Your browser does not support JavaScript!

Searching for writers...

7 FREE writers found

Three Easy Steps

Place an order

Track the Progress

Receive a Paper

All revisions are for FREE

Log in / Sign up

You need to Log in or Sign up for a new account in order to access this page

Global environmental issues

Global environmental issues

An overview of global environmental concerns provides an extensive and insightful investigation into the main environmental challenges which presently threaten our global environment. Explanations of the evolution of natural systems on the earth (water, biosphere, atmosphere, and ecosphere) provide fundamental knowledge of the environmental problems from the scientific concepts, processes, and historical background. 

A variety of environmental problems are triggered by the fast increasing population and economic development, due to unchecked urbanization and business production, agriculture expansion and forest degradation. Significant environmental problems include the degradation of forests and the agriculture of land, depletion of resources (water, minerals, woodlands, sand, rocks, etc.), environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem resilience, and the safety of the poor. 

Most prominent environmental problems

If we had to question what are the world's environmental issues now, most citizens would be reluctant to think beyond climate change and oil shortages. Such individuals are not conscious that many other global problems are similarly harmful. 

- Climate change: 

Climate change has become more evident during the last decade and has been one of the warmer years the planet has ever seen for nine years in the decade. The change in the temperature often meant that the planet's calculations go astray. The most noticeable symptoms include environmental anomalies, extreme floods, glacial ice, rising sea levels, etc. 

- Survival of the species: 

Another global environmental challenge is that biodiversity protection approaches flora and fauna survival to prevent habitat extinguishment. Extinction of a single plant or animal species is the result of a dramatic imbalance in the ecosystem, as it is directly or indirectly affected by several other species. In the last century or so, several plants and animal species have been extinct, resulting in a significant loss for the planet's biodiversity.

- Energy crisis:

Our reliance on fossil fuels has made us significantly vulnerable to major energy crises because we are primarily dependent on our energy requirements. Although several renewable sources have been found, none have been as convincing as the primary source of energy for mankind as regards the substitution of fossil fuels. Attempts are underway to harness all the capacity of these outlets, and our existence is largely dependent on them because fossil fuels are about to run out of resources.

- Natural resources exploitation: 

Our hunger for more has left us empty-handed in different areas of the planet in terms of natural wealth. Many human actions have contributed to a drastic depletion of our natural capital, including logging, forestry, fisheries etc. 

- Land degradation: 

Land pollution, due to human activities or desertification, has made the planet's surface unsuitable for human use because of loss of vegetation. The reason that we have gone so far in terms of protecting the natural world may be related to land loss. Inappropriate use of soil, hazardous waste disposal, widespread deforestation and other human activities are damaging to nature, always affecting our natural environment. 

- Land usage: 

International land-related environmental problems are not restricted to hazardous waste disposal or large-scale degradation but also improper land use. In the case of inappropriate land use, land degradation due to development is also a significant factor. Together, these factors lead to many problems such as soil erosion, land degradation and desertification.

- Nuclear issues: 

There is a strong potential for atomic energy, but there is no less problem with it. One of the significant difficulties; especially if safety regulations are not adequately followed, is radioactive waste from nuclear power stations. The Tragedy of Chernobyl has set an example of how atomic waste could lead to catastrophe for humankind. 

- Overcrowding: 

Overcrowding is another major global environmental problem. With the world's population still rising alarmingly, the pressure on the planet's resources is growing. Overpopulation issues range from food and water crises to the absence of natural burial space. Overpopulation also leads to different population risks. Continuous population growth will not only cause natural resource depletion but will also bring more significant pressure to the economy. After all, a large population needs a massive effort for a nation in terms of finance.  

- Pollution: 

This is perhaps the most apparent but most ignored global environmental problem in this article. The term 'population' itself has several other aspects, including air pollution, water pollution and land pollution. On the one hand, air pollution may be due, as a result of waste disposal in factories, oil-carrying ships, etc. 

The high amounts of carbon dioxide pumped into the air by industries and vehicles and the pollution of water, water and land. Humans should be blamed for this issue, as our research appears to disturb the world. If we continue with this trend, we will soon be left without fresh air and clean water for drinking. 

- Waste management: 

With an increasing population, the human activity increases and also the volume of waste materials. These waste contain not only harmful gasses released into the air or toxic waste into bodies of water but also nuclear waste, electronic waste, medical waste and even waste from our houses. The production rate of this waste is significantly higher than what the price of treatment is, and this only leads to waste being piled up, which ultimately pollutes the environment. 

Numerous environmental changes are identified as problems of global concern like 


fuel depletion; 

rainforest destruction 

Coastal ecosystems modification; 

reduced drinking water availability and quality; depletion of soil resources; 

extinction of the species. 

The sheer amount, scale and scope of these problems may be daunting, and some analysts have suggested that they have a collective, environmental effect on the earth's climate. These were some of the world's major environmental concerns and issues that have threatened the planet for a long time. 


Author: Frank Taylor

assignment on global environmental issues

Need a custom essay?

We will write it for you., free essay examples, free essays:.

Talk to our experts


  • Environmental Issue Essay


Essay on Environmental Issue

Environment is the surrounding of an Organism. This Environment in which an Organism lives is made up of various components like Air, Water, Land, etc. These components are found in fixed proportions to create a Harmonious Balance in the Environment for the Organism to live in. Any kind of undesirable and wanted change in the proportions of these components can be termed as Pollution. This Issue is increasing with every passing year. It is an Issue that troubles Economically, Physically and Socially. The Environmental problem that is worsening with each day needs to be addressed so that its harmful effects on Humans as well as the planet can be redressed. 

Environmental Issue

Our green world is now in Jeopardy. Humans depleted Natural Resources by polluting Water, Soil, and Air. We must tackle the challenges we have created by opening our eyes. The Environment has been profoundly impacted by Industrial Growth. People emit more Pollution for more convenience. Human actions have an impact on the Environment, both directly and indirectly. As a result, there is a symbiotic link between a creature and its surroundings. Let’s discuss some major Issues our Environment Issues which our Environment is facing nowadays:

Global Warming:

Foremost symptom of natural imbalance is Global Warming. When Greenhouse Gasses accumulate and cause the temperature to rise, we see the Greenhouse effect. It has an impact on the rising of the World Ocean level and the melting of Arctic ice. According to specialists, coastal countries and certain islands could be overwhelmed by water over several decades.

Increasing Population:

People require greater space and resources as their population grows, in order to meet all of their food and housing needs. To make room for pastures and agricultural fields, people began cutting down trees. Forests serve as the Earth's main lungs and the primary habitat for a wide range of animals, birds, and insects. Deforestation and Human activities have put a lot of forest species in Jeopardy.

Ozone Layer Depletion:

Depletion of the Ozone layer is a complex Issue that Humanity is grappling with. The Ozone layer absorbs UV radiation, which is damaging to Humans. Increased Ozone hole numbers result in more intense solar radiation and a rise in skin cancer.


Plants and trees are essential components of Human life. Everyone benefits from trees because they give air, food, and medicines. Forests are being cut down to meet rising demand. During the summer, natural wildfires are common. To maximize profit, people take down trees in an unethical manner.

Climate change is occurring at a faster rate than it was a century ago. The weather change has an impact on industrial advancement. Climate change has resulted in disastrous hurricanes, floods, and droughts. In recent years, many countries have been hit by a slew of natural disasters.

Polluted Environments can cause a variety of illnesses. Many species of flora and wildlife that are important to flora are threatened with extinction. Nature preserves balance, and all Organisms' feeding habits are linked in a food chain, as we all know. In areas with petroleum refineries, chemicals, iron and steel, non-metal products, pulp and paper manufacturers, and textile industries, the problem of industrial Pollution is often severe.

Causes of Environmental Issue

With the rise of the industries and the migration of people from villages to cities in search of employment, there has been a regular increase in the problem of proper housing and unhygienic conditions of living. These reasons have given rise in factors for Pollution. Environmental Pollution is of five basic types namely; Air, Water, Soil and Noise Pollution.

Air Pollution:  

Air Pollution is a major Issue in today’s world. The smoke pouring out of factory chimneys and automobiles pollute the air that we breathe in. Gasses like Carbon dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Sulphur Dioxide are emitted which mix with air and cause great harm to the Human body, Flora and Fauna. The dry farm waste, dry grass, leaves and coal used as domestic fuels in our villages also produce harmful Gasses. Acid rain occurs due to excess Sulphur Dioxide in the Air. 

Water Pollution:  

Water Pollution is one of the most serious Environmental Issues. The waste products from the growing industries and sewage water are not treated properly before disposing into rivers and other water bodies, thus creating Pollution. Agricultural processes with excess fertilizers and pesticides also pollute the water bodies.

Soil or Land Pollution:  

The next source of Environmental Pollution is soil. Waste materials such as plastics, polythene, bottles, etc. cause land Pollution and render soil infertile. Moreover, dumping of dead bodies of men and animals, washing of clothes and utensils add to this Issue. It is a very dangerous aspect of Environment since it affects the fertility and food production of the area and the country.

Noise Pollution:  

This Issue is a very subtle form of Pollution. All Human activities contribute to noise Pollution to a large extent. Horns of the vehicles, loud speakers, music system, industrial activities contribute towards this Issue.

Problems like Ozone depletion, Global Warming, Greenhouse effect, change in climatic and weather conditions, melting of glaciers etc. are some more Issues in the Environment.

How to Minimize Environmental Issues?

To minimize this Issue, preventive measures need to be taken.

Principle of 3R’s:  

To save the Environment, use the principle of 3 R’s; Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. 

Reuse products again and again. Instead of throwing away things after one use, find a way to use them again.  Reduce the amount of waste products generated. 


Paper, plastics, glass and electronic items can be processed into new products while using fewer natural resources and lesser energy.

To prevent and control measures of air Pollution including better-designed equipment and smokeless fuels should be used in homes and industries. 

More and more trees should be planted to balance the ecosystem and control Greenhouse effects.

Noise Pollution can be minimized by better designing and proper maintenance of vehicles. Industrial noise can be reduced by sound proofing equipment like generators, etc. 

To control soil Pollution, usage of plastic bags must be stopped. Sewage should be treated properly before using it as fertilizers and as landfills.  

Several measures can be adopted to control water Pollution. Some of them are that the water requirement can be minimized by altering the techniques involved. Water should be reused with treatment. The quantity of water waste discharged should be reduced. 

People, unfortunately, forget that we are a part of nature. We must live in harmony with nature and take care of it. We need to rethink how we consume natural resources. People must be aware that the natural world is on the verge of collapse. People must recognise that they are not the primary users of the Environment and construct Environmentally suitable homes. We must consider future generations and what will be left behind after we are gone. People come up with remedies to Environmental Issues. We recycle trash, develop electric automobiles, reduce air, water, and soil Pollution, and restore land erosion by planting new trees. But it is not enough; people must drastically alter their lifestyles until nature takes the last drastic measures.

Saving our planet from these Environmental Issues is the responsibility of every individual. If preventive measures are not taken then our future generation will have to face major repercussions. Government is also taking steps to create public awareness. Every individual should be involved in helping to reduce and control Pollution.


FAQs on Environmental Issue Essay

1. What are the Major Environmental Issues?

The major environmental issues are environmental degradation, climate change, global warming, and greenhouse effects.

2. What is the Best Way to Control Greenhouse Effect?

Afforestation is the best way to control greenhouse effect.

3. What is the Principle of 3Rs?

The principle of 3Rs is Reuse, Reduce and Recycle.

4. How do you Minimize Soil Pollution?

Stopping the use of plastics can minimize soil Pollution.

Environmental Issues Essay for Students and Children


500+ Words Essay on Environmental Issues

The environment plays a significant role to support life on earth. But there are some issues that are causing damages to life and the ecosystem of the earth. It is related to the not only environment but with everyone that lives on the planet. Besides, its main source is pollution , global warming, greenhouse gas , and many others. The everyday activities of human are constantly degrading the quality of the environment which ultimately results in the loss of survival condition from the earth.

Environmental Issues Essay

Source of Environment Issue

There are hundreds of issue that causing damage to the environment. But in this, we are going to discuss the main causes of environmental issues because they are very dangerous to life and the ecosystem.

Pollution – It is one of the main causes of an environmental issue because it poisons the air , water , soil , and noise. As we know that in the past few decades the numbers of industries have rapidly increased. Moreover, these industries discharge their untreated waste into the water bodies, on soil, and in air. Most of these wastes contain harmful and poisonous materials that spread very easily because of the movement of water bodies and wind.

Greenhouse Gases – These are the gases which are responsible for the increase in the temperature of the earth surface. This gases directly relates to air pollution because of the pollution produced by the vehicle and factories which contains a toxic chemical that harms the life and environment of earth.

Climate Changes – Due to environmental issue the climate is changing rapidly and things like smog, acid rains are getting common. Also, the number of natural calamities is also increasing and almost every year there is flood, famine, drought , landslides, earthquakes, and many more calamities are increasing.

Above all, human being and their greed for more is the ultimate cause of all the environmental issue.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

How to Minimize Environment Issue?

Now we know the major issues which are causing damage to the environment. So, now we can discuss the ways by which we can save our environment. For doing so we have to take some measures that will help us in fighting environmental issues .

Moreover, these issues will not only save the environment but also save the life and ecosystem of the planet. Some of the ways of minimizing environmental threat are discussed below:

Reforestation – It will not only help in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem but also help in restoring the natural cycles that work with it. Also, it will help in recharge of groundwater, maintaining the monsoon cycle , decreasing the number of carbons from the air, and many more.

The 3 R’s principle – For contributing to the environment one should have to use the 3 R’s principle that is Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Moreover, it helps the environment in a lot of ways.

To conclude, we can say that humans are a major source of environmental issues. Likewise, our activities are the major reason that the level of harmful gases and pollutants have increased in the environment. But now the humans have taken this problem seriously and now working to eradicate it. Above all, if all humans contribute equally to the environment then this issue can be fight backed. The natural balance can once again be restored.

FAQs about Environmental Issue

Q.1 Name the major environmental issues. A.1 The major environmental issues are pollution, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and climate change. Besides, there are several other environmental issues that also need attention.

Q.2 What is the cause of environmental change? A.2 Human activities are the main cause of environmental change. Moreover, due to our activities, the amount of greenhouse gases has rapidly increased over the past few decades.


  • Travelling Essay
  • Picnic Essay
  • Our Country Essay
  • My Parents Essay
  • Essay on Favourite Personality
  • Essay on Memorable Day of My Life
  • Essay on Knowledge is Power
  • Essay on Gurpurab
  • Essay on My Favourite Season
  • Essay on Types of Sports

Which class are you in?


Download the App

Google Play

Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century

The 21 st century has clocked in when the world is facing many challenges. Currently the world is faced by challenges taking all dimensions from abject poverty, environmental issues, human right issues, livelihood inequalities, to other matters concerning the advancement of technology and the problem it poses to human existence. It is predicted that life on planet earth is endangered by these challenges in nothing is done to address them in the near future.

I agree that the environmental issue is perhaps the greatest to these challenges and will still remain a challenge even in the 21 st century. This is due to the challenges that this problem has posed to the world since the begging of the last century. Among the problem that comprises environmental challenges include destabilization of the ecosystem, increasing pollution, climatic changes, and many others.

The issue of climatic change is seen as the end result of continued pollution of the environment over a long period. The explosion of the population has also been another problem facing the environment. The ever growing population has exerted a lot of pressure on the environment. The growth of the population has not matched the dwindling resources. This has resulted to constant conflicts and wars for resources. Among the recorded wars in the world has been the conflict in Sudan over oil resources. This war further leads to environmental pollution. (West, 2008)

Why environmental issue will remain a challenge for this century is an obvious answer to all of us. This is evidenced by the practical examples of the effects that we can see in the above examples and many others that are bound to happen in the course of the century. We all acknowledge that we are the one who have caused this problem and yet we have not yet found a lasting solution to this problem, although we have a conscious knowledge that we are the root cause of the problem. It is still a challenge because it poses a great danger to us. It is a problem that we cannot dismiss.

The problem of climate change had been traced to air pollution caused directly by our activities. The green house effect has been identified as the leading factor that is causing climatic changes. The green house effect is caused by formation of a thin layer of gases that reflects sun rays causing the rise of global temperature or global warming. This has an effect on many climatic changes that are taking place. Carbon dioxide gas has been identified as the leading polluter of the environment which leads to the green house effect. This is what is presenting environmental issues as a challenge to us in this century. Still we rely on carbon fuels as a source of energy. We need energy to drive our economy and our life and solve this problem we must find an alternative energies which are friendlier to the environment.

Although we have made efforts, our efforts are constantly undermined by world powers. It is an issue of collective responsibilities which we have not seen. In the early 1990s, the world forums including the United Nations started making efforts to address the issue of climate change. In 1997, the world came to an agreement and drafted the Kyoto Protocol which was seen as a hope in reaching agreement on the amount of carbon dioxide that each country should emit based on their level of growth. This protocol provided guidelines to be followed to help reduce the amount of carbon gas emitted in the environment. But why has not achieved its intended purpose? (Wolfensohn, 2004)

But this protocol did not meet its expectations. Big emitters of carbon dioxide gas like the United States withdrew from the protocol citing the negative effects it would have on their economy. This has been viewed as a betrayal to the world efforts to reduce environmental pollution. To this date, little has been achieved to reduce gas emission but progress is being recorded European countries.

This brings us to the effort that we as individuals have to play in this fight. Individuals have a role to play in fighting the environment issue. It is time we woke up to the realization that we as individuals directly contribute to the pollution of the environment. People like Beckham are recorded as having the highest personal pollution to the environment due to their lavish spending. The number of air trips we make, the time we spend burning fossil fuel in our cars, how we dump, and others all lead to pollution. These are ways in which we can adjust our life and save the environment.

It is viewed that individual persons has a big role to play in ensuring that the environment is well preserved. Individual activity can play a big part in preserving our environment. Although the bulk of environment lies with the industries, individual person has been making a contribution. The use and disposal of plastic bags can be taken as an example. If people use and dispose off plastic bags responsibly, it can play a big part in reducing environmental pollution. The micro-activities by individual person can be a good measure of our efforts to reverse environmental pollution.

With the failure of world powers to act on environmental pollution, it is time for each and every one of us to ask ourselves what role do we play polluting the environment and device the necessary measure that we can take to reverse the trend.

West, L. (2008). Environmental issues: How Global Population Growth is Creating Serious Environmental Problems. Environmental Issues Newsletter.

Wolfensohn, J. D. (2004). Securing the 21 st Century. 2004 Annual Meeting Address. The World Bank Group. Washington DC.

Cite this paper

  • Chicago (N-B)
  • Chicago (A-D)

StudyCorgi. (2021, August 28). Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century. Retrieved from

StudyCorgi. (2021, August 28). Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century.

"Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century." StudyCorgi , 28 Aug. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi . "Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century." August 28, 2021.


StudyCorgi . "Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century." August 28, 2021.

StudyCorgi . 2021. "Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century." August 28, 2021.

StudyCorgi . (2021) 'Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century'. 28 August.

This paper, “Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century”, was written and voluntary submitted to our free essay database by a straight-A student. Please ensure you properly reference the paper if you're using it to write your assignment.

Before publication, the StudyCorgi editorial team proofread and checked the paper to make sure it meets the highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, fact accuracy, copyright issues, and inclusive language.

If you are the author of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal . Please use the “ Donate your paper ” form to submit an essay.

National Academies Press: OpenBook

Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade (1999)

Chapter: 1 introduction and background, introduction and background.

During its first 10 years of operation, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has advanced our understanding of the Earth's ever-changing physical, chemical, and biological systems and the growing human influences on these systems. On the basis of this knowledge we can now focus attention on the critical unanswered scientific questions that must be resolved to fully understand and usefully predict global change. Such capability is increasingly important for developing our economy, protecting our environment, safeguarding our health, and negotiating international agreements to ensure the sustainable development of the United States and the global community of nations. There are now compelling reasons for scientific knowledge to guide and respond to policy options, both current and future. Clearly, we must delineate research pathways that will enlarge our understanding of changes in the global environment, including climate change. At the same time we need to reduce uncertainties in the projections that shape our decisions for the future. For all these reasons it is essential that the USGCRP continue to receive strong financial support and continue to provide continuing strong scientific leadership. To be effective the USGCRP must be based on a sound scientific strategy, focused on key unanswered scientific questions, using a correspondingly balanced strategy for supporting observational, data management, and analysis activities.

On the basis of the continuing reviews of the Committee on Global Change Research (CGCR) and those of its collaborating bodies, the committee reaffirms the achievements and significance of the USGCRP while finding that the Program must now be revitalized, focusing its use of funds more effectively on the

principal unanswered scientific questions about global environmental change. This goal demands that funding and efforts be directed toward a coherent and coordinated suite of research activities and supporting observational, data management, and modeling capabilities, all aimed at imperative research objectives and clearly defined scientific questions. A sharply focused scientific strategy and a coherent programmatic structure are both critically needed. This report seeks to provide a framework for such a strategy and structure. The elaboration and implementation of this scientific strategy and programmatic structure will be the principal challenge for global change research over the course of the next decade.

Long before the industrial revolution, human activity began to alter the Earth's environment. However, only in this century has the scale of such alterations become global in scope; moreover, the rate of these recent changes is enormously high compared with the historical record. Today, on the threshold of a new millennium, it is clear that humans are inducing environmental changes in the planet as a whole. In fact, the human fingerprint is abundantly seen on the global atmosphere, the world oceans, and the land of all continents. This insight has brought about profound changes in the goals, priorities, and processes of both science and government.

Programmatic Development

Recognition that humans are causing global changes in the biology, physics, and chemistry of the environment—changes with immense significance for human society and economy—has prompted the U.S. government, and other national governments, to act. In 1990, Congress established the USGCRP to carry out an organized, coherent attack on the scientific issues posed by global environmental change.

The USGCRP had its principal roots in the 1980s, as both scientists and the public became increasingly aware of the links among human activities, current and future states of the global environment, and human welfare. The most immediate concerns were human-induced climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion from industrial emissions, and emerging evidence that the Earth's biogeochemical system was being perturbed by a broad range of human actions.

Some of the many antecedents of the USGCRP were seen still earlier. In the 1970s a convergence of long-standing scientific concerns (see below) and a series of climatic events led to the first World Climate Conference and to the establishment of the U.S. National Climate Program and the World Climate Program. 1 In parallel, beginning in the mid-1970s, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) organized a major research program to assess the consequences of fossil-based energy production. Workshops chaired by the late Roger Revelle outlined a broad

multidisciplinary research agenda closely congruent with today's USGCRP, including a strong emphasis on the carbon cycle, the role of ecosystems, and human dimensions research. 2

The immediate precursor of the USGCRP, however, was a workshop sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1982 on global habitability, which was led by Richard Goody. 3 This workshop emphasized the fact that in many critical respects the ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere function together on long timescales as a single integrated system, a system requiring interdisciplinary research and observing programs of global scope and decadal duration. The stage had been set for encouraging similar fully integrated, long-term research by the Global Atmospheric Research Program, a program that itself arose from a seminal study by the National Research Council (NRC) 4 and laid the groundwork for the World Climate Research Program. The shaping of such comprehensive endeavors, which arose by recognizing the importance of chemical and biological as well as physical factors in the global system, also led to the establishment of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program of the International Council of Scientific Unions (subsequently renamed the International Council for Science). The priorities and nature of this program, from a U.S. perspective, were laid out in a sequence of NRC reports. 5 Most recently, human components in global environmental change have been given wider recognition in the creation of the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change.

Still other precursors to the USGCRP include two reports in the 1980s by the NASA-sponsored Earth System Sciences Committee (ESSC), 6 which sought to define a new and revolutionary scientific discipline of Earth system science. In keeping with the Goody report 7 and the 1986 NRC report, Global Change in the Geosphere-Biosphere, 8 this new discipline would be dedicated to study of the Earth as an integrated system of interacting components. Its goal would be to obtain “a scientific understanding of the entire Earth system on a global scale.” 9 The emergence of a science of the Earth system, moreover, offered a promise of knowledge that would be valuable to decision makers addressing global habitability.

Prominent in the ESSC documents was a recommendation for an Earth Observing System to provide long-term global observations, with an emphasis on the long-term continuity of observations, both satellite and in situ. The importance of long-term records reflected the audience for these reports and portended a multiagency endeavor: the recommendations were made to several concerned agencies—to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)—in addition to the sponsoring agency, NASA.

Late 1986 brought the beginnings of a coordinated government response. NASA, NOAA, and NSF had been developing parallel global change programs, but in 1987 a joint letter from the three agencies to the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed the idea of a budget presentation coordinated across the agencies. From this point on, OMB was instrumental in developing the USGCRP. Later that year a consortium of eight agencies formed the federal interagency Committee on Earth Sciences (later the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences, now the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources). The first funding for the USGCRP per se came in fiscal year 1989, and the first related descriptive document that accompanied the president 's budget was produced for the fiscal year 1990 submission. Joint submission of agency budgets was a novel concept, at least in the Earth sciences. The process produced new initiatives that were coordinated if not necessarily integrated. Thus, the USGCRP was initiated and first presented in the federal budget by President Reagan, was codified into law in 1990 (see Appendix A ), and was implemented by President Bush; today it is being carried forward under President Clinton.

Scientific Roots of Global Climate Research

The intellectual crucible in which the USGCRP was formed, however, was itself forged far earlier. The possibility of global changes in the biological, physical, and chemical environment had been recognized in the nineteenth century and became a widely accepted idea by the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1957, Revelle and Suess 10 pointed out that most of the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel combustion would remain in the atmosphere for many years and

drew on emerging climate modeling capabilities to suggest possibly alarming impacts on climate. In the early 1960s two major international conferences, known by the acronyms SMIC and SCEP, 11 put the issue on the international agenda. At the same time, convincing observational evidence emerged that human activities were in fact changing the chemical composition of the global atmosphere. Measurements first taken by Charles David Keeling in 1957 revealed that carbon dioxide was indeed increasing in the atmosphere at the planetary scale. In 1964 the President's Science Advisory Council brought the issue to the attention of the U.S. government. Subsequently, beginning in the late 1960s, early computer model simulations started to explore the possible changes in temperature and precipitation that could occur from increasing human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, an important set of environmental topics was closely considered by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Foremost among these issues were potential changes in climate and losses in stratospheric ozone. The NAS convened several panels and committees under leading scientists such as the late Roger Revelle 12 and Jule Charney. 13 The resulting reports projected that energy production from fossil fuels would continue to increase atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and estimated that a doubling of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide concentration could potentially raise global average temperature by 1.5 to 4.5°C (about 2.7 to 8°F) and produce a complex pattern of worldwide climate changes. Charney and his colleagues concluded that if carbon dioxide continued to increase there was “no reason to doubt that climate changes would result and no reason to believe that these changes would be negligible.” 14 The Revelle group saw a clear need for two kinds of action in response: “organization of a comprehensive worldwide research program and new institutional arrangements.” In the same period, ecologists also recognized that massive changes in ecosystems caused by land-use changes and other stresses could affect the carbon cycle. In this juncture of scientific findings, then, are the beginnings of the partnerships among the life and Earth sciences that have become the hallmark of global change science.

Still other studies addressed a widening range of potential global change impacts and their policy implications. 15 In 1979 and 1989 major World Climate Conferences 16 were convened by the World Meteorological Organization and other international bodies. International meetings 17 converged on the conclusion that the implications of changing climate should be assessed for development policy. In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of hundreds of scientists from more than 50 countries, assumed responsibility for conducting periodic international assessments on climate change and its onsequences. The latest of these 18 affirms the validity of scientific concerns and concludes that human influences on climate are becoming discernible.

Thus, throughout the past two decades the NAS/NRC and their international counterparts have continued to examine the science of climate change and vari-

ability and the associated policy implications for the United States and other nations. Additionally, the NAS/NRC have simultaneously considered climate change and variability within the broader context of global change. The CGCR, author of this report, and CGCR's predecessor, the Board on Global Change, have been charged with providing continuing guidance to national and international global change efforts. In 1995, CGCR undertook an initial assessment of the scientific programs of the USGCRP, reviewed the specific role of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth/Earth Observing System, and issued a report with recommendations (the “La Jolla” report) 19 and a follow-up report on the government response. 20 The present study significantly expands that effort.

Scientific Roots of Stratospheric Ozone Research

A related history of research concerns another pressing environmental issue—depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer that shields us from damaging ultraviolet radiation. In the early 1970s, proposals to build a fleet of supersonic transports raised questions about possible damage to the ozone layer from engine emissions in the stratosphere. A major U.S. research and assessment program was launched, and the NRC was commissioned to conduct a series of studies. 21 But soon Rowland and Molina a made the startling discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), not airplanes, were the frightening threat to our ozone shield. Eventually, an international assessment was conducted under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization and other international bodies. 22

The discovery by Rowland and Molina reminds us that studies and reports often do not adequately address the complexities of the real world. Indeed, they can even significantly miss the mark. Studies of ozone depletion had focused on slow incremental changes and had sought incremental improvements through corresponding models and parametric analyses. Meanwhile, observations extending back to the 1950s had been tracking the amount of ozone over the Antarctic each year through its seasonal cycle. In the late 1970s an anomalous deficit was observed in the total amount of ozone over the southern hemisphere in late winter observations. Then in 1985 the British Antarctic Survey reported dramatic—and rapidly worsening—ozone losses in springtime ozone concentrations over Halley Bay.

Theories about the cause of this unprecedented and unexpected loss blossomed. Explanations ranged from the hypothesis of the simple redistribution of stratospheric ozone by atmospheric motion to proposed chemical reactions initi-

ated by the magnetic field focusing of solar electrons and protons. More complete information was clearly needed. In 1986, NASA began planning an airborne expedition using the ER-2 aircraft to penetrate the region of the stratosphere where ozone was disappearing. The mission, executed in August and September 1987 from Punta Arenas, Chile, demonstrated that ozone was being destroyed by chlorine and bromine radicals. The role of CFCs—molecules that transport chlorine to the stratosphere—in the destruction of Antarctic ozone was unequivocally confirmed. Shortly thereafter, laboratory and theoretical work pinned down other essential mechanisms of the process—mechanisms involving cloud particles, which had been overlooked in earlier studies.

With such overwhelming evidence in hand, the nations of the world moved with remarkable alacrity to mitigate the threat. International meetings developed strategies to control emissions of ozone-destroying substances, while the chemical industry worked to devise substitutes for CFCs. Within a few short years a comprehensive framework for controlling worldwide emissions had been put in place in the form of the justly admired Montreal Protocol. 23

A number of lessons relevant to the broader field of global change research may be drawn from the case of research on Antarctic ozone depletion. The severity of the ozone phenomenon demonstrates that environmental changes are not always incremental or slight. Moreover, the severity of ozone loss came as a total surprise, even though the topic had been carefully considered by the scientific community. Finally, however, the problem was assessed in remarkably short order and effective remedial measures were rapidly instituted— because a solid base of related scientific understanding had been developed through decades of focused observation and research.

An additional critical point to make in this context is that many issues in global environmental change, such as climate change, are far more complex than even the difficult ozone story. The chemical, physical, and biological aspects of the greenhouse problem are extraordinarily daunting to study, and yet an additional and more difficult challenge probably lies in understanding the human dimensions of global change phenomena.


What surprises are in store in the future? By definition, surprises cannot be fully anticipated; at best they can be acknowledged as possibilities. As such they pose a special challenge to science. Science must formulate specific questions to set about obtaining the critical observations and performing the analyses needed to answer them. It is hard to ask questions that will anticipate all possible surprises before a surprise occurs.

Preparing science for surprise is, in part, the challenge that the CGCR faced in developing this report. Scientists believe strongly that unfocused research on the complex and varied Earth system is unlikely to be productive. On the other

hand, scientists who view the world through pinholes are likely to bump into trees and fall off cliffs. How can needed focus be given to the USGCRP while still casting the research net sufficiently wide to catch the unexpected? In this report the CGCR has sought to define a framework for this endeavor, identifying a set of coherent domains of research that are likely to provide efficient and productive progress for science and to encompass the range of scientific and social issues implicit in global environmental change. This framework builds on the initial set of guiding principles defined by the committee in its La Jolla report and on the issues of great scientific and practical importance in mature areas of Earth system science that are identified in this report.


This report outlines a research framework across the wide scope of global environmental change in terms of the following primary topical areas:

changes in the biology and biogeochemistry of ecosystems,

changes in the climate system on seasonal-to-interannual timescales,

changes in the climate system on decadal-to-century timescales,

changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere,

paleoclimate, and

human dimensions of global environmental change.

Pathways begins with biology and biogeochemistry because of our intimate dependence on biological systems, because of the sensitivity of these systems to changes in the physical and chemical environments, and because of the pivotal role of biology in the changing biogeochemical cycles of the planet. These biogeochemical cycles are, in a sense, the metabolic chart for the planet; they provide particularly useful benchmarks of global change.

We look next into the climate system, focusing initially on climate variability on seasonal to interannual timescales and then on climate change on decadal-to-century timescales. We find that we also must consider climate variability and change on the intermediate timescale of a human generation.

Changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere drive many global changes; the atmosphere quickly transports chemical inputs from whatever source, and the chemical loadings are of sufficient scale that they can no longer be ignored. Testing ideas about global change on longer timescales is not like research to improve weather forecasts, in which feedback and correction are almost immediate. The paleoclimate record offers a unique opportunity to assess ideas about the dynamics and causes of global environmental change and variability. This record also tells us that large departures from simple expectations have occurred in the past, forcing the recognition that any program addressing global change must be

sufficiently broad in scope to ensure that surprises are caught early. This consideration is particularly important for devising observational strategies.

The human dimensions of global environmental change—that is, humans and their institutions as both agents and recipients of change—are integrated where possible into the other topical chapters of this report and are also the subject of a separate treatment. Many concerns about the changing environment are tied directly to concerns about human and ecosystem health and welfare.

The discussion of each of the six primary topical areas is structured in terms of Research Imperatives —central issues posed to the corresponding scientific community by the challenge of global environmental change. Four to six Research Imperatives are identified for each topical area. Sometimes these imperatives closely interconnect. The Research Imperatives provide guideposts for the research “pathway.”

Each Research Imperative is addressed by a set of Scientific Questions. The limbs of the research strategy begin to branch and spread. If surprises are in the wind, we hope that this broadly spreading canopy of topics, Research Imperatives, and Scientific Questions will catch the signal.

The Scientific Questions are posed at a level of detail from which an observational program, space-based and in situ, can be defined, refined, and realized. The observational strategy also consciously recognizes that surprises might well be in store. For this and other scientific reasons, an essential requirement of the observational strategy is to establish long-term, scientifically valid, consistent records for global change studies. It is fortunate that the paleoclimate community has provided extremely detailed histories of climate and environmental change that can underpin the instrumental records, establishing some basis for the assessment of future monitoring. Long-term monitoring is a central scientific challenge for global change research. It is also a difficult challenge to meet in a social environment that so often values or wants something new.

Observations are essential to test hypotheses from which models can be developed. Models are essential if prediction and synthesis are sought. Observations are useless, however, if the data are inaccessible to users (e.g., because of the problem of data recorded in “write-only ” memory). Data systems have been a constant challenge to all scientific investigations; they are particularly problematic when large amounts of data are involved, as in global change studies. Fortunately, through a unique confluence of satellite and computer technology, science stands on the threshold of a greatly enhanced ability to exploit such masses of data and hence is well positioned to monitor and predict changes in the global climate and environment. Satellites orbiting the Earth can monitor changes in sea height, wind velocity, atmospheric water vapor, snow cover, and a wide variety of other parameters. Satellite data can be merged with ground-based measurement networks in a matter of minutes through a series of telecommunications satellites, microwave links, and fiber. Data derived from these sources serve as

inputs to large computer-based models, which in turn provide predictions about future environmental trends and variability. The existing and future Internet and associated services give the USGCRP an opportunity to manage this stream of data successfully and at reasonable cost.

A data strategy is needed that emphasizes flexible and innovative ystems—systems that are less costly than the current EOS core system, that appropriately reflect focused responsibility for data character, that provide open access to the scientific community and the public, and that rapidly track technological developments.


As mandated in the legislation establishing the USGCRP (see Appendix A ), the NRC has provided continuing oversight and review of the program (see References ). Oversight has been the responsibility of a consortium of NRC groups, coordinated through the former Board on Global Change (now the Board on Sustainable Development and its Committee on Global Change Research, CGCR) and other predecessors. For example, the Climate Research Committee and its panels (operating under the NRC's Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate) have overseen climate-related elements of the USGCRP, with particular attention to international programs such as the Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program. The NRC's Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change has carried out seminal studies to define social science aspects of the USGCRP. The CGCR and other NRC units receive regular updates on program status at their meetings. With participation by these and other NRC boards, committees, and panels, the CGCR carried out a comprehensive review of the program in the summer of 1995, 24 followed in 1996 by a review of government actions taken in response to the 1995 report. 25 In November 1996 the approach to the Pathways report was determined at a CGCR meeting, which for the first time convened representatives from each of the USGCRP agencies and chairpersons and staff of each NRC committee involved in global change research. The findings and recommendations of the present report are based on this continuing stream of review and assessment.

The central purposes of the USGCRP areas are as follows:

to observe and document changes in the Earth system;

to understand why these changes are occurring;

to improve predictions of future global changes;

to analyze the environmental, socioeconomic, and health consequences of global change; and

to support state-of-the-science assessments of global environmental change issues. 26

These “central purposes” of the USGCRP set a clear, appropriate, overarching vision for the Program. Moreover, during the past decade, the USGCRP has realized an impressive array of scientific accomplishments. Progress has been made in understanding the loss of stratospheric ozone, and amendments and adjustments to the Montreal Protocol have benefited from research flowing from the USGCRP. Ice cores have provided evidence of past changes in the Earth's environment, and human-induced environmental changes have been documented. There is a much better understanding, including the development of large-scale models, of the important roles of terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the overall carbon cycle, including knowledge of how such systems might shift under a changing climate. The success in providing predictive and useful information about El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena is a significant step in providing scientific information for natural resource management and for improving human welfare, and it offers encouragement that the broader issues of climate variability and human-induced climate change can also be successfully attacked. Finally, some accomplishments in observations are noteworthy. The precise measurements from space of sea surface height by the U.S.-French Topex-Poseidon mission have advanced our knowledge of sea surface change and ocean circulation. The Mission to Planet Earth Pathfinder datasets have advanced our insights across a wide array of global change issues.

The inherent challenges in achieving the central purposes of the USGCRP, however, will be ongoing; to ensure our well-being for the foreseeable future, it is essential to meet these challenges. They also set a formidable and difficult agenda for science, and this conclusion carries with it the need to do better. We must find ways of advancing the scientific attack on the problems of global environmental change more effectively. Fortunately, with 10 years of experience of successes and setbacks, we are in a far better position to meet the scientific challenges in the coming decade. There is, in fact, a rich body of information, in the form of lessons learned, to be gleaned from the past decade.

Lessons Learned

What are the lessons of the past 10 years? The reviews carried out over the Program's first decade have in fact identified a key set of “lessons learned”—attributes that the Program must maintain and precepts it must observe to achieve greater and needed successes in attacking the difficult issues of global environmental change.

Need for Programmatic Focus

Where research communities have been given resources based on collaboratively established priorities to implement critical activities, maintain and distribute datasets, and synthesize the information, rapid and impressive progress

has been made. Such successes have occurred primarily within the framework of formal programs (e.g., the TOGA studies of El Niño and the Upper Atmosphere Research Program studies of ozone destruction that led to the Montreal Protocol) and sometimes through grassroots initiatives (e.g., carbon cycle modeling). Many global change projects are currently on a positive trajectory and success is likely. However, many critical global change questions are not receiving the level of support needed to make similar progress; the sum of support for the current “focused” b programs, according to the USGCRP specifications, represents an inadequate fraction of what is needed to accomplish its goals. For example, of the total fiscal year 1998 budget request for the USGCRP, 61 percent supports space-based observation programs and 39 percent supports scientific research. 27

In part this problem has arisen because of disaggregation of the national effort across multiple agencies. The agencies have neither an enforceable mandate to cooperate in a manner necessary to be successful nor a system that requires accountability of expenditures. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) was designed to improve the coordination of both the USGCRP agencies and the budget crosscuts with OMB in presenting a national program. Unfortunately, the management framework has not had the expected effect. The desired “virtual agency” c has been quite far from reality.

The fact that a principal component d of the nation's global ocean-carbon cycle research program fell victim to budget reductions during 1996 to 1997 at DOE and required a last-ditch ad hoc rescue by NOAA is a clear statement of programmatic failure, not programmatic success. The tradeoffs between carbon sources and sinks were considered issues of immense economic significance in the recent Kyoto climate negotiations. Better understanding of the carbon cycle will be of great value in the ongoing negotiations. On the positive side, there are new and encouraging signs of focus and priority emerging from the NSTC/CENR structure and process.

Need for Program Balance

It can also be argued that there is currently an imbalance within the program among its major components: observing systems, data systems, and research and

analysis. For instance, in the fiscal year 1996 USGCRP budget breakout, Our Changing Planet, 28 of the $1.83 billion allotted to the global change program, $1.19 billion (65 percent) was allocated to “Observing the Earth System ” ($845 million) and “Managing and Archiving Data and Information” ($343 million). Of the remainder, $434 million was allocated to “Understanding Global Change” (24 percent). As indicated above, this distribution of resources essentially continued in the fiscal year 1998 budget. It can be argued that the large investment required to develop and deploy the space observation component of the USGCRP has comprised perhaps too large a fraction of the program's “focused” budget. Nevertheless, the space missions designed to facilitate global change research, such as sea surface altimetry and scatterometry and the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, have been great successes. Moreover, after an 11-year hiatus, the capability to obtain ocean color data has recently been restored with great scientific reward.

NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) polar platforms—EOS AM-1, EOS PM-1, and EOS CHEM-1—were conceived as broadly scoped data-gathering systems. This foundation will be central for needed future missions and will set the baseline for a long-term operational environmental monitoring program that must be built on the operational weather and ozone-observing system of NOAA, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and their international partners. However, while the EOS should begin to pay dividends with the scheduled 1998 launch of the AM-1 observatory followed by the late 2000 launch of the PM-1 mission, the initial focus of the USGCRP on EOS set a near-term timescale (and a cost) that made rapid response to scientific and technical challenges difficult.

The question of balance is further complicated by the realities of federal funding. Savings that might be obtained by trimming costs at NASA from space-based observations would be unlikely to flow within the agency to in situ observational activities, let alone to the research and analysis (R&A) component (or even to other space-based missions). Still more unlikely is the transfer of such funds to other agencies within the USGCRP. These are political and institutional realities. Nevertheless, there remains the question of balance within the overall

USGCRP observational system between space-based and in situ systems. (In fiscal year 1996 only 11 percent of USGCRP observations were devoted to in situ measurements.) Finally, although major breakthroughs have emerged from the R&A component of the national effort, it is just this part of the effort that continues to receive serious cuts within several agencies in the USGCRP.

Several lessons about Program balance can thus be extracted from the past 10 years. First, space-based observations are essential yet costly. We need to find ways to lower their cost while also making the space-based systems more budgetarily robust and flexible. We applaud NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinders and its rethinking of the EOS mission structure as steps in the right direction. Still another lesson is that in situ observations are critical (e.g., the TOGA ocean buoy array for ENSO prediction); yet in situ observational systems such as radiosonde and ozone networks continue to degrade around the world. We need to find ways to implement new in situ observing systems while restoring and maintaining key existing systems. Finally, in recent years the scientific community has gone through a difficult experience: R&A budgets in critical areas have continued to decline, and science is simultaneously being asked for answers to increasingly difficult and important questions. We must find ways to reverse this declining trend (NSF's proposed fiscal year 1999 budget is a welcome change).

Need to Maintain Critical Observations

During the past 10 years, the value of critical combinations of models and observations has been repeatedly demonstrated in providing the nation and the world with critical information about specific issues of global environmental change. The observing system that proved so valuable in the early detection of the 1997 to 1998 El Niño is a case in point. The research-based observing system and coupled atmosphere-ocean models developed under the auspices of the TOGA program to study ENSO phenomena made it possible as early as spring 1997 to detect and predict the 1997 to 1998 El Niño and its potential magnitude. Many social and economic systems are profoundly affected by weather events and climate patterns linked to ENSO; people in locations as distant as central Africa, southeast Asia, Australia, and North America are all benefiting from this scientific work, as agricultural, flood management, relief assistance, and market practices are adjusted.

Establishing an operational capability to maintain this initial ENSO observing system and training practitioners in the use of the data are large challenges, but there can no longer be any doubt that the investment has brought results of scientific interest as well as practical concern for natural resource management. This is an example of a crucial tenet of the Earth System Sciences Committee's strategy for studying global change: the institutionalization of critical measurement systems in an operational mode once their efficacy in documenting information valuable to policy makers is demonstrated in the course of a research

program. This requirement will continue to be challenging for ENSO research, but more broadly the past 10 years have shown clearly that correctly transferring other key aspects of the observing program for USGCRP to operational programs will be very difficult.

This lesson also emerges clearly from negotiations on the polar platforms of NASA, NOAA, and DOD over the past 10 years. To date, the process is not a story of success for the USGCRP. For example, regarding coordination of the next generation of NOAA/DOD operational polar platforms and NASA EOS AM-1 and PM-1 satellites, if current plans proceed, there will be a significant gap between the conclusion of the flight of EOS PM-1 and the first NPOESS-1 (nominally planned for an afternoon crossing). e This gap will be significant because it will make coordination and calibration of the measurements taken by EOS PM-1 and NPOESS-1 extremely difficult. f Beyond this specific issue and the continuing problem of adequately sequencing observations, there is a more general lesson to be learned: it is difficult for an operational program (e.g., NPOESS) to incorporate an adequate level of scientific advice, review, and essential oversight to ensure that the scientific needs of global change science will be addressed. This difficulty has been exacerbated until quite recently by NASA's distance from the NPOESS planning process; moreover, NPOESS itself is driven by two operational agencies (NOAA and DOD) with somewhat different demands on the data and data calibration and accuracy requirements, and it is understandable (but problematic) that global change issues are not high on the priority list.

The connectivity between EOS AM-1 and the future midmorning operational polar platform, EUMETSAT's METOP-2/3, is even more confused. This general issue brings to mind the additional difficulty of ensuring adequate coordination internationally, as possibilities are explored to transfer scientifically motivated observations to operational programs.

Other examples of problems are beginning to arise as research programs dependent on global observations of ocean, land surface, and atmospheric properties are concluding their intensive field campaigns. No provision is in place to make the necessary commitments for systematic acquisition of operational climate and global change in situ data to continue the key time series started by these programs. These are precisely the types of problems that the USGCRP was charged to resolve.

Need for Well-Calibrated Observations

During the past 10 years, we have been reminded again and again of the painful consequences of attempting to use inadequately calibrated observations

to answer important questions about global environmental change. On a more positive note, great scientific advancements have been made when it is possible to use long-term, highly calibrated, rigorously maintained scientific observations. For example, precise measurements of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have yielded valuable information about the annual cycle of the biosphere and the distribution of carbon dioxide sources and sinks. Precise measurements of CFCs have also enabled the tracing of atmospheric and oceanic circulations and improved our understanding of stratospheric ozone loss. Precise measurements of solar radiance have helped us distinguish between natural and human influences on global mean temperature. The general lesson here, then, is that high-quality data are an immensely powerful lever to obtain scientific insights on global change.

Need for a Focused Scientific Strategy

The NRC's reviews of the USGCRP over the past decade (see References ), notably the intensive community-based review conducted at La Jolla in the summer of 1995, 29 have consistently emphasized the need for the program to focus on critical scientific issues and the unresolved questions that are most relevant to pressing national policy issues. This document strongly reiterates that view. The nation and the world are beginning to make momentous decisions about development, technology, and the environment; at the same time, economic and political factors place severe constraints on budgets for research and infrastructure. A sharp focus on the truly essential investments in research and supporting infrastructure is thus more important than ever. A more sharply focused scientific strategy for the USGCRP is urgently required.

Charting and understanding the course of change in the Earth's physical, chemical, and biological systems, and their connections with human activities, are fundamental to the nation's welfare in the coming decades. Economic decisions, international negotiations, preservation of public health, and educational development demand this understanding. For example, without trusted knowledge about changes in the carbon and hydrological cycles, ecological systems, temperature structure, storm systems, ultraviolet intensity, nutrient deposition, and oxidant patterns, defensible positions for international measures to protect the environment cannot be established and sustained.

Development of this urgently required knowledge will demand concerted efforts and continuing scientific leadership. As the world's leading scientific nation, the United States, working with the international community, must recognize the importance of providing scientific leadership in defining and diagnosing changes in the state of the Earth system in the context of national needs and scientific interests. Strategic decisions on scientific goals, research programs, and supporting infrastructure are critical elements of this leadership, and it is the committee's view that a new strategic approach is needed. We thus present our findings and recom-

mendations here with the full sense of responsibility that accompanies the strong belief that the challenges posed to people by global environmental change will not go away. The challenges will not be legislated out of existence; they will be faced by our children's children, and they must be faced by us.

1. WMO (1979).

2. DOE (1977, 1980).

3. Goody (1982).

4. NRC (1966), Fein et al. (1983).

5. There have been dozens of NRC reports addressing this topic; the References contain many examples.

6. ESSC (1986, 1988).

7. Goody (1982).

8. NRC (1986).

9. ESSC (1986, 1988).

10. Revelle and Suess (1957).

11. MIT (1970, 1971).

12. NRC (1982a).

13. NRC (1979).

15. NRC (1982b, 1991).

16. WMO (1979, 1990).

17. WMO (1984, 1986).

18. IPCC (1995).

19. NRC (1995).

20. NRC (1996).

21. For example, NRC (1982c).

22. A recent update is contained in UNEP (1994).

23. Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987).

24. NRC (1995).

25. NRC (1996).

26. USGCRP (1997, p. 3).

27. Ibid., p. 78.

28. USGCRP (1995, p. 109).

29. NRC (1995).


Goody, R. 1982. Global Change: Impacts on Habitability . Report by the executive committee of a workshop held at Woods Hole, Mass., June 16-21. JPL D-95. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Earth System Sciences Committee (ESSC). 1986. Earth System Science. Overview .Advisory Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C.

Earth System Sciences Committee (ESSC). 1988. Earth System Science. A Closer View . Advisory Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C.

Fein, J.S., P.L. Stephens, and K.S. Loughran. 1983. The Global Atmospheric Research Program: 1979-1982. Reviews of Geophysical and Space Physics 21:1076-1096.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 1995. Climate Change 1995: IPCC Second Assessment Report Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). 1996. Understanding Our Planet .ICSU Press, Paris, France.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 1970. Man's Impact on the Global Environment. Report of the Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP) .MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 1971. Inadvertent Climate Modification. Report of the Study of Man's Impact on Climate (SMIC) .MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Atmospheric Sciences. 1966. The Feasibility of a Global Observation and Analysis Experiment . National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate. 1979. Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Geophysics Study Committee. 1982a. Energy and Climate .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), CO 2 /Climate Review Panel. 1982b. Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Second Assessment .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology. 1982c. Causes and Effects of Stratospheric Ozone Reduction: An Update .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC). 1983a. Toward an International Geosphere-Biosphere Program .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. 1983b. Changing Climate .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. 1983c. El Niño and the Southern Oscillation: A Scientific Plan . National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), U.S. Committee for an International Geosphere-Biosphere Program. 1986. Global Change in the Geosphere-Biosphere. Initial Priorities for an IGBP .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. 1991. Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming .National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Global Change Research and Board on Sustainable Development. 1995. A Review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program and NASA's Mission to Planet Earth/Earth Observing System (La Jolla report). National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Global Change Research. 1996. A Review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program . Letter report. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.

Revelle, R., and H.E. Suess. 1957. Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO 2 during the past decades. Tellus 9:18.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). 1994. Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 1994 .United Nations Environment Program, Geneva.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). 1977. Workshop on the Global Effects of Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel, W. P. Elliot and L. Machta, eds. DOE, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 1980. Workshop on Environmental and Societal Consequences of a Possible CO 2 -Induced Climate Change. Conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, April 2-6, 1979, Annapolis, Md. DOE, Washington, D.C.

USGCRP. 1992. Our Changing Planet: The FY 1993 U.S. Global Change Research Program A Supplement to the President's Fiscal Year 1993 Budget. U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, Washington, D.C.

USGCRP. 1995. Our Changing Planet: The FY 1996 U.S. Global Change Research Program A Supplement to the President's Fiscal Year 1996 Budget. U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, Washington, D.C.

USGCRP. 1997. Our Changing Planet: The FY 1998 U.S. Global Change Research Program A Supplement to the President's Fiscal Year 1998 Budget. U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, Washington, D.C.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 1979. Proceedings of the World Climate Conference .WMO, Geneva.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 1984. Report of the Study Conference on Sensitivity of Ecosystems and Society to Climate Change . WMO Publication 83. WMO, Geneva.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 1986. Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts .WMO, Geneva.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 1990. Proceedings of the Second World Climate Conference .WMO, Geneva.

How can we understand and rise to the environmental challenges of global change? One clear answer is to understand the science of global change, not solely in terms of the processes that control changes in climate and the composition of the atmosphere, but in how ecosystems and human society interact with these changes. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, a number of such research efforts—supported by computer and satellite technology—have been launched. Yet many opportunities for integration remain unexploited, and many fundamental questions remain about the earth's capacity to support a growing human population.

This volume encourages a renewed commitment to understanding global change and sets a direction for research in the decade ahead. Through case studies the book explores what can be learned from the lessons of the past 20 years and what are the outstanding scientific questions. Highlights include:

  • Research imperatives and strategies for investigators in the areas of atmospheric chemistry, climate, ecosystem studies, and human dimensions of global change.
  • The context of climate change, including lessons to be gleaned from paleoclimatology.
  • Human responses to—and forcing of—projected global change.

This book offers a comprehensive overview of global change research to date and provides a framework for answering urgent questions.

Welcome to OpenBook!

You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

Show this book's table of contents , where you can jump to any chapter by name.

...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

Switch between the Original Pages , where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter .

Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

View our suggested citation for this chapter.

Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

Get Email Updates

Do you enjoy reading reports from the Academies online for free ? Sign up for email notifications and we'll let you know about new publications in your areas of interest when they're released.

  • Biology Article
  • Environmental Issues Solutions

Environmental Issues and Solutions

Table of Contents

Environmental Issues

Climate change, global warming, ozone layer depletion, water pollution, air pollution, solid waste management, deforestation, overpopulation, solutions to environmental issues.

An environment is generally defined as the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal or plant survives or operates. From this, it must be relatively easy for one to comprehend its importance in the famed cycle of life.

Environmental Issues

Our environment is constantly changing, and as our environment changes so does the need to become increasingly aware of the environmental issues that are causing these changes. With a massive increase in natural disasters, warming and cooling periods, and different types of weather patterns, people need to be a lot more cautious with the way they lead their lives in conjunction with the types of environmental issues our planet is facing.

Also Read:  Our Environment

Environmental issues are the harmful effects of human activities on the environment. These include pollution, overpopulation, waste disposal, climate change, global warming, the greenhouse effect, etc. 

Various environment protection programs are being practised at the individual, organizational and government levels with the aim of establishing a balance between man and the environment.

Some of the current environmental issues that require urgent attention are:

Climate change is a great concern in today’s scenario. This problem has surfaced in the last few decades. Greenhouse gases are the major cause of climate change. Environmental changes have several destructive impacts such as the melting of glaciers, change in seasons, epidemics, etc.

The burning of fossil fuels, emissions from automobiles and chlorofluorocarbons add to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has led to an increase in the earth’s temperature causing environmental changes. This increase in temperature across the globe is known as global warming .

The ozone layer is a layer of concentrated ozone gas. It protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This very important layer is being destroyed by CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which are used in industries and everyday life (e.g. aerosol cans).

The chlorine in these compounds destroys the ozone layer. The hole in the ozone layer leaves humans and wildlife exposed to harmful UV rays resulting in several skin diseases including cancer.

The introduction of harmful substances into rivers, oceans, lakes and ponds, which changes the physical, chemical or biological condition of the water is called water pollution. The polluted water lacks oxygen and therefore the organisms die. 

Water is the main source of life and therefore it is our prime duty to prevent it from any kind of pollution.

Air pollution is the result of emissions from industries, automobiles, and the increasing use of fossil fuels. The gaseous emissions have added to an increase in the temperature of the earth. Not only this, but it had also increased the risk of diseases among individuals.

Solid-waste management is defined as the discipline associated with the generation, storage, collection, transfer and transport, processing, and disposal of solid waste in a manner that it does not have a harmful effect on the environment. 

Deforestation is the depletion of trees and forests at an alarming rate. The trees provide us with oxygen, and several raw materials and also maintain the temperature of the earth. Due to the depletion of trees for commercial purposes, there has been a drastic change in the earth’s climate.

Forests are an abode to a large number of wild animals and plants. Destruction of forests has led to the elimination of a large number of plants and animal species affecting biodiversity.

The earth’s population is increasing drastically. It is estimated to be more than seven billion. The increasing population has led to a shortage of resources. If this continues, it will be very difficult to sustain such a huge population. The other environmental issues including pollution, waste management, deforestation, climate change and global warming are all associated with overpopulation.

Also Read:  Solid Waste Management

Following are some of the most common solutions to the environmental issue:

  • Replace disposal items with reusable items.
  • The use of paper should be avoided.
  • Conserve water and electricity.
  • Support environmental friendly practices.
  • Recycle waste to conserve natural resources.

Environmental issues are a warning of the upcoming disaster. If these issues are not controlled, there will soon be no life on earth.

Also Read:  Water Pollution and its Control

Frequently Asked Questions

Define pollution., define pollutants., name two diseases caused by air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution..

Diseases caused due to air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution are following:

  • Air Pollution: Asthma and lung cancer
  • Water Pollution: Diarrhea and cholera
  • Noise Pollution: Hearing problems and Hypertension

Define the ozone layer. Why is the ozone layer getting depleted at a higher level of the atmosphere?

What are the consequences of deforestation.

Quiz Image

Put your understanding of this concept to test by answering a few MCQs. Click ‘Start Quiz’ to begin!

Select the correct answer and click on the “Finish” button Check your score and answers at the end of the quiz

Visit BYJU’S for all Biology related queries and study materials

Your result is as below

Request OTP on Voice Call

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Your Mobile number and Email id will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post My Comment

assignment on global environmental issues

Nice But I want people invite locality aware of can change taking place in the local environment due to climate change and the impacts of the people in my village \ town this topic project so please help me I am your student

This was very helpful for me Thank you byjus app for helping me

I like this

Ty it is very useful

It is really very helpful to us ✨

Wow a great piece of information you are provide.

It is really very helpful to us thank you byjus app for helping me

assignment on global environmental issues

  • Share Share

Register with BYJU'S & Download Free PDFs

Register with byju's & watch live videos.



  1. PPT

    assignment on global environmental issues

  2. Global Environmental Issues Assignment #1

    assignment on global environmental issues

  3. Environmental Issues

    assignment on global environmental issues

  4. Global Environmental Issues

    assignment on global environmental issues

  5. Global environmental issues

    assignment on global environmental issues

  6. With 24 solutions-oriented chapters, Exploring Global Issues student text demonstrat

    assignment on global environmental issues


  1. Global Environmental Issues (Part 2)

  2. Environment Pollution : Issues, Challenges and Response at National and International Level

  3. Assignment meeting 11 about environmental : pollution

  4. Global Environmental Issues presentation

  5. AIOU Solved Assignment Code 1422 Environmental Pollution Autumn 2023 Assignment 1



  1. What Is a Global Environment? Global Environmental Issues & Its Factors

    What does the term global environment mean? The global environment refers to the environmental factors that impact the entire planet. This might leave you wondering about the components of global environment.

  2. What Are Examples of Environmental Issues?

    There are many examples of environmental issues, some of which are interrelated, including climate changes and biodiversity. As global warming leads to a loss of habitat for species already under stress, it increases the likelihood of their...

  3. What Is a Global Teacher?

    A global teacher is an educator that incorporates various global issues into their curriculum including multiculturalism, economic, environmental and social issues. As the world becomes more interconnected, teachers are diversifying their a...

  4. Global environmental issues

    Overcrowding is another major global environmental problem. With the world's population still rising alarmingly, the pressure on the planet's resources is

  5. Environmental Issue Essay

    Humans depleted Natural Resources by polluting Water, Soil, and Air. We must tackle the challenges we have created by opening our eyes. The Environment has been

  6. Environmental Issues Essay for Students & Children

    Climate Changes – Due to environmental issue the climate is changing rapidly and things like smog, acid rains are getting common. Also, the number of natural

  7. Global Environmental Issue in the 21st Century

    This is due to the challenges that this problem has posed to the world since the begging of the last century. Among the problem that comprises

  8. 1 Introduction and Background

    Read chapter 1 Introduction and Background: How can we understand and rise to the environmental challenges of global change? One clear answer is to unders.

  9. An Assignment For Awareness Of Some Environmental Issues

    Agenda 21, a global action plan for delivering sustainable development accepted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, stated that “education is

  10. Global Environmental Issues

    'Global Environmental Issues' is a phrase that refers to the effect on the climate of human actions, in particular the on fire of fossil fuels (

  11. (PDF) The 12 Most Pressing Global Environmental Issues

    Global warming by greenhouse gases and Climate change are inevitably the biggest and most urgent environmental problems that humanity will face

  12. (PDF) Global environmental problems in the world

    PDF | Air pollution is an environmental problem that is familiar to residents of absolutely all corners of the earth. It is especially acutely felt by.

  13. Environmental Issues

    Environmental Issues · Climate Change · Global Warming · Ozone Layer Depletion · Water Pollution · Air Pollution · Solid Waste Management · Deforestation

  14. Environmental problems are increasingly global in their ...

    Silva / BOOK REVIEW ESSAY 125. Rodney R. White. North, South, and the Environmental Crises. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. Environmental