Environmental FAQs – The most frequently asked questions

When it comes to Environmental Science or simply the Environment, the explanation to almost everything whether big or small is subject to debates. If you are studying about the environment, you will encounter countless questions and doubts regarding various aspects and phenomena of the environment. The interesting part is that every question can be answered in more than one or two ways. Let’s have a quick look at some of the most frequently asked and encountered (FAQs) about the environment.

**PS: This page is subject to changes and updates in the future. Also if you have more questions that should be added in, feel free to drop in your comments below!

Environmental FAQs

What are CO2 equivalents?

Carbon dioxide equivalents or simply CO2 equivalents (CO2) are every other has apart from CO2 itself that have individual or combined negative effects equivalent to CO2 like the Greenhouse effect, Global warming, and ozone layer depletion. All greenhouse gases are categorized as CO2 equivalents.

What are Greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases or GHGs in technical terms are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. These gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Carbon Dioxide equivalents (CO2e) accumulate in the air and combine to form an invisible gaseous envelope over the Earth’s Stratosphere.

This gaseous envelope traps all the radiated Infrared radiations from the Earth’s surface and reflected UV radiations and prevents them from escaping into the atmosphere. This mechanism is similar to what happens in greenhouse plantations and is hence called the Greenhouse effect. As a result of this heat-trapping process, the Earth’s atmosphere begins to unnaturally heat up, causing the phenomenon of Global warming.

It is debatable to date as to which gases are categorized as greenhouse gases. Many experts have stated that any gas that has heat-trapping abilities leading to unnatural heating of the earth’s surface is a Greenhouse gas. The Kyoto Protocol in 1992 listed these 6 gases as major Greenhouse gases adding to the effects of Global warming.

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6)

Are Greenhouse gases natural or useful?

Greenhouse gases do form in nature and are necessary to an extent to maintain the heat and average temperature of the earth. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth’s surface would be about −18°C (0°F), rather than the present average of 15°C (59°F).

But like everyone says, too much of something can be harmful, an excess amount of these greenhouse gases has degraded the atmosphere over the past few decades. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1750, human activities have produced a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2).

This increase has occurred despite the uptake of more than half of the emissions by various natural “sinks” involved in the carbon cycle. It has been estimated that the Earth’s surface temperature could exceed historical values as early as 2047 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their present rate. This can have potentially harmful effects on ecosystems, biodiversity and the livelihoods of people worldwide.

What are the objectives of a Global warming project?

The term “Global warming project” can be called by many names.

  • Global warming protocol
  • Global warming treaty
  • Global warming framework
  • Global warming agreement

AND SO ON!

Now the primary and basic objective of any such global warming project is to deduce measures, precautions and models to reduce, prevent or possibly eliminate the harmful effects of global warming on the Earth’s environment, including flora and fauna.

Global warming is the unnatural heating of the Earth’s surface and it’s atmosphere due to the excess emission of CO2 and other Greenhouse gases also known as CO2 equivalents (CO2e), that trap the planet’s heat and prevents it from escaping into the atmosphere. Most of the successful global warming protocols till now have dealt with Greenhouse gases (GHG), it’s causes, consequences, mitigation, adaptation and its role in increasing Global warming.

POPULAR GLOBAL WARMING PROTOCOLS

Kyoto Protocol (1992)

The Kyoto Protocol (1992) was an international treaty signed by 192 countries that came forward to discuss the concerns regarding Global warming and deduce measures to prevent it. The two main agendas of the conference were

  1. Global warming is increasing.
  2. CO2 emissions primarily from human activities are causing this.

The Kyoto Protocol listed these 6 gases as major Greenhouse gases adding to the effects of Global warming.

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6)

Paris Agreement (2016)

The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. 195 countries across the world have signed this agreement.

According to the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement aims at these following agendas.

  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
  • Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

OTHER IMPORTANT PROTOCOLS

Global warming has been known to cause a series of undesirable and unnatural changes in the environment, especially the atmosphere, that further leads to a slow yet progressing degradation of the biosphere and its species.

Consequently, there have been protocols to deal with such environmental concerns, especially Ozone layer depletion.

What are Environmental ethics?

Environmental ethics is a branch of philosophy that involves the study of good and bad, of right and wrong or simply a set of moral principles and values held by a person or a society to relationships between the environment, the people and the non-human entities. These values or ethics are considered instrumental for the pragmatic benefits it brings us and to the environment if we put it to use.

Environment ethics has been produced around environmental philosophy and is not asserted on the people by any law or policy. It is rather a personal responsibility that should be developed to establish a stable balance between society, economy and the environment.

What is the role of students in creating environmental awareness?

I have pursued both my Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Environmental Science and from the knowledge, exposure and experience I have gained so far, I strongly believe that Environmental Science and related fields of the subject have huge scope in the future, especially by the next 7–10 years.

The knowledge of a common man when asked about the Earth, Nature, Environment, and its degradation was only limited to terms like Carbon Dioxide, the Ozone layer, Air pollution, Water pollution, etc. which is just not enough. We as students can and will play a major and crucial role in spreading Environmental awareness primarily because students in this field possess more knowledge and sense about the environment than the common public.

Environment Science is a combination of everything we’ve studied since our childhood including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Biotechnology, and other subjects, so we need to brush the basics and have awareness of more than just CO2 in the air or global warming.

Is global warming a hoax?

Global warming is not just real, but dynamic as well. Which means that it is changing (Or rather increasing) with every passing moment, which is a major international concern.

Global warming is the unnatural heating of the Earth’s surface and it’s atmosphere due to the excess emission of CO2 and other Greenhouse gases also known as CO2 equivalents (CO2e), that trap the planet’s heat and prevents it from escaping into the atmosphere.

Numerous human activities like the burning of fossil fuels for power generation, Carbonaceous emissions from various modes of transports, domestic and agricultural activities release Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Carbon Dioxide equivalents (CO2e) into the atmosphere. Thus causing unnatural heating of the atmosphere.

INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS

Various reports by UNFCCC, IPCC, NASA, and NCAR reveal that over the past 20 years, the Earth’s average temperature has risen by around 3°F and if the current trends of CO2 and other Greenhouse gases continue, then the figure would increase to 7°F in the next 50 years.

Why does the Ozone hole form only during the month of October?

The Earth rotates at a slightly tilted angle and revolves around the sun at this angle due to which both the poles experience 6 months of day and 6 months of night throughout the year. As soon as the Earth completes half a revolution (6 months) around the Sun and the South Pole faces the Sun, Antarctica begins witnessing daylight in the month of October. The sunlight reacts with the CFCs on the clouds and eliminates countless Chlorine free radicals Cl ˚ which react with the Ozone molecules and start disintegrating them.

After the entire CFCs from the PSC have reacted with the Ozone, the ozone hole slowly starts subsiding from November onwards since the Ozone from nearby start flowing into the hole, filling it up. Visit the link Ozone hole over Antarctica to understand the topic more clearly.

How do pesticides harm the environment?

Pesticides are designed to control pests, but they can also be toxic (poisonous) to desirable plants and animals, including humans. Some pesticides are so highly toxic that very small quantities can kill a person, and almost any pesticide can make people ill if they are exposed to a sufficient amount.

Pesticides can enter the body orally (through the mouth and digestive system); dermally (through the skin); or by inhalation (through the nose and respiratory system). Even fairly safe pesticides can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, or mouth, so it is a good idea to understand how pesticides can be toxic so you can follow practices designed to reduce or eliminate your exposure and the exposure of others to them.

How do heavy metals harm the environment and humans?

Heavy metal contamination is increasingly being recognized as dramatic in large parts of the developing world, particularly in India and China. Heavy metals like Mercury, Lead, Zinc, Arsenic, and Cadmium when once entering the body can escape control mechanisms such as homeostasis, transport, compartmentalization, and binding to specified cell constituents, thus they can have toxic and even lethal effects. Heavy metals can cause malfunctioning of the cellular processes via displacement of essential metals from their respective sites. They have been noted to cause oxidative deterioration of biological macromolecules primarily because they bind to DNA and nuclear proteins.

Heavy metals possess an enormous potential to undergo bio-magnification and its accumulation in fishes renders communities highly vulnerable to its toxicity. Symptoms that arise as a result of metal poisoning include intellectual disability in children, dementia in adults, central nervous system disorders, kidney diseases, liver diseases, insomnia, emotional instability, depression and vision disturbances. Refer to the following link to know more about metal toxicity and some infamous metal toxicity outbreaks in the past.

How is Social Impact Assessment (SIA) important for environmental management?

Social impact assessment (SIA) is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions. Although SIA is usually applied to planned interventions, the same techniques can be used to evaluate the social impact of unplanned events, for example, disasters, demographic change, and epidemics.

The origins of SIA largely derive from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) model, which first emerged in the 1970s in the U.S, as a way to assess the impacts on society and the environment of certain development schemes and projects before they go ahead – for example, new roads, industrial facilities, mines, dams, ports, airports, and other infrastructure projects. SIA has been incorporated into the formal planning and approval processes in several countries.

What is the importance of Environmental monitoring?

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment discusses technical developments and data arising from environmental monitoring and assessment, principles in the design of monitoring systems, and the use of monitoring data in assessing the consequences of natural resource management and pollution risks.

What is the relationship between Environmental Management System (EMS) and ISO 14001?

The Environmental Management System (EMS) is a tool which enables the organization to achieve and systematically control the level of environmental performance that it sets itself. Its coverage extends to the use of monitoring in pollution assessment, and particular emphasis is given to the synthesis of monitoring data with toxicological, epidemiological and health data, as well as with pre-market screening results.

The ISO 14001 is an internal ISO audit which fulfills the requirements of element 4.5.5 Internal Audit of the ISO 14000 family of standards which provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities. The ISO 14001 helps organizations improve their environmental performance through the more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders.

An EMS as outlined in ISO 14001 provides a structured process for the achievement of continual improvement, the rate and extent of which is determined by the organization in light of economic and other circumstances. It is rather interesting to know that the PDCA cycle of the EMS is designed completely on the guidelines stated under the ISO 14001 standards. Hence it won’t be wrong to conclude that if you understand ISO 14001 properly, then you will surely understand the concept of an EMS.

1 Comment

  1. Vicky Jones August 11, 2018 at 12:10 PM

    I see that you are trying to create an all-in-one platform which covers almost every important topic that people are searching for. I know that writing articles is boring and time-consuming at times, but this FAQs section is a great way to answer some doubts quickly and in brief. Not many environmental blogs have this FAQs facility. Overall, your blog is neat and well-written as compared to other websites from your niche.

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