Environmental impact of natural resources

Natural resources are resources occurring in our environment independently without human intervention.  Examples of natural resources include air, sunlight, water, soil, stone, plants, animals, and fossil fuels. There are two types of natural resources: Renewable and Non-renewable resources. Renewable resources are those that appear in large quantities and can be used repeatedly. Examples include water wind and forest. On the other hand, non-renewable resources are those that are limited in amount and whose availability is not guaranteed. Examples include minerals and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). Whereas renewable resources are sustainable in nature, have low production cost, and are environmentally friendly, the non-renewable resources are exhaustible, have high cost of production and are less environment-friendly. Human activities have significantly affected the quality of natural resources. For instance, the excessive use of fossil fuels is depleting limited resources. Burning of fossil fuels also releases toxic materials to water, soil and air. Activities such as mining, exploitation, and processing of natural resources has led to environmental degradation which includes air pollution, global warming, desertification, destruction of natural flora and fauna, and loss of soil fertility. (Gutti, Aji, & Magaji, 2012)??.Many countries have come together to develop agreements that help in preservation and management of natural resources and also provide guidelines on their exploitation. This, in return helps in reducing deforestation (cutting of trees for various reasons without replanting), reducing the impact of mining on the environment, and is key in overall environmental conservation.

KYOTO PROTOCOL

The Kyoto Protocol was formed in December 1997 in Kyoto Japan. The agreement entered into force on 16th February 2005 and has over 192 parties which were members of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The protocol established legally binding limits, especially to industrialized nations on emissions of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), which include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxidehydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur. The protocol is based on the principle of developed countries and puts a heavy burden on them because they are responsible for current high levels of GHGs emissions in the atmosphere. The protocol established objectives that were to be implemented by party states. The objectives included:

  • Enhancement of energy-efficient fuels to minimize deforestation. This includes the use of renewable energy that produces less carbon dioxide.
  • Promotion and creation of greenhouse reservoirs that help reduce their emissions.
  • Promotion of appropriate agricultural practices based on the climatic changes.
  • Strict regulations on parties that produce greenhouse gases.
  • Agreement to promote forest growth through afforestation, reforestation, revegetation and forest management.
  • Parties should put efforts to minimize adverse effects of climate change on international trade, social and environmental impacts, and especially to developing nations.
  • Provision of financial resources, especially to developing countries in order to meet agreed full cost incurred and transfer of technology.(Jilnglezakis, 2016).

The Kyoto protocol also monitors the emission targets as well as compliance by party states to ensure transparency and hold states to account. Reporting has to be done to the UN secretariat by submission of annual emission inventories and national reports at regular intervals. In addition, the Koto protocol developed the adaptation fund aimed at helping developing countries to fund their adaptation projects.

 

MONTREAL PROTOCOL

The Montreal Protocol was adopted in 1987 with the main focus being on substances that depleted the ozone layer. It was later strengthened through the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 1990. It was the first global agreement meant to address the environmental crisis and global warming. One hundred ninety state parties agreed to the protocol. The developed countries, which were the leading in the use of ozone layer depleting chemicals especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), agreed to reduce their use and also help developing nations in making sound decisions on the same matter. (P. Barratt-Brown, 1991).

  1. Excessive use of CFCs leads to the destruction of the ozone layer which contains high concentrations of oxygen. The layer absorbs the ultraviolet light from the sun which can lead to harmful effects to life on earth. For instance, the ultraviolet light has been linked to the development of skin cancer, eye cataracts, and deficiencies in immunity.
  2. Destruction of the ozone layer due to use of the CFCs can lead to changes in plant composition (mutations), which alters the bio-diversity. These changes have effects on plant competitiveness and plant pathogens.
  3. Increased UV light exposure to aquatic life can cause damage to early development of fish, shrimp, crab, and amphibians. Also, it causes decreased reproductive ability and larval development.
  4. CFCs emissions have also immensely contributed to climatic change through rising sea levels, extinction of natural species, and loss of habitats, frequent heavy rainfall which causes flooding and increased health risk from water-borne diseases and insects.

 

UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC)

The ultimate goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration levels that would prevent interference with the climate system. Such standards would be achieved by allowing the ecosystem to adjust naturally through a time frame that allows food production and economic development are maintained in a sustainable manner., REF…CCC

The convention agreed that human activities have greatly affected the earth’s climate. They also agreed that greenhouse gases had increased the temperatures affecting the natural ecosystem of humankind. It recognizes that low-lying areas, island and semi-arid regions, areas vulnerable to flooding and drought, and in particular developing countries are vulnerable to adverse effects caused by climate change. In doing so, the parties agreed to protect the climate system which in return benefits the present and future generations. The convention also put into consideration developing countries, especially those vulnerable to adverse climatic changes. The parties put measures to prevent and minimize the causes of climatic changes. Putting into account that economic development is essential, the parties agreed on policies and measures to protect the climate system against human-induced activities. They also decided on practices that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in such sectors as energy, industry, forestry, agriculture, transport and waste management.

The convention was concluded that each party state should adopt policies to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the greenhouse gas reservoirs. In addition, the developed parties agreed to incur the adaptation costs for developing parties in complying with the obligations and mitigating adverse effects of climate changes invulnerable parties. (United Nations, 1992).

 

CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE in ENDANGERED SPECIES (CITES)

CITES is an agreement between 120 parties in 1973 which regulates international trade of plants and animals threatened by trade. It was founded based on the rampant wildlife trade that caused the extinction of numerous species. Human consumption has greatly contributed to the loss of many species and their habitats. CITES aims to regulate trade on animals and plants within measures that do not affect species population (Garrison, 1994).

It keeps in check the trade of approximately 30,000 species of plants and 5600 of animals. The CITES is considered a success given that no animal/plant listed has gone extinct. The protection of species is done in 3 categories:

  1. Protection of species threatened by extinction due to trade. Humans greatly rely on animals and plants for both commercial and economic uses. This may threaten the existence of some species which if not regulated, may end up extinct.
  2. CITES protects species that are not threatened by extinction through trade but must keep their population in check.
  3. There are those species listed by their nations requesting other nations in trade to intervene in regulations of the species.(A . Sheikh, 2016)

In order to ensure effective trade, CITES has measures put up to ensure parties implement them. These include:

  1. Assigning of specific ports of entry and exit for species.
  2. Provision of care for living species.
  • Proper record-keeping of export and import of species of party members.
  1. Provision of the biennial reports on regulatory measures to enforce the measures of the treaty.

 

STOCKHOLM CONVENTION ON PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted in 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden but was operational ass from 2004. The treaty requires parties to put up measures aimed to preserve human health and environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by reduction of production, use and disposal of those chemicals. They agreed that pops cause degradation and pollution of air, water and migratory species which travel across international boundaries and get deposited in aquatic ecosystems. This in return, affects aquatic life causing pollution and endangerment of aquatic life. The treaty sees to it that parties acknowledge the health impacts of use of pops, especially in developing countries as a result of exposure to persistent organic pollutants. In addition, indigenous communities are greatly affected by use of pops, which leads to contamination of foods, which in return can lead to the development of some cancers. Such pollution from pops is a major public health issue (Fiedler, 2008).

The Stockholm Convention also emphasize the need to initiate international action to protect human health and environment in order to eliminate emissions of pops, which was also of importance to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The Convention provides the freedom to parties to explore their natural resources and in doing so, be mindful of the environment and that such activities do not cause damage to other states. It also recognizes that the involvement of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the private sector is of importance in order to limit or reduce emissions from pops. Stockholm also encourages parties to use environmentally friendly processes and chemicals that do not pose much damage to the environment and human health.

 

References

A.Sheikh, P. (2016). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). Congressional Research Services.

Et .al., G. (2012). Environmental impact of natural resources exploitation in Nigeria and the way forward. Nigeria: Department of chemical engineering Maiduguri.

Fiedler, H. (2008). The fate of persistent organic pollutants in the environment.

Garrison, J. L. (1994). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the debate over sustainable use.

Gutti, B., Aji, M., & Magaji, G. (2012). Environmental impact of natural resources exploitation in Nigeria and the way forward. Nigeria: Department of Chemical Engineering.

Jilnglezakis, V. (2016). Basic Principles, Human Activities, and environmental implications. Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev University.

P.Barratt-Brown, E. (1991). The development of the Montreal Protocol. Building a Monitoring and Compliance Regime under the Montreal protocol, 521-529.

United Nations.

United Nations. (1992). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). New York: United Nations.

 

 


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