We are going to look at 6 critical challenges that humanity is facing today around the globe, as outlined by the United Nations. The magnitude of these issues makes them impossible for just one organization or institution alone to address them, and therefore requires sharing of knowledge across institutions, disciplines, and organizations worldwide.
Our list of top 6 global challenges faced by humanity, is as follows:
- clean water
- climate change & sustainable development
- energy resources
- world population
- pollution& human health
- global hunger and gap in economy
The main purpose of this article is to bring these issues to the attention of individuals, groups, organizations, policy makers, and the leaders of groups, emphasizing the impact these issues will have on the globe.
Water is one of the most essential elements of life. Will everyone be able to have sufficient clean water without any conflict in the future? Water is without a doubt essential to all functions of human civilization. Availability of clean water therefore must be ensured. When we analyze the data, we see that availability of clean drinking water is increasingly threatened. Human beings are approaching a crisis which is going to be self generated.
According to recent Yahoo News, a future water crisis is not that far away. In fact, it maybe just on the horizon. “By the end of this century, billions are likely to be gripped by water stress and the stuff of life could be an unseen driver of conflict.” This prediction is made based on the current trends and population growth worldwide.
The UN’s fourth World Water Development Report suggests much wider integrative and collaborative water management techniques. To avoid future conflicts over water standards among countries, and between entities within the country such as among energy manufacturers,farm owners, environmentalists, and other sectors, much development in water management policy is needed.
Climate change & sustainable development
The landmark definition of sustainable development first appeared in 1987,
“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”— From the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
What are our needs of the present? Are we compromising our future generations’ needs in the process of meeting our own needs? If we look at our needs at present, we will see that many of our needs are conflicting. For example we need clean air to breathe, but also need a car to drive around. Similarly, industrial growth conflicts with the preservation of natural resources. These conflicting needs are multiplied throughout our communities, groups, entire countries and the world. We have to decide what is more important to us and how to meet our needs in sustainable ways.
According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization, the carbon emission level in the atmosphere was at a record high in the year 2012. It was reported at 140% more than the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million. The daily average CO2 level in Hawaii was over 400 parts per million in 2013. 2012 was recorded as the hottest year in the US since 1895 and the ninth hottest year globally according to NOAA.
The need for sustainable and reusable energy resources is increasing every day. How do we meet the growing demands for energy resources in a sustainable and efficient manner? 20% of the world population, or about 1.3 billion people around the world, are without electricity today. Another 2 billion people will be added to the world population between now and 2050. How do we generate the additional energy for the growing population? About 3 billion people around the world still use and rely on traditional biomass as fuel for cooking and heating. For example some people cut down trees for cooking or heating.
Biomass comes from dead bodies of living things such as plants and animals. Biomass doesn’t need much time as fossils to become fuel and generate energy but both are combustible and releases carbon when burnt. Coal is a fossil which is often used to provide energy at commercial level around the world, however, the gas used in the USA supplied by gas companies for cooking and heating is also “bio gas” produced mostly from the landfill waste, and not the natural gas or “methane”, which is a fossil.
Human beings have been multiplying and spreading out at viral rates for centuries on earth. We’ve been expanding,conquering, exploring, migrating, utilizing, civilizing, evolving, industrializing, and destroying the very land that we live upon. Scientists predict that shortages of natural resources will bring the human race to fight against each other in the future. Over-population of the world can easily turn nations against each other. It is safe to predict that millions of innocent people around the world will die in the power battle. Many believe that the world population is currently too high. Most of the negative impacts on the planet are due to the way we live, pollute, and waste the resources of the world.
Pollution and health
Ever since the industrial revolution, human civilization has been altering the composition of air in the atmosphere and adding toxic elements into the water and soil. In addition, we have also introduced synthetic, toxic and unnatural elements into the environment. Almost all energy sources that we use to power our factories and automobiles pollute the earth. Apart from the immediate impacts, pollution has been linked with a number of health issues which are long-term and the negative effects are found out later. Some of the long and short-term effects of pollution are given below.
Long and short-term effects of pollution
- Birth defects
- Lung cancer
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
- Irritation of eye and nose
- Skin diseases
Global economic gap
Economists around the world feel very strongly that the global income gap is one of the biggest threats to the global economy. In a recent World Economic Forum’s, 700 global experts released a report called Global Risks 2014. The report found that income disparity to be most likely to impact on a global scale in the next decade.
Factors leading to gap between rich and poor countries
1. Shift in technology and global market: as technology gave rise to better connectivity and new jobs, a shift in technology also gave rise to unemployment, as the wages for low skilled jobs dropped. As the employment market became global, more hi skilled employees compete for low paying jobs at the international markets.
2. Education: In most cases, education has direct connections with income. Basically the higher the education level, the higher the income. For example, people who have a college degree will earn much more than people who did not graduate high school.
3. Interdependency and relation between countries: Rich nations seem to have a stronger connection and inter dependency while the relationships between the poorer countries are not.
4. Government polices: Government policies in many countries are designed to support the rich and tax the poor, which makes the gap even wider.
These are some of the major factors that are widening the gap between the richer and poorer countries of the world. But why does it matter? Why is it important to minimize the social gap between rich and poor?
Major impacts of widening gap between rich and poor
- Increase frustration among common people: State of extreme poverty can cause frustration among poorer citizens when most of their dreams remain unfulfilled.
- Increases crime rates and addiction: When poverty restricts people from life’s benefits, people may resort to crime and addiction.
- Social and political instability: Widening the gap between rich and poor can cause major chaos among citizens as people are being judged by their possessions and not by their ability.
- Onset terrorism & pubic revolution: When driven into extreme poverty, the social gap may
- Decrease in competitiveness: When poverty forces families to have both the parents working, children may fall behind in education, social values and ethics, giving rise to lack of competitiveness. There is a direct correlation between poverty and families with highly educated children.
The cumulative effects of resource depletion, degradation of the environment, and population increase, make the downfall of human civilization appear imminent and almost unavoidable. However, we are observing that the average life expectancy of humans is increasing and mortality rate is decreasing, which is a contradiction to the current conditions because our negative impacts on the globe and environment hasn’t caught up with us.
People around the world are generally improving their standards of living, and therefore, the demand for high quality and modern goods and services are ever more increasing. Our income and life expectancies have increased because the negative impacts on the globe hasn’t caught up with us and we can only see some signs of these effects, such as global climatic changes and extreme weather patterns, which are becoming more common around the world. Shortages of resources are not really felt by consumers in the USA because we still get clean water supply and power. But we only face a slight rise in our utility bills.
As the cost of extracting fossil fuels and the global impact on the environment, due to the combustion of fossil fuels increase, scientists are being forced to find alternative, clean energy resources for both environmental and economic reasons. The future of humans will depend on technology that supports sustainability.
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