INCREASE IN OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

Introduction

When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. These chemical reactions are termed “ocean acidification” or “OA” for short.

Ocean acidification is expected to impact ocean species to varying degrees. Photosynthetic algae and sea-grasses may benefit from higher CO2 conditions in the ocean, as they require CO2 to live just like plants on land. On the other hand, studies have shown that lower environmental calcium carbonate saturation states can have a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Thus, both jobs and food security around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.

Why oceans turning more acidic?

Oceans typically absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But consistent air pollution has tilted that balance. When CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase, CO2 in the oceans also increase accordingly, making the oceans more acidic.

Meanwhile, rising sewage and chemical waste released into the oceans introduce nutrients that spur algae populations to bloom in the oceans. Any algae that isn’t eaten by other marine life then decomposes, releasing CO2 into the water and further lowering pH levels.

Adverse effect on Oysters & Clams

Oysters and other filter feeders suck in gunk & toxins from the ocean and pump out clean water. This clears up the water so much that it lets the underwater plants photosynthesize. Oyster shells also pile up on the ocean floor creating a reef like structure for seaweed to hold onto and fish to hide in.

An increase in CO2 being absorbed into the ocean is hurting the oysters capability to build sturdy shells by causing acidification. In this way oceans are getting more toxic day by day and harming the environment and adding to Global Warming.

RISING GLOBAL E-WASTE

“BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE POLLUTION”

Introduction

The rise of technology in recent decades has been a boon to mankind. Most of the jobs which were tedious before can now be completed in minutes or seconds. One of the best example would be the Smartphone, earlier people had to wait for days to get in touch of their loved ones or pass any emergency message but now it’s just two clicks away and you can be connected to anyone across the globe.

But the rising Smart devices and other E-devices have led to rise of E-waste at a very considerable rate, more than the world was prepared for and now this is going in the form of landfills thereby polluting the land and environment. E-waste contains harmful chemicals such as barium, arsenic, lead, mercury etc. When these chemicals are broken down in landfills, they tend to leak these hazardous chemicals into surrounding air and water bodies creating a toxic environment.

Amount of E-waste produced per year

The world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year, weighing more than all of the commercial airliners ever made. The e-waste produced annually is worth over $62.5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries. There is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore.

More than 44 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste was produced globally in 2017, over six kilograms for every person on the planet. Global e-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tonnes per year by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a report from the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-Waste Coalition.

The Rising Concerns

Less than 20% of e-waste is formally recycled, with 80% either ending up in landfill or being informally recycled – much of it by hand in developing countries, exposing workers to hazardous and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

According to the report, in addition to health and pollution impacts, improper management of e-waste is resulting in a significant loss of scarce and valuable raw materials, such as gold, platinum, cobalt and rare earth elements. As much as 7% of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste, with 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore. The failure to recycle is also leading to shortages of rare-earth minerals to make future generations of electronic equipment.

Dumping of e-waste in 3rd World Countries

Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought in Christmas are destined to create a flood of dangerous “e-waste” that is being dumped illegally in developing countries, the UN has warned. Most of the e-waste from European countries and USA is dumped in African and Asian countries like Somalia, Ghana, India, Bangladesh etc. thereby damaging the environment and ecosystem in these poor and developing nations. An old-style CRT computer screen can contain up to three kilograms of lead, for example.

An indication of the level of e-waste being shipped to the developing world was revealed by Interpol. It said almost one in three containers leaving the EU that were checked by its agents contained illegal e-waste. Criminal investigations were launched against 40 companies. Although it is legal to export discarded goods to poor countries if they can be reused or refurbished, much is being sent to Africa or Asia under false pretenses, says Interpol.

Conclusion

It is not only the responsibility of the government to recycle the e-waste but also all the citizens must contribute in better and efficient management of  e-waste. The rising problem of e-waste and its management thereby polluting the local river bodies or land is also contributing in the factor for global warming.

Solutions include durable product design, buy-back and return systems for used electronics, ‘urban mining’ to extract metals and minerals from  e-waste, and the ‘de-materialisation’ of electronics by replacing outright device ownership with rental and leasing models in order to maximise product reuse and recycling opportunities.

THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION

INTRODUCTION

Since the creation of planet Earth, there have been 05 massive extinction level events and around 15 small scale extinction events. Scientists and researchers have predicted that presently we are facing the Sixth Major Extinction Event where many of the species are almost on the verge of extinction or already extinct.

History of Extinction Events

The great oxygenation event which occurred around 2.45 billion years ago, was probably the first major extinction event and following events followed :-

  • Ordovician–Silurian extinction events (End Ordovician or O–S): 450–440 Ma (million years ago) at the Ordovician–Silurian transition. Two events occurred that killed off 27% of all families, 57% of all genera and 60% to 70% of all species.
  • Late Devonian extinction: 375–360 Ma near the Devonian–Carboniferous transition. At the end of the Frasnian Age in the later part(s) of the Devonian Period, a prolonged series of extinctions eliminated about 19% of all families, 50% of all genera and at least 70% of all species.
  • Permian–Triassic extinction event (End Permian): 252 Ma at the Permian Triassic transition. Earth’s largest extinction killed 57% of all families, 83% of all genera and 90% to 96% of all species (53% of marine families, 84% of marine genera, about 96% of all marine species and an estimated 70% of land species including insects).
  • Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (End Triassic): 201.3 Ma at the Triassic–Jurassic transition. About 23% of all families, 48% of all genera (20% of marine families and 55% of marine genera) and 70% to 75% of all species became extinct.
  • Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (End Cretaceous, K–Pg extinction, or formerly K–T extinction): 66 Ma at the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian)– Paleogene (Danian) transition interval.  About 17% of all families, 50% of all genera and 75% of all species became extinct.

Sixth Extinction Event

Scientists and researchers predict that “Sixth Mass Extinction Event” is already underway and this sixth wave is first which is caused by human interference.

Einstein apparently said “Extinction of bees will eventually lead to a global extinction event”, as bees are responsible for pollination and in recent years bee’s population have fallen significantly.

Scientists found that 1/3 of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered and that upto 50% of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades. Nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015. And about 515 species are on the brink of extinction. More than 400 vertebrate species became extinct in recent years, extinction on this level could have taken upto 10,000 years in the normal course of evolution.

The research analysed data on 27500 species of land vertebrates from the IUCN(International union for Conservation of Nature) found that about one-third have shrunk in recent decades.

Causes for Sixth extinction event

You must have come across swarms of dead insects almost everyday on your window shields, but recently all those insects have disappeared owing to enhanced use of fertilizers in the fields, eventually depleting the food source for birds and thus their population have also depleted significantly in recent years. The entire food cycle have been disrupted, affecting almost every organism.

In the last few decades, humans have taken over vast areas of animal habitat causing pollution and global warming which have led to catastrophic declines in population sof botyh common and rare vertebrate and invertebrate species.

Conclusion

Palaeontologist Doug Erwin told that “ I think if we keep things up long enough, we will get to a mass extinction but we are not in a mass extinction yet, and I think that’s an optimistic discovery because that means we actually have time to avoid Armageddon.”

Mass extinction or not, but we are definitely based on a road to Sixth Mass Extinction Event. The COVID-19 lockdown have definitely benefitted the environment and significantly brought down carbon footprint, but on other side events like Oil spill in Arctic, Oil well blasts in Assam(India), Forest fires in USA poses new challenges for the environment.