5 Environmental Issues That Affect The United States
The environment plays a large part in the sustainability of life. Earth’s resources are necessary for all life to exist on this planet. So, if we continue to damage and overuse them, they will be destroyed or exhausted within a few years, leaving us with nothing—no food, no home.
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we only have until 2030 to mitigate climate change before its effects become irreversible, leading to a climate catastrophe, so we must act now.
Since the United States is the third-largest country on Earth and also a big contributor to the crisis, it is one of the many nations substantially impacted by environmental issues. In the sections that follow, we’ll take a close look at the environmental concerns the United States is facing right now.
Given the fact that the US is the second-largest contributor of carbon dioxide next to China, air pollution is one of the country’s major environmental issues. In 2021 alone, an increase of about 296 million metric tons (MMmt) or 6% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions happened in the US. It’s also the year when the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an increase in coal emissions in the country’s electric power sector since 2014.
According to the American Lung Association’s (ALU) most recent study on air pollution, 4 out of 10 people, or over 135 million people, currently reside in places with poor air quality. Air pollution from industrial operations, oil refineries, and car emissions are prevalent in many different regions of the US, including sparsely inhabited and densely populated places like the western and eastern coasts, Detroit, Chicago, and the Gulf coast regions.
However, with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act on August 2022, together with the Clean Air Act (CAA), we are looking forward to positive development. We expect a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the US by about 40% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade through investments in renewable energy sources. This approach will drastically lower air pollution over time, giving us a step closer to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Global warming may be the most significant of all the environmental issues the US is facing now because of its widespread effects. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions blanketing the Earth, depleting the ozone layer, and trapping the sun’s heat. As a result, the rising temperatures on Earth are having a severe impact on practically every community in the United States and the entire globe. Just recently, a strong typhoon struck Alaska, bringing historic surges and coastal floods.
Because of global warming, the glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising, creating more powerful hurricanes that bring storm surges to communities.
Natural Resource Depletion
Another environmental issue that the US is facing today is the depletion of natural resources. Because of global warming, urbanization, and industrialization, non-renewable materials are starting to vanish.
Water scarcity is an ongoing environmental issue in the US. The country has been experiencing droughts continuously for the past 20 years. It has resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses and severe effects on agriculture and water supplies.
Drought brings precipitation and rainfall decline, as well as soil drying out, causing the crops to die. Above 270 million acres of crops were discovered to be experiencing drought conditions in September 2022. With longer drought seasons, lake and reservoir water levels will decrease, causing water and even food shortages in adjacent cities and communities.
Another significant environmental worry in America is the decline in habitat caused by biodiversity loss. This problem has been posing a risk to seasonal animals. In actuality, regions of Louisiana, North Carolina, and Florida have been experiencing this crisis for the past years, causing the extinction of many kinds of species in the area.
When species are taken out of their original habitat and introduced to a new one, they became invasive species. And today, many regions in America have been invaded by different plants and animals. A staggering amount of money is spent each year trying to keep invasive species under control and away from the country.
Due to climate change, the usual US fire season, which usually lasted four months on average, is now almost twice as long. In fact, one of the nation’s worst wildfires in recorded history tore through portions of California, Oregon, and Washington state in 2020, lasting the entire year. That led to the creation of the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force, a team that develops a comprehensive plan to prevent catastrophic wildfires and help the environment thrive.
Even if the US has water scarcity, water pollution is still an environmental concern. According to the most recent research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one-third of the lakes and nearly half of the rivers and streams are too contaminated to be used for drinking, fishing, or swimming. It is also said that agricultural pollution is the top contributor to the contamination of rivers, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and groundwater.
But you must also know that pesticides and other chemicals from land frequently added to the water and drainage discharge cause pollution to bodies of water and drinking sources. So, proper waste disposal is needed. Today, EPA enforces regulations, including the clean water act of 1972 for water safety.
If urbanization proceeds at the current frenzied rate in the US, the environment will continue to suffer. But with the collective effort of the government and the people in mitigating these environmental issues, we can achieve a sustainable future. There are many ways you can help, you can reduce your energy consumption, do proper garbage disposal, or even use the SAP platform. Small actions bring us to a larger cause when we work hand-in-hand.