to more infectious diseases in humans [Online] National Geographic [Accessed June 2020].
climate change today

Climate change today, in the past and in the future

Since the 1970s, growing carbon dioxide emissions and resource depletion due to human activities have been raising concerns for global warming and climate change1. The science behind this phenomenon and its human cause is ever more unequivocal for every IPCC publication2. But this is not the first time there has been a great shift in the climate on Earth. How is the climate changing today? How did it change in the past and how will it be evolving in the future?

Climate variability in the past

The Earth, as one among many objects in space, is subject to several external variabilities. The way it rotates around its axis and how it orbits around the Sun is not constant but cyclical. The amount of solar irradiance received on the Earth’s surface has cycles as well3. As a result of these cycles, and other factors such as volcanic eruptions, environments and global temperatures have greatly varied over time. For instance, in the past 5,000 years, the planet has warmed by as much as 4 to 7ºC4.

How is the climate changing now?

The release of fossil fuel and other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have made climate change a large-scale phenomenon in a much shorter timeframe. As a result, living species cannot adapt as effectively. Moreover, extreme weather events are getting worse and more frequent5, causing more heat waves. NASA lists several other consequences to global warming: the temperature rise is leading to changes in precipitation patterns, sea level rise, stronger and more intense hurricanes, and the thawing of polar ice sheets6.

Future perspectives for the changing climate

The IPCC developed several scenario pathways that could happen from now to 2100. They are called “Representative Concentration Pathways” and represent the amount of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere7. Where we stand along these pathways depends on the mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change that are taken. If we want to stay under the 1.5ºC warming advocated by the IPCC8, there is a need of more policymaking and cooperation between countries. Despite the United States withdrawing from the Paris Agreement in November 20199, countries around the world continue to stay committed to tacking the challenges of climate change10.

climate change today and in the future
IPCC Pathways11

1 Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J, Behrens III WW. The Limits to Growth. 1972.

2 IPCC Science report: climate change unequivocal, human influence at least 95% certain. European Commission. 2013 Sept 27.

3 Buis A. Why Milankovitch (Orbital) Cycles Can’t Explain Earth’s Current Warming. NASA Global Climate Change Blog. 2020 Feb 27.

4 Riebeek H. Global Warming. NASA Earth Observatory. 2010 June 3.

5 Russel R. Climate change and extreme weather: Science is proving the link. DW. 2018 April 11.

6 The Effects of Climate Change. NASA Global Climate Change Facts.

7 Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. IPCC. 2014.

8 Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C. IPCC. 2018

9 Pompeo MR. On the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. U.S. Department of State. 2019 Nov 4.

10 European Climate Change Programme. European Commission.

11 Image from NewClimate Institute

climate change bill

The climate change bill —what is it?

Government decisions are key to enacting change in countries. This is also the case for the climate crisis1—the government develops climate change laws that can help the country tackle environmental issues. A climate change bill is a soon-to-be law drafted by the United States’ Congress for this purpose; and they have developed several in the last few years2.

Previous climate change policy initiatives

The scope of the initiatives taken by the US government in terms of environmental protection legislation vary depending on the president. Under Barrack Obama’s presidency, opponents to his climate legislation proposals prevented the making of large changes. For example, a cap-and-trade policy bill failed to be approved by the Senate and House of Representatives in 2010. The bill would have helped dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country3. However, despite some failures, Obama managed to successfully develop policies against climate change4. Unfortunately, Donald Trump worked to dismantle them during his presidency5. The revoked climate change policies were namely a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, an executive order on climate change, a law for water protection and the role of the US in the Paris Agreement6.

However, since 2018, there have been some developments on climate policy in the US7.

Some recent climate change bills and policies

In the past two years, there have been notable initiatives in law-making for the climate:

  • The Green New Deal in 2018 fuelled debates and received considerable media coverage. Though not containing precise details on how to specifically make it work, it first proposed a plan to fight climate change and social inequalities8. This would be done by developing renewable energy, free education and healthcare, developing environment and public works9, among other measures. It is now being broken down into smaller bills to be voted on by the Congress10.
  • The Climate Action Now Act is a bill on climate change passed by the House in March 2019. This bill looks to hold the country accountable to its promises outlined in the Paris Agreement. However, it may not be approved by the Congress11.
  • The HR Energy Standard is an energy policy proposal developed in 2019 looking to push for more clean energy innovation to protect natural resources and use fewer fossil fuels such as natural gas.12

If new bills in favour of climate action become laws, the renewed interest in climate change shown by the US Congress2 could lead the country into a greener path and into meeting climate targets in the near future.


References

1 The pressure to make the post-covid rebound green. The Economist. 2020 May 1.

2 Congress Climate History. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

3 Davis JH, Landler M, Davenport C. Obama on Climate Change: The Trends are “Terrifying”. The New York Times. 2016 Sept 8.

4 McCarthy J. 7 Ways Obama Helped Protect the Planet From Climate Change. Global Citizen. 2017 Jan 18.

5 Kann D. Trump’s rollback of climate change regulations will be felt far beyond his presidency. CNN Politics. 2019 Sept 4.

6 Park M. 6 Obama climate policies that Trump orders change. CNN Politics. 2017 March 27.

7 Roberts D. At last, a climate policy platform that can unite the left. Vox. 2020 May 27.

8 Roberts D. The Green New Deal, explained. Vox. 2019 Dec 21.

9 Holden E. What is the Green New Deal and how would it benefit society? The Guardian. 2019 Feb 11.

10 Green M. Democrats to move on from Green New Deal. The Hill. 2019 Mar 28.

11 Irfan U. The House just passed its first climate bill in a decade. Vox. 2019 Mar 27.

12 H.R.2597 – Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019. Congress.GOV.

organic farming

Going Green With Organic Farming

Most of us think of organic farming as a large business, but this isn’t always necessarily true. Individuals can have what are known as mini-farms, in which organic means are used to grow food products or raise animals which will used as a food source.

Organic farming basically means that the operation will be run by using the most natural means possible, avoiding the use of chemicals and/or pesticides in either the crops or the animals feed.

Larger scale organic farms can be certified by the government. To receive this certification, the farmers must be able to prove that they are following the guidelines that are in place to be recognized as organic, farmers can learn through online degree programs that are available for organic farming. This may include using pesticides and fertilizers that do not contain unnatural chemicals.

Organic farmers will also need to prove that they keep the soil as healthy as possible by using natural composting methods and the rotation of crops. When raising animals for food consumption, there can be no use of antibiotics in the animals feed, nor can artificial growth hormones be part of the animals diet.

For individuals wishing to have a small organic farm, animals can be raised in a natural way without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Small scale poultry farmers can go green by raising chickens for their own use, either for meat or for eggs.

By allowing the chickens to be free ranging, which means they will be sheltered at night, yet free to roam during daylight hours and will have access to grass or insects, the chickens will be in much  better condition then those that are being raised in large scale egg producing companies.

In a large scale farm, hens are kept in very small cages that barely allow them to turn around, which means the chickens are usually unhealthy. Feeding poultry a diet of chicken food that does not contain antibiotics is best.

Earning Extra Cash By Going Green

Earning Extra Cash By Going Green

Most of us realize that going green means that we are doing our best to help clean up the planet, lower pollution levels, and conserve energy. Online survey software tools depicts that recycling bottle and cans can be a way to earn a few extra dollars while doing the above. There are also other ways to earn money while living a green lifestyle.

Besides recycling, another way to save money by going green is to use energy saving, lower wattage light bulbs. The new style of bulbs can save the average family an estimated twenty dollars a month on their electric bill. That gives you twenty dollars more to put into your savings account to add to the money you earned recycling those cans and bottles! 

Energy efficient light bulbs are being widely used by more and more consumers. Most of them come in the same wattage amounts as the old styles of bulbs we are all used to using, but they tend to be shaped somewhat differently. This energy saving bulb sometimes takes a while to get used to, as when you first flip the light switch, the light bulb is not as bright as quickly as the old fashioned bulbs, but within a few seconds, you will have the same amount of light.

The only difference is, for instance, that a bulb that gives you sixty watts of light, will only actually use thirteen watts of power, which is quite a savings and can help lower your electric bill.

These new styles of bulbs are available at nearly every department store, and are reasonably priced.

There are loads of ways to earn and save money by going green. Just type it in Google and see what comes up! What ways are you earning money? Leave some inspiration for other readers by commenting below.

5 steps to going green

Five Ways to Go Green

For those considering joining into the going green movement, it may be confusing to know where to start. The answer to that question is simply “start at the beginning and start simply”. 

If not taken slowly, going green can quickly become overwhelming. The following  are five steps to gently change your lifestyle to green, without completely trying to change your habits overnight.

5 ways to go green

One of the biggest steps you can take to save energy is to purchase the newest styles of energy saving appliances. There are new ones in every category, including refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, washers, dryers and hot water heaters. Computer users whether they are online trading broker, programmers/designers or any game playing kids, should use it effectively. Shut the computer down when not in use. If you are going green on a tight budget, start with the least expensive item. Possibly taking your oldest appliance out and purchasing a new one might be the best idea.

The 2nd step can be to lower or raise your thermostat in the summer and winter. One or two degrees won’t really be that noticeable, but will show up as a savings on your power bill, plus it will help conserve energy.

Number three could be to recycle more items. Cans, bottles and plastics are easy enough to throw into separate bins and then take to a recycling center once a month.

Number four is to buy products made of recycled materials, including grocery bags, organically grown cotton clothing and paper products. By doing this, you will not only be helping out the small businesses that are trying to be green, but you will also cut down on waste and pollution.

Number five is to try to avoid purchasing products made with plastics and Styrofoam. These two items are one of the major pollutants on the planet.

Try doing the above 5 steps gradually and see the difference you can make in the world.