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Unity Environmental University

Brainstorming Ways to Solve Environmental Problems? 5 Simple Ways You Can Help

June 1, 2019

Home  /  News  /  Brainstorming Ways to Solve Environmental Problems? 5 Simple Ways You Can Help

We are currently facing the most critical environmental issues in human history. Our climate, planet, lives, and future as a civilization are all at risk. While the magnitude of that thought can be extremely overwhelming, don’t allow yourself to feel helpless, not knowing where to begin. Making small steps and adjustments in your daily routine will give you a sense of success and a yearning to attempt more.

Here are 5 simple ways you can help the environment and spark others to become more environmentally aware.

1. Replace disposable items with reusable

Anything you use and throw away can potentially spend centuries in a landfill. See below for simple adjustments you can make to decrease the amount of disposable items in your daily life.

  • Carry your own reusable cup or water bottle
  • Use airtight, reusable food containers instead of sandwich bags and plastic wrap
  • Pack a waste-free lunch: carry your utensils, cloth napkin, and containers in a reusable lunch bag
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store
  • Consider buying bulk containers of your preferred beverages and refilling a reusable bottle, instead of buying individually packaged drinks
  • Use rechargeable batteries

2. Pass on paper

We are living in the Digital Era, but think about all the paper products you use in your daily life. These actions still align with reusing and repurposing, though may take a little more time for transition.

  • Join a library instead of buying books or buy a Kindle
  • Print as little as possible; and if you must, print on both sides
  • Wrap gifts in fabric and tie with ribbon; both are reusable and prettier than paper and sticky-tape
  • Stop using paper towels and incorporate washable cloths
  • Look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products
  • Cut out products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia

3. Conserve water & electricity

The tips you see below will seem like no-brainers; however, it may take to become more aware of your unconscious habits.

  • Turn the sink water off when brushing your teeth
  • Water the lawn in the morning or evening; cooler air causes less evaporation
  • Switch off anything that uses electricity when not in use (lights, televisions, computers, printers, etc.)
  • Unplug devices when possible; even when an appliance is turned off, it may still use power
  • Remove chemicals inside of the house; research companies that use plant-derived ingredients for their household cleaning products
  • Remove chemicals outside of the house; use eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater
  • Consider signing up for a renewable energy producer that uses 100% renewable energy to power homes

4. Support local & environmentally friendly

Here are a few reasons to start buying local:

  • Reduces plastic and paper waste
  • Boosts cost-efficiency
  • Enables bulk purchasing
  • Helps support your neighbors
  • Retains farmland within the community
  • Builds up the local economy
  • Uses fewer chemicals for both for growing and transporting

5. Recycle (& then recycle properly)

Implementing recycling habits into your daily life is one of the most effective ways to help lessen landfill waste, conserve natural resources, save habitats, reduce pollution, cut down on energy consumption, and slow down global warming.

  • Confirm you are using the proper separation containers for your household per the local recycling services
  • Remember to make sure your trash bags are recycled or biodegradable, and always cut up the plastic rings from packs of beer or soda to prevent wildlife from getting caught
  • Educate yourself about what can and cannot be recycled, as not all plastic and cardboard is acceptable (like pizza boxes for example, due to the grease) ( click here for a simple 101 )
  • Learn how to identify and dispose of hazardous waste properly ( click here to learn more )

Taking the time to simply read this article for ways to solve environmental problems is a step forward to becoming more aware of the needs of your environment. You are now taking action, and every change–big or small–will create an impact.

If you’re already taking action on the suggestions above, see below for additional tips and ideas:

  • Add these simple lists to your digital checklist and pick one at a time to tackle. After a week or so, check it off the list and move on to the next. Remember to pat yourself on the back! You just created a change in your lifestyle!
  • Find a comfortable compromise for your life. Purchase a pack of affordable, reusable rags and give them a specific purpose. For example, perhaps you always clean your countertops with paper towels; try wiping them down with cloth towels instead.
  • Remember to highlight your successes and share them with others! #savetheplanet
  • Calculate your environmental footprint to see how much impact just one person has on the world’s resources and adjust accordingly.
  • Consider an environmentally-focused career like one of the top four environmental jobs of the future.

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The biggest threats to our natural world

The five biggest threats to our natural world … and how we can stop them

From destructive land use to invasive species, scientists have identified the main drivers of biodiversity loss – so that countries can collectively act to tackle them

  • Read more on the Cop15 talks to negotiate new UN targets to protect biodiversity in the coming decade
  • 1 Changes in land and sea use
  • 2 Direct exploitation of natural resources
  • 3 The climate crisis
  • 4 Pollution
  • 5 Invasive species

T he world’s wildlife populations have plummeted by more than two-thirds since 1970 – and there are no signs that this downward trend is slowing. The first phase of Cop15 talks in Kunming this week will lay the groundwork for governments to draw up a global agreement next year to halt the loss of nature. If they are to succeed, they will need to tackle what the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) has identified as the five key drivers of biodiversity loss: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of natural resources; climate change; pollution; and invasion of alien species.

Changes in land and sea use

Habitat destruction

Clearing the US prairies: ‘On a par with tropical deforestation’

“It’s hidden destruction. We’re still losing grasslands in the US at a rate of half a million acres a year or more.”

Tyler Lark, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, knows what he is talking about. Lark and a team of researchers used satellite data to map the expansion and abandonment of land across the US and discovered that 4m hectares (10m acres) had been destroyed between 2008 and 2016.

Large swathes of the United States’ great prairies continue to be converted into cropland, according to the research, to make way for soya bean, corn and wheat farming.

Changes in land and sea use has been identified as the main driver of “unprecedented” biodiversity and ecosystem change over the past 50 years. ​​ Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions.

North America’s grasslands – often referred to as prairies – are a case in point. In the US, about half have been converted since European settlement , and the most fertile land is already being used for agriculture. Areas converted more recently are sub-prime agricultural land, with 70% of yields lower than the national average, which means a lot of biodiversity is being lost for diminishing returns.

“Our findings demonstrate a pervasive pattern of encroachment into areas that are increasingly marginal for production but highly significant for wildlife,” Lark and his team wrote in the paper , published in Nature Communications.

Boggier areas of land, or those with uneven terrain, were traditionally left as grassland, but in the past few decades, this marginal land has also been converted. In the US, 88% of cropland expansion takes place on grassland, and much of this is happening in the Great Plains – known as America’s breadbasket – which used to be the most extensive grassland in the world.

What are the five biggest threats to biodiversity?

According to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity there are  five main threats  to biodiversity. In descending order these are: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of natural resources; climate change; pollution and invasive species. 

1. For terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, land-use change has had the largest relative negative impact on nature since 1970.  More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. Alongside a doubling of urban area since 1992, things such as wetlands, scrubland and woodlands – which wildlife relies on – are ironed out from the landscape. 

2. The direct exploitation of organisms and non-living materials, including logging, hunting and fishing and the extraction of soils and water are all  negatively affecting ecosystems .   In marine environments, overfishing is considered to be the most serious driver of biodiversity loss. One quarter of the world’s commercial fisheries are overexploited, according to a 2005  Millennium Ecosystem Assessment . 

3. The climate crisis is dismantling ecosystems at every level. Extreme weather events such as tropical storms and flooding are destroying habitats. Warmer temperatures are also changing the timing of natural events – such as the availability of insects and when birds hatch their eggs in spring. The distribution of species and their range is also changing. 

4. Many types of pollution are increasing. In marine environments, pollution from agricultural runoff (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) do huge damage to ecosystems. Agricultural runoff causes toxic algal blooms and even  "dead zones"  in the worst affected areas. Marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species.

5. Since the 17th century, invasive species have  contributed to 40%  of all known animal extinctions. Nearly one fifth of the Earth’s surface is at risk of plant and animal invasions. Invasive species change the composition of ecosystems by outcompeting native species. 

Hotspots for this expansion have included wildlife-rich grasslands in the “prairie pothole” region which stretches between Iowa, Dakota, Montana and southern Canada and is home to more than 50% of North American migratory waterfowl, as well as 96 species of songbird. This cropland expansion has wiped out about 138,000 nesting habitats for waterfowl, researchers estimate.

These grasslands are also a rich habitat for the monarch butterfly – a flagship species for pollinator conservation and a key indicator of overall insect biodiversity. More than 200m milkweed plants, the caterpillar’s only food source, were probably destroyed by cropland expansion, making it one of the leading causes for the monarch’s national decline .

The extent of conversion of grassland in the US makes it a larger emission source than the destruction of the Brazilian Cerrado , according to research from 2019 . About 90% of emissions from grassland conversion comes from carbon lost in the soil, which is released when the grassland is ploughed up.

“The rate of clearing that we’re seeing on these grasslands is on par with things like tropical deforestation, but it often receives far less attention,” says Lark.

Food crop production globally has increased by about 300% since 1970 , despite the negative environmental impacts.

Reducing food waste and eating less meat would help cut the amount of land needed for farming, while researchers say improved management of existing croplands and utilising what is already farmed as best as possible would reduce further expansion.

Lark concludes: “I think there’s a huge opportunity to re-envision our landscapes so that they’re not only providing incredible food production but also mitigating climate change and helping reduce the impacts of the biodiversity crisis by increasing habitats on agricultural land.” PW

Direct exploitation of natural resources

Resource extraction

Groundwater extraction: ‘People don’t see it’

From hunting, fishing and logging to the extraction of oil, gas, coal and water, humanity’s insatiable appetite for the planet’s resources has devastated large parts of the natural world.

While the impacts of many of these actions can often be seen, unsustainable groundwater extraction could be driving a hidden crisis below our feet, experts have warned, wiping out freshwater biodiversity, threatening global food security and causing rivers to run dry.

Farmers and mining companies are pumping vast underground water stores at an unsustainable rate, according to ecologists and hydrologists. About half the world’s population relies on groundwater for drinking water and it helps sustain 40% of irrigation systems for crops .

The consequences for freshwater ecosystems – among the most degraded on the planet – are under-researched as studies have focused on the depletion of groundwater for agriculture.

But a growing body of research indicates that pumping the world’s most extracted resource – water – is causing significant damage to the planet’s ecosystems. A 2017 study of the Ogallala aquifer – an enormous water source underneath eight states in the US Great Plains – found that more than half a century of pumping has caused streams to run dry and a collapse in large fish populations. In 2019, another study estimated that by 2050 between 42% and 79% of watersheds that pump groundwater globally could pass ecological tipping points, without better management.

“The difficulty with groundwater is that people don’t see it and they don’t understand the fragility of it,” says James Dalton, director of the global water programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Groundwater can be the largest – and sometimes the sole – source in certain types of terrestrial habitats.

“Uganda is luxuriantly green, even during the dry season, but that’s because a lot of it is irrigated with shallow groundwater for agriculture and the ecosystems are reliant on tapping into it.”

According to UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor), a research programme looking into the management of groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa, 73 of the 98 operational water supply systems in Uganda are dependent on water from below ground. The country shares two transboundary aquifers: the Nile and Lake Victoria basins. At least 592 aquifers are shared across borders around the world.

“Some of the groundwater reserves are huge, so there is time to fix this,” says Dalton. “It’s just there’s no attention to it.”

Inge de Graaf, a hydrologist at Wageningen University, who led the 2019 study into watershed levels, found between 15% to 21% had already passed ecological tipping points, adding that once the effects had become clear for rivers, it was often too late.

“Groundwater is slow because it has to flow through rocks. If you extract water today, it will impact the stream flow maybe in the next five years, in the next 10 years, or in the next decades,” she says. “I think the results of this research and related studies are pretty scary.”

In April, the largest ever assessment of global groundwater wells by researchers from University of California, Santa Barbara, found that up to one in five were at risk of running dry. Scott Jasechko, a hydrologist and lead author on the paper, says that the study focuses on the consequences for humans and more research is needed on biodiversity.

“Millions of wells around the world could run dry with even modest declines in groundwater levels. And that, of course, has cascading implications for livelihoods and access to reliable and convenient water for individuals and ecosystems,” he says. PG

The climate crisis

climate crisis flames

Climate and biodiversity: ‘Solve both or solve neither’

In 2019, the European heatwave brought 43C heat to Montpellier in France. Great tit chicks in 30 nest boxes starved to death, probably because it was too hot for their parents to catch the food they needed, according to one researcher . Two years later, and 2021’s heatwave appears to have set a European record, pushing temperatures to 48.8C in Sicily in August. Meanwhile, wildfires and heatwaves are stripping the planet of life.

Until now, the destruction of habitats and extraction of resources has had a more significant impact on biodiversity than the climate crisis. This is likely to change over the coming decades as the climate crisis dismantles ecosystems in unpredictable and dramatic ways, according to a review paper published by the Royal Society.

“There are many aspects of ecosystem science where we will not know enough in sufficient time,” the paper says. “Ecosystems are changing so rapidly in response to global change drivers that our research and modelling frameworks are overtaken by empirical, system-altering changes.”

The calls for biodiversity and the climate crisis to be tackled in tandem are growing. “It is clear that we cannot solve [the global biodiversity and climate crises] in isolation – we either solve both or we solve neither,” says Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s climate and environment minister, with the launch in June of a report produced by the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts. Zoological Society of London senior research fellow Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, who led a s tudy on the subject published in the Journal of Applied Ecology in September, says: “The level of interconnectedness between the climate change and biodiversity crises is high and should not be underestimated. This is not just about climate change impacting biodiversity; it is also about the loss of biodiversity deepening the climate crisis.”

Writer Zadie Smith describes every country’s changes as a “local sadness” . Insects no longer fly into the house when the lights are on in the evening, the snowdrops are coming out earlier and some migratory species, such as swallows, are starting to try to stay in the UK for winter. All these individual elements are entwined in a much bigger story of decline.

Our biosphere – the thin film of life on the surface of our planet – is being destabilised by temperature change. On land, rains are altering, extreme weather events are more common, and ecosystems more flammable. Associated changes, including flooding , sea level rise, droughts and storms, are having hugely damaging impacts on biodiversity and its ability to support us.

In the ocean, heatwaves and acidification are stressing organisms and ecosystems already under pressure due to other human activities, such as overfishing and habitat fragmentation.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) landmark report showed that extreme heatwaves that would usually happen every 50 years are already happening every decade. If warming is kept to 1.5C these will happen approximately every five years.

The distributions of almost half (47%) of land-based flightless mammals and almost a quarter of threatened birds, may already have been negatively affected by the climate crisis, the IPBES warns . Five per cent of species are at risk of extinction from 2C warming, climbing to 16% with a 4.3C rise.

Connected, diverse and extensive ecosystems can help stabilise the climate and will have a better chance of thriving in a world permanently altered by rising emissions, say experts. And, as the Royal Society paper says: “Rather than being framed as a victim of climate change, biodiversity can be seen as a key ally in dealing with climate change.” PW

Pollution

The hidden threat of nitrogen: ‘Slowly eating away at biodiversity’

On the west coast of Scotland, fragments of an ancient rainforest that once stretched along the Atlantic coast of Britain cling on. Its rare mosses, lichens and fungi are perfectly suited to the mild temperatures and steady supply of rainfall, covering the crags, gorges and bark of native woodland. But nitrogen pollution, an invisible menace, threatens the survival of the remaining 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of Scottish rainforest, along with invasive rhododendron, conifer plantations and deer.

While marine plastic pollution in particular has increased tenfold since 1980 – affecting 44% of seabirds – air, water and soil pollution are all on the rise in some areas. This has led to pollution being singled out as the fourth biggest driver of biodiversity loss.

In Scotland, nitrogen compounds from intensive farming and fossil fuel combustion are dumped on the Scottish rainforest from the sky, killing off the lichen and bryophytes that absorb water from the air and are highly sensitive to atmospheric conditions.

“The temperate rainforest is far from the sources of pollution, yet because it’s so rainy, we’re getting a kind of acid rain effect,” says Jenny Hawley, policy manager at Plantlife, which has called nitrogen pollution in the air “the elephant in the room” of nature conservation. “The nitrogen-rich rain that’s coming down and depositing nitrogen into those habitats is making it impossible for the lichen, fungi, mosses and wildflowers to survive.”

Environmental destruction caused by nitrogen pollution is not limited to the Scottish rainforest. Algal blooms around the world are often caused by runoff from farming, resulting in vast dead zones in oceans and lakes that kill scores of fish and devastate ecosystems. Nitrogen-rich rainwater degrades the ability of peatlands to sequester carbon, the protection of which is a stated climate goal of several governments. Wildflowers adapted to low-nitrogen soils are squeezed out by aggressive nettles and cow parsley, making them less diverse.

About 80% of nitrogen used by humans – through food production, transport, energy and industrial and wastewater processes – is wasted and enters the environment as pollution.

“Nitrogen pollution might not result in huge floods and apocalyptic droughts but we are slowly eating away at biodiversity as we put more and more nitrogen in ecosystems,” says Carly Stevens, a plant ecologist at Lancaster University. “Across the UK, we have shown that habitats that have lots of nitrogen have fewer species in them. We have shown it across Europe. We have shown it across the US. Now we’re showing it in China. We’re creating more and more damage all the time.”

To decrease the amount of nitrogen pollution causing biodiversity loss, governments will commit to halving nutrient runoff by 2030 as part of an agreement for nature currently being negotiated in Kunming. Halting the waste of vast amounts of nitrogen fertiliser in agriculture is a key part of meeting the target, says Kevin Hicks, a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute centre at York.

“One of the biggest problems is the flow of nitrogen from farming into watercourses,” Hicks says. “In terms of a nitrogen footprint, the most intensive thing that you can eat is meat. The more meat you eat, the more nitrogen you’re putting into the environment.”

Mark Sutton, a professor at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, says reducing nitrogen pollution also makes economic sense.

“Nitrogen in the atmosphere is 78% of every breath we take. It does nothing, it’s very stable and makes the sky blue. Then there are all these other nitrogen compounds: ammonia, nitrates, nitrous oxide. They create air and water pollution,” he says. He argues that if you price every kilo of nitrogen at $1 (an estimated fertiliser price), and multiply it by the amount of nitrogen pollution lost in the world – 200bn tonnes – it amounts to $200bn (£147bn) every year.

“The goal to cut nitrogen waste in half would save you $100bn,” he says. “I think $100bn a year is a worthwhile saving.” PG

  • Invasive species

Invasive Species

The problem for islands: ‘We have to be very careful’

On Gough Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean, scores of seabird chicks are eaten by mice every year. The rodents were accidentally introduced by sailors in the 19th century and their population has surged, putting the Tristan albatross – one of the largest of its species – at risk of extinction along with dozens of rare seabirds. Although Tristan albatross chicks are 300 times the size of mice, two-thirds did not fledge in 2020 largely because of the injuries they sustained from the rodents, according to the RSPB .

The situation on the remote island, 2,600km from South Africa, is a grisly warning of the consequences of the human-driven impacts of invasive species on biodiversity. An RSPB-led operation to eradicate mice from the British overseas territory has been completed, using poison to help save the critically endangered albatross and other bird species from injuries they sustain from the rodents. It will be two years before researchers can confirm whether or not the plan has worked. But some conservationists want to explore another controversial option whose application is most advanced in the eradication of malaria : gene drives.

Instead of large-scale trapping or poisoning operations, which have limited effectiveness and can harm other species, gene drives involve introducing genetic code into an invasive population that would make them infertile or all one gender over successive generations. The method has so far been used only in a laboratory setting but at September’s IUCN congress in Marseille, members backed a motion to develop a policy on researching its application and other uses of synthetic biology for conservation.

“If a gene drive were proven to be effective and there were safety mechanisms to limit its deployment, you would introduce multiple individuals on an island whose genes would be inherited by other individuals in the population,” says David Will, an innovation programme manager with Island Conservation , a non-profit dedicated to preventing extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. “Eventually, you would have either an entirely all male or entirely all female population and they would no longer be able to reproduce.”

Nearly one-fifth of the Earth’s surface is at risk of plant and animal invasions and although the problem is worldwide, such as feral pigs wreaking havoc in the southern United States and lionfish in the Mediterranean , islands are often worst affected. The global scale of the issue will be revealed in a UN scientific assessment in 2023.

“We have to be very careful,” says Austin Burt, a professor of evolutionary genetics at Imperial College London, who researches how gene drives can be used to eradicate malaria in mosquito populations. “If you’re going after mice, for example, and you’re targeting mice on an island, you’d need to make sure that none of those modified mice got off the island to cause harm to the mainland population.”

In July, scientists announced they had successfully wiped out a population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes using a gene drive in a laboratory setting, raising the prospect of self-destructing mosquitoes being released into the wild in the next decade.

Kent Redford, chair of the IUCN Task Force on Synthetic Biology who led an assessment of the use of synthetic biology in conservation, said there are clear risks and opportunities in the field but further research is necessary.

“None of these genetic tools are ever going to be a panacea. Ever. Nor do I think they will ever replace the existing tools,” Redford says, adding: “There is a hope – and I stress hope – that engineered gene drives have the potential to effectively decrease the population sizes of alien invasive species with very limited knock-on effects on other species.” PG

Find more age of extinction coverage here , and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

  • Biodiversity
  • The road to Cop15
  • Endangered species
  • Endangered habitats
  • Climate crisis
  • Conservation

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10 Environmental Problems and Solutions

If you’re searching for answers to the 10 biggest environmental problems and solutions, you might be concerned with the state of the planet today. If you’re worried, I want you to know that although the world faces major environmental problems, there are solutions. The solutions aren’t simple, and there are no magic bullets, but they exist.

There are also a lot of voices and opinions about environmental issues. So along with basic information about environmental problems and solutions, I also offer different perspectives and further reading so you can form your own opinions. Because there are many possible environmental solutions, and not even the “experts” have all the answers. So I encourage you to keep an open mind to every option. Let’s look for progress, not perfection.

I’ll write more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals below but wanted to mention these goals up-front. If you’re reading this article because you’re concerned about the environment (or maybe you’re feeling stressed or anxious about climate change) learn about the Global Goals first. The Global Goals offer a solid framework for solving environmental problems. Now, on to the 10 biggest environmental problems we face today.

10 environmental problems

These are the 10 biggest environmental problems in no particular order. Climate change is a hot topic right now so I include it first. It’s also first on the list simply because so many of the problems related to climate change are also connected to other environmental problems. Environmental problems like oil spills, deforestation, and poverty need to be solved in and of themselves. But solving these problems indirectly helps solve the problem of climate change.

There are also environmental problems like fluorinated gases that have a large impact on the climate, but not directly on our health or wealth. These problems are extra tricky because they’re expensive to solve and they get little media coverage. That’s why international laws and cooperation are especially important for solving the hardest problems.

Climate change

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.” – NASA

Climate change happens when greenhouse gases are released and trapped in the atmosphere, causing the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect creates a layer around the earth’s atmosphere that traps heat from the sun, making our atmosphere warmer, similar to a greenhouse.

The following greenhouse gases contribute to climate change.

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) – Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere when fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned. Carbon dioxide is also released when trees and other plants are burned or cut down and through manufacturing cement. Carbon dioxide made up 81% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions from the United States in 2018 according to the Environmental Protection Agency .
  • Methane (CH4) – Methane is released from fossil fuels (natural gas in particular), agriculture (cow farts and manure), and landfills. Methane made up 10% of greenhouse gases in the US in 2018.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) – Nitrous oxide is emitted from agriculture, fossil fuels, industry, and waste-water treatment. Nitrous oxide made up 7% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.
  • Fluorinated gases – Fluorinated gases are hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. They are man-made gases commonly used in refrigerants used for cooling air conditioners and refrigerators. These gases have a high Global Warming Potential and makeup 3% of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States according to the EPA.

Resource: Drilled Podcast: The origins of climate denial

Poverty is indirectly linked to environmental problems. When you solve issues related to poverty you also solve environmental problems such as deforestation[cm_simple_footnote id=1], population growth, gender inequality, and climate change.

The world has been making steady progress toward ending extreme poverty for years according to the UN. The COVID-19 crisis has reversed some of the progress. But before the virus, life was better for many people around the world than ever before in history. Now, we need to deal with the crisis and get back to making progress.

Related: Population growth explained with IKEA boxes

Gender inequality

Although gender inequality is also not a direct environmental problem, solving problems like inadequate access to birth control, health services, and education has a positive impact on the economy and environment.

Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth. Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health. Gender inequality is indirectly linked to environmental problems.” – Drawdown.org

Related: Melinda Gates: Why equality can’t wait

Fluorinated gases used in refrigerants

Fluorinated gases, like the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigerators and air conditioners, are considered major contributors to climate change according to Drawdown.org. The most commonly used refrigerants have a high Global Warming Potential. The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol offers a timeline for phasing out refrigerants with high Global Warming Potential, but it’s essential for companies and governments to maintain their commitments.

To minimize your personal impact, make sure to properly recycle refrigerators and air conditioning units. If you’re not sure how to recycle an appliance contact your local waste management company.

Fluorinated gases have a potent greenhouse effect and are widely used as refrigerants. Managing leaks and disposal of these chemicals can avoid emissions in buildings and landfills.” – Drawdown

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, making it one of the most environmentally damaging oil spills in history. The spill covered over 43,300 square miles. It killed and harmed dolphins, sea turtles, fish, and a variety of organisms ( source ).

The environmental problems associated with oil have many layers. Not only does an oil spill kill wildlife and fishing industries, but oil is also a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change. Although oil is a necessary source of energy in every developed and developing country today, it comes with dire environmental problems.

Wasted natural resources

267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste went to landfills instead of being recycled, upcycled, composted, or used for something else in 2017, according to the EPA . That’s a lot of wasted natural resources that originally came from nature, in one form or another. In a circular economy , these natural resources would not be wasted. Instead, they could be upcycled, recycled, or used to regenerate other materials.

Total Municipal Solid Waste Generated by Material, 2017 image from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plastic pollution

You’ve probably seen images of marine life drowning in plastic pollution. Maybe you’re aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is about twice the size of Texas. The people and countries with the highest income generate the most plastic waste. That’s because we can afford to buy more stuff wrapped in plastic.

Plastic pollution is a major environmental problem. Plastic comes from fossil fuels, which we need to phase out, so using less plastic is important. But ultimately solving the problem of plastic pollution may come down to improving waste management technology and creating a more circular economy for plastics.

Related: The world’s plastic pollution crisis explained

The pathway by which plastic enters the world's oceans from Our World in Data.

Food waste[cm_simple_footnote id=2] is a big environmental problem. Up to 40% of food is wasted from farm to fork to landfill according to the National Resources Defense Council . There’s a lot of media coverage about how diet is related to the environment. But the majority of that coverage has to do with how individuals should eat, not how agriculture and waste management services should improve.

Instead of focusing on how individuals should change their eating habits (which is so darned hard) the answers just might lie in improving technology and holding companies to higher environmental standards. This leads me to deforestation, which is closely related to agriculture.

Deforestation

Deforestation is linked to many environmental problems, and the biggest problem is agriculture according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States .

Agri-businesses should meet their commitments to deforestation-free commodity chains and companies that have not made zero deforestation commitments should do so. Commodity investors should adopt business models that are environmentally and socially responsible. These actions will, in many cases, require a revision of current policies and financial incentives. – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Related: Can planting billions of trees save the planet?

Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is one of the main problems associated with climate change. It doesn’t get as much attention as other environmental problems, but it can have a major impact on ocean ecosystems.

The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) that is released in the atmosphere. As levels of atmospheric CO 2  increase from human activity such as burning fossil fuels (e.g., car emissions) and changing land use (e.g., deforestation), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean also increases.  When CO 2  is absorbed by seawater, a series of chemical reactions occur resulting in the increased concentration of hydrogen ions. This process has far reaching implications for the ocean and the creatures that live there. – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Man on boat and coral below on the ocean floor.

10 environmental solutions

Now that you understand the environmental problems we face today, it’s time to understand the potential environmental solutions. I say potential solutions because the cause and effect from environmental problem to environmental solution is complex. There’s a word for this, it’s called dynamic complexity.

The below environmental solutions have the potential to solve different problems within a complex, dynamic, and interconnected system. But there is no magic bullet for environmental problems. So I encourage anyone interested in environmental solutions to think big-picture. Each solution is simply one piece of a giant puzzle. Again, look for progress rather than perfection.

Related: Climate solutions 101 by Project Drawdown

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer the best possible framework for dealing with most of the problems listed above. These are the 17 goals that almost all countries have agreed to.

  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation

Affordable and clean energy

  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace, justice, and strong institutions
  • Partnerships and Goals

Green innovation

Green innovation may be the most important environmental solution. People around the world are working on new technologies and solutions that could revolutionize the way we look at energy and waste. We haven’t scratched the surface yet on how humanity will solve these problems. But there’s no time to waste, and we need governments and companies to invest in research and development.

One step is to lay the foundation for innovation by drastically increasing government funding for research on clean energy solutions. Right now, the world spends only a few billion dollars a year on researching early-stage ideas for zero-carbon energy. It should be investing two or three times that much.” – Bill Gates

Read: We need clean-energy innovation and lots of it

There are several different forms of clean and renewable energy. Solar, wind, and hydro energy are considered renewable energy sources. Nuclear energy, a non-renewable source of energy that contributes little to climate change, is an example of clean energy.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2019 image from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Electrify everything

How to make energy clean and affordable for everyone is not an easy solution to implement. However, the phrase “electrify everything” is a concept that’s fairly easy to understand. Here’s a paragraph that helped me understand how we can truly get clean and affordable energy for everyone on the planet.

“We know, or at least have a pretty good idea, how to get electricity down to zero carbon. There are options: wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, and coal or natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). There are plenty of disagreements about exactly what mix of those sources will be needed to get us to a carbon-free grid, and what mix of centralized versus distributed resources, and what mix of supply-side versus demand-side solutions — but there’s broad consensus that pathways to fully clean electricity exist.” – The key to tackling climate change: electrify everything by David Roberts for Vox

Related: The Rewiring America Handbook : A Guide to Winning the Climate Fight.

Carbon taxes

You may have read statements from economists like former Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Janet Yellen, and Paul Volcker in support of a carbon tax. That’s because pollution and emissions are considered negative externalities.

By correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.” – Statement by economists posted in the Wall Street Journal

Related: Why Put a Price on Carbon? by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Conservation of natural resources

Conserving the natural resources we already have is one important environmental solution. The strategies below help individuals and companies conserve resources:

  • Zero waste – Zero-waste is a way for individuals to reduce their own environmental impact by contributing less to landfills by using reusable containers and less plastic.
  • Circular economy – “A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems,” according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
  • Sustainable living – Sustainable living is a general term used to describe lifestyle choices that contribute less to environmental problems.
  • Upcycling – Creating a product of higher value from a product or material that would otherwise be thrown away. The clothes and accessories made by ZeroWasteDaniel.com is an excellent example of upcycling.
  • Dematerialization – Designing products to use less materials while still creating the same value for the customer. This reduces shipping, natural resources, waste and pollution. A good example of dematerialization is TruEarth’s eco-strips laundry detergent.

Carbon capture and sequestration

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil, trees, plants, or underground. CCS is considered one way to mitigate climate change.

The simplest way to capture carbon is through photosynthesis. Trees and plants take atmospheric carbon dioxide and store that carbon in healthy soil and plants using photosynthesis. But there are more high-tech ways to capture and sequester carbon as well. One way is through geoengineering.

Geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change. – Oxford Geoengineering Program

There are also companies that will sequester carbon for you.

Sustainable business and investing

Some businesses, like Patagonia, Interface, and IKEA, have built sustainability and resilience into the core of their companies. Others have fought against sustainability by lawyering up, using loopholes, and lying about the damage their businesses create. If we want environmental solutions, we need to support companies with sustainable business models that support progress. If you’re interested in learning more about what businesses and consumers can do, here are a few places to start:

  • Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
  • Genuine progress indicator
  • Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing
  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index
  • Green bonds

Improved food production

The environmental problems associated with food production get a lot of attention in the media. Some environmentalists and journalists advocate for plant-based diets and veganism as a solution to the problems associated with food. Changing our eating habits may have a small impact on the environment, but there’s a much larger movement underfoot lead by farmers and entrepreneurs. Below is a shortlist of potential environmental solutions to problems associated with food production and water shortages:

  • Regenerative agriculture
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Plant-based meat
  • Verticle farms
  • Precision agriculture
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Water desalination

Sustainable homes

Our homes use a lot of energy to run our dishwashers, washer and dryers, and HVAC systems. And let’s not forget about all the energy we use charging our computers and watching TV. It adds up. But instead of turning off our devices, it’s possible to build more efficient homes that waste less energy and use cleaner energy sources. Although we have a long way toward making most homes sustainable, here are a few environmental solutions related to homes.

  • Net Zero homes
  • Home electrification
  • Living Buildings
  • LEED-certified buildings
  • Energy star appliances

Read: The ultimate guide to solar homes

Home with solar panels on the roof.

Environmental frameworks and certifications

As mentioned earlier, the UN Sustainable Development Goals offer a framework for solving most environmental problems. If you’re interested in learning more about the environmental movement, here are a few places to start.

  • Future Fit Business – Free tools to help businesses and investors make better decisions.
  • The Natural Step (TNS)

If you’re interested in buying better products, consider looking for products with these certifications.

  • B Corporation
  • Cradle to Cradle certified
  • Design for the environment
  • EWG verified

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Our Science

A Long Term Strategy for People and the Planet

The Earth is at a tipping point. Here are 3 actions global leaders must take now.

Last updated January 10, 2024

Aerial view of timber cutting in Brazil showing clear cut land next to a forest.

Our planet faces the interconnected crises of rapid climate change and biodiversity loss. We have years, not decades, to address these existential threats.

Global Insights Newsletter

We explore the top sustainability issues and their solutions—in a 5-minute read or less.

In 2023, a new word was born to describe interacting current and future risks with potentially catastrophic consequences: polycrisis.

Another word is about to enter our collective dictionaries: permacrisis. Will this be our fate, or will 2024 be a time for resolution, resilience and recovery? This is a pivotal moment for global leaders attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, where they will develop a long-term strategy to prepare for and respond to these risks.

What we do between now and 2030 will determine whether we slow warming to 1.5° Celsius while also conserving enough land and water to fix biodiversity loss. The good news is there is much that global leaders can do now to keep the polycrisis from becoming a permacrisis.

Two people walk on a trail in the direction of steep mountains with a forest at the base.

3 Things We Must Do To Save The Planet

Solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss won't come from any one sector: they'll come from governments, finance, business and civil society. We can achieve a nature-positive world by 2050 while providing affordable, secure and inclusive access to energy, food and water.

Here are three ways we need to up-end “business as usual” and act boldly to advance conservation.

1. Produce more food on less land.

Today’s version of large-scale agriculture is the biggest source of land conversion, drives deforestation that worsens climate change, uses 70% of the world’s freshwater supply and relies on fertilizer practices that pollute our waters. As the need to feed a billion more people increases, agricultural expansion could devastate habitats, release even more carbon into the atmosphere, and dry up rivers.

Transitioning to Regenerative Food Systems

Our global food system can help us achieve our climate and biodiversity goals.

How to fix it:

Produce food where it’s most likely to thrive, which will use less water and less land.

How we’re taking action right now:

We’re analyzing satellite images and local yield potential to pinpoint where soy farming and cattle ranching can expand without destroying nature. This approach is especially vital in Brazil’s Cerrado region, where half of all natural habitat has already been converted to cropland and pasture. Cooperating with farmers on sustainable practices can help save what’s left of the Cerrado’s rich savanna.

2. Increase clean energy.

Climate change is the single most serious threat facing our planet today. We must reduce carbon emissions to, or below, levels agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent catastrophic harm. And with global energy demand expected to increase 56% over the next couple decades, it will be impossible to meet those emissions targets if we stick primarily with traditional fossil fuels.

Benefits of Solar Energy on Former Mine Sites

An affordable path to repurposing former mines into clean energy hubs.

Shift 85% of the world’s energy supply to non-fossil fuel sources and invest in strategies like reforestation that capture carbon dioxide.

We’re championing regulations that allow former mining lands to be repurposed for solar and wind energy. Tens of thousands of acres of degraded mine sites in Nevada’s Great Basin are now available for renewable energy development. By targeting already-disturbed land, new turbines and solar panels won’t need to destroy more natural habitat.

There is much that global leaders can do right now to build a better future for people and the planet. Our newsletter explores potential solutions to our top challenges, all in a five-minute read or less.

Aerial view of a winding river lined with green bushes and surrounded by rocky areas.

3. Get $700 billion to finance nature.

Our economies depend on healthy, supportive natural systems. In fact, around half of the gross world product is dependent on nature. Globally, we're already spending up to $143 billion USD each year on activities that benefit nature, but we need more. A lot more. We need to spend at least $722 billion (and as much as $967 billion) USD every year, putting the nature finance gap at $579-824 billion USD.

A Finance Plan for the Planet

Here's how we get $700 billion each year to reverse the biodiversity crisis.

We need to close the funding gap—and spend at least $700 billion USD on nature every year—to reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030. Fortunately, this number is only 1% of annual gross global product, or about what the world spends on soft drinks.

Through our Nature Bonds program, we’re taking a holistic approach to leverage debt refinancing for effective, durable conservation and climate action. We work with governments to help them refinance debt and generate new funding to invest in conservation, and in climate mitigation and adaptation measures. Like in Barbados, where we worked with the government, partners from the financial and conservation sectors, and local communities to develop a set of commitments for durable conservation that is tailored to meet the country’s specific needs.

We truly do have the power to build a future in which nature and people can thrive together.

A more sustainable path is possible. But we need to rally individuals, governments, companies and communities around the world to take action with us over the next decade. When we’re at the table with leaders around the world, it gives us great strength to show how many people are with us.

Solutions with Impact

Workers clear undergrowth with machetes in shade-grown coffee crops in Guatemala.

Regenerative Food Systems

Together we can turn one of today’s biggest challenges into our greatest opportunity—a food system that goes beyond sustainable and creates positive growth for communities, economies and the planet.

In this view from under and above water, two people in wet suits harvest seaweed from the waters of Belize.

Nature Bonds Program: Unlocking Funds for Conservation and Climate Action

TNC’s Nature Bonds Program combines debt refinancing, science, planning and policy to help countries protect ecosystems and support communities.

View of several wind turbines on a West Virginia ridge.

Renewable Energy Transition

We no longer need to choose between abundant energy and a cleaner environment. A renewable energy revolution is happening across the globe.

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13 ways to save the Earth from pollution

You might use plastic water bottles, yogurt cups, and straws for just a day, but they can remain in the environment for years. And that pollution can harm habitats and the animals that live there. Cut down Earth’s trash with these tips. 

Bust the balloons

Balloons eventually fall back down to Earth … and can end up in the ocean, entangling animals or being mistaken for food. Skip the balloons at your next party, and ask friends to do the same. Make pom-pom decorations instead!

Bin for the win

Always throw trash in the can. Garbage left outside might harm wildlife and end up in the ocean. Trash that’s properly brought to a landfill is kept out of the sea.

Fish responsibly

If you go fishing, don’t leave nets or lines in the water. Animals can become entangled in the trash.

Scientists estimate that about half the world’s sea turtles accidentally eat plastic and other trash. Keep the ocean clean by never leaving toys or trash at the beach.

Dump plastic

According to one study, over eight million tons of plastic pollution end up in the ocean each year. Drink from a refillable water bottle, place your sandwich in cloth or a reusable container, and use bar soap instead of bottled.

Garbage club

Form a club in your classroom to reduce your waste at school . Monitor what’s thrown away each week, and think about ways to cut down on those items.

Trash trooper

Participate in a community cleanup . The groups that host the events sometimes weigh the collected trash, which helps leaders make decisions about laws that encourage people to waste less.

Recycle right

People in the United States recycle only about 35 percent of their waste, so recycle what you can. Ask for help to create a paper and plastic recycling program in your classroom.

Business talk

Does your favorite ice-cream shop use plastic spoons? Ask an adult to help you talk to the owner about switching to a non-plastic option. Some kinds of spoons are even edible!

Do-good goodie bag

Don’t fill your birthday goodie bags with plastic yo-yos and other trinkets for your friends. Instead, give them homemade treats or coupons to a local bakery.

Straw sense

Experts estimate that Americans use about 500 million plastic straws a day, and they’re one of the top 10 trash items found during ocean cleanups. If you must use a straw, find a reusable metal straw or a paper version or make your own.

Pest Friends

Ask your parents to buy food and clothes that are made without pesticides—chemicals sprayed on crops to kill bad bugs. The problem? Pesticides also can kill critters like bees that are eco-friendly.

Stuffed with stuff

Items shipped to your home often come wrapped in plastic packaging; toys bought at the store are covered in it. Think about what can be bought secondhand, what can be shared, and what doesn’t need to be purchased at all.

explore more

Learn about plastic and how to reduce your use., save the earth, save the earth tips, endangered species act.

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E&C

28 Causes, Effects & Solutions For Ecological Problems

“ You can’t start with imbalance and end with peace, be that in your own body, in an ecosystem or between a government and its people. What we need to strive for is not perfection, but balance.”

Ani DiFranco, Musician

What Is Ecology?

Ecology can be defined as a branch of biology that examines the interaction of organisms and their natural biophysical environment.

This biophysical environment can be either biotic or abiotic.

The field of ecology includes life processes, adaptions, interactions as well as the movement of energy and materials through living communities.

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Ecology is quite important for explaining and also for the mitigation of many environmental problems.

In the following, several kinds of questions regarding ecology are answered.

Moreover, the causes, effects and solutions for ecological problems are examined.

Audio Lesson

Biotic and abiotic factors.

While biotic factors are living organisms, abiotic factors are non-living factors of an ecosystem.

Examples for biotic factors include animals, birds and plants.

Abiotic factors include air, soil or the sunlight.

What are the different Types of Ecology?

Molecular ecology, ecosystem ecology, organismal ecology, landscape ecology, community ecology, population ecology, global ecology.

Molecular ecology can be defined as an area of evolutionary biology which examines the dynamics of ecology on a molecular level.

Molecular ecology tries to answer several genetic-based questions regarding ecological evolution.

Ecosystem ecology can be regarded as a field of study related to biotic and abiotic components and their interactions within an ecosystem framework.

This field of ecological study examines how ecosystems and their different components work and interact.

Organismal ecology tries to study how individual organisms interact and respond to changing environmental factors and environmental challenges.

Landscape ecology studies the relationships between particular ecosystems and ecological processes in the environment.

Key topics of landscape ecology include land use and land cover change and ecological flows in landscape mosaics.

Community ecology examines the interaction of two or more populations living in the same geographical area.

It also examines how interactions of living organisms can change the community structure over time.

The field of population ecology examines the genetic variety and size of a population and factors that can change the population characteristics.

Global ecology can be regarded as the most high-level type of ecology.

It examines the interaction of the planet’s atmosphere, ecosystems, land, air and oceans.

the ways of solution ecological problems

What is the Difference between Ecology and Environment?

While ecology is focused on the interactions of organisms with their surroundings and with each other, environment can be regarded as a broader term.

Environment can thus be seen as a dwelling place for organisms while ecology is more community-based and focuses on the relationships and interactions of populations.

What is the Ecological Footprint?

The ecological footprint measures the human impact on our planet’s ecosystem.

It is an indicator of the dependence of humans on natural resources.

The ecological footprint is quite an important measure for the sustainability assessment of human behavior.

By using the ecological footprint, we can determine how sustainable human behavior is for our planet and in which directions we have to adjust our behavior in order to become more sustainable to ensure the future of humanity.

What is the Ecology Pyramid?

The ecological pyramid describes biomass productivity in a given ecosystem at each trophic level.

In the ecological pyramid, primary producers like plants are located at the bottom of the pyramid, while predators are at the top of the pyramid.

The ecology pyramid starts when primary producers get energy from the sun.

Part of this energy is then transferred as biomass to the next trophic level.

It is estimated that in healthy ecosystems, around 10% of the energy is transferred to the next trophic level.

What are the Stages of Ecological Succession?

Primary succession, secondary succession, intermediate stages of succession, climax communities.

Primary succession describes the stage in the ecological succession where organisms colonize an area that has previously hit by a natural disaster that wiped out all life in this area.

In such areas, the first organisms which colonize the land usually are fungi and algae, followed by simple plants like mosses.

Eventually, as time goes by, a layer of soil is formed which can be used by advanced plant species since there now a space to locate roots and extract nutrients out of the soil.

In the next step, animals, birds and insects usually colonize these areas as there is now enough food supply through plants.

In contrast to primary succession, secondary succession does not refer to an initial state where all life had been wiped out, it rather describes the changes and evolvement of populations over time in specific areas.

Secondary succession occurs every day and can be regarded as gradual movement to the climax community state.

In the ecological evolution process, there are many intermediate states of succession.

Depending on the ecological system, the transition from primary succession to climax communities can be quite short or also can take a quite long time, depending on the circumstances and sources of disturbance.

Climax communities can be regarded as the final step of succession.

In this state, the ecosystem usually remains quite stable and unchanged.

The biggest threat to climax communities usually are natural disasters like wildfires or other events that have a huge ecological impact.

the ways of solution ecological problems

Why is Ecology important?

Ecology raises the awareness of people, new research insights, protection of species, human survival, environmental conservation, avoid the spread of diseases, protection of our climate, predicting the future, efficient resource distribution.

The science of ecology is important since it raises the awareness of people on our ecological problems and how to solve them.

Through understanding the relationships between organisms which can often be quite complex, it is easier to find effective measures in order to mitigate certain problems.

Ecology often also comes up with new research insights which in turn can be used to improve policy decisions and to mitigate certain ecological problems.

With the help of ecological insights, it can be determined which species are at risk to become endangered or extinct and suitable measures regarding the protection of these species can be taken.

Since our ecological systems are quite complex and interdependent, the survival of the human species depends heavily on the understanding of ecology and how the different organisms on our planet work together.

A big environmental problem is the destruction of habitats of many animals and plants due to mining, deforestation or other actions caused by human interventions.

Ecology can determine what level of human intervention can be tolerated and how much interaction is “too much”.

With the help of ecology, we can also examine how diseases are spread and under which ecological conditions the likelihood of the spread of diseases increases.

Therefore, whenever such conditions appear, people can be warned and made aware to take protective measures.

Since ecology examines the interactions of different organisms, it can also study how climate change affects ecosystems.

Thus, ecology can help to understand the adverse effects of global warming and can also give indications on how to mitigate the climate change issue.

Since there is plenty of data on ecological processes in the past, researchers can try to predict future ecological development.

Therefore, they may be able to spot potential dangers to humanity in time so that we are able to fight those dangers efficiently.

Ecology can also help to answer questions regarding the optimal resource distribution and allocation.

In many regions worldwide, there may be a lack of resources that prevents local development.

Therefore, supplying natural resources to these countries may support them in reaching their development goals.

the ways of solution ecological problems

Causes for Ecological Problems

Earthquakes, heavy rainfalls and floods, destruction of natural habitats, illegal dumping, emission of greenhouse gases, excessive consumption, excessive waste.

Draughts can lead to serious ecological problems since they can change the dynamics of an ecological system.

For example, draughts can lead to the death of many animals and plants which in turn affects several other organisms.

This can lead to a point where the ecological balance is lost and new equilibrium states can occur.

Earthquakes can also wipe out animals and plant species on a large scale and therefore change the affected ecological systems in an adverse manner.

Moreover, earthquakes can also lead to the spread of diseases due to unhygienic conditions and therefore may further alter the ecological systems.

Tornadoes can lead to a temporary change in the structure of an ecological system.

Tornadoes may destroy buildings and also may lead to the destruction of forests.

This forest destruction in turn hurts many animals which now have to relocate to new habitats.

In turn, this could lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem and may hurt biodiversity.

Rainfalls and floods can also hurt ecosystems since many animals and plants are likely to drown.

Moreover, a mass of dead animals can also lead to a spread of diseases or even to a spread of epidemics or pandemics.

Due to our increasing world population and our rising consumption levels, we have to extract an increasing amount of resources out of the ground.

However, the extraction process through mining can hurt ecological systems since mining often involves soil pollution and also destroys natural habitats of animals which then have to find new habitats to relocate in order to survive.

Human interventions lead to the destruction of many habitats worldwide.

This is especially true when it comes to deforestation.

Large areas of forest are cut down on a daily basis.

In the Amazon Rainforest, it is quite common to intentionally burn down forests in order to get more space for farming purposes.

However, this behavior is quite harmful to local ecosystems since it destroys the habitat of a huge variety of species.

Illegal dumping is a big problem for ecosystems, especially in poor developing countries.

Industries often dump their trash into nearby rivers and lakes, which leads to several kinds of pollution and therefore hurts many animals and plants which are living in those ecosystems.

Littering can also be a serious problem for our ecosystems.

A prominent example of littering is the disposal of used cigarettes into nature.

Many wildfires are started each year due to incorrect disposal of cigarettes in forests.

In these cases, the effects of littering on the respective ecosystems are dramatic.

The emission of greenhouse gases can have severe adverse effects on ecological systems since greenhouse gases contribute to global warming .

Global warming in turn leads to several kinds of ecological problems and many animals and plants will lose their natural habitats due to the effects of climate change.

Our consumption levels skyrocketed during the last decades since our average income increased and the prices for goods dropped compared to our wealth levels.

Therefore, people consume large amounts of material things.

However, this consumption behavior has severe adverse effects on our ecosystems, since it implies issues like resource depletion and all kinds of pollution.

The production of excessive waste is another serious ecological problem.

Since our consumption levels are quite high, this also implies large amounts of waste produced each day.

We have to get rid of this waste somehow.

This is often done through the combustion of waste.

However, in the combustion process, harmful substances are emitted into the air, which in the long run can hurt many ecosystems and related animals and plants on a global scale.

the ways of solution ecological problems

Effects of Ecological Problems

Endangerment of species, loss of livelihood for many people, water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, resource depletion, global warming, biodiversity loss.

Some of our ecological problems can lead to the endangerment or even extinction of species .

Some species only occur in a few parts of our environmental system.

If these areas are destroyed due to natural disasters or due to human interventions, these species will be lost forever.

Through ecological problems like greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting effects of global warming, many people will lose their livelihood.

This may be due to the fact that global warming will exacerbate the problem of water scarcity.

Thus, many farmers will no longer be able to tilt their fields or to raise cattle since they will simply not have enough water for these purposes.

Moreover, many islands will be flooded due to a rise in sea levels.

This will also destroy the livelihood of many people and will also lead to migration movements of the affected people.

Due to illegal dumping, significant levels of water pollution can occur.

For example, in many developing countries, industrial waste is often just disposed of into nearby lakes or rivers, which leads to significant water pollution .

Significant amounts of air pollution can occur due to industrial manufacturing processes and also due to the daily use of motor vehicles.

Air pollution contributes to the global warming issue and may also hurt ecological systems since animals are usually quite sensitive to their natural living conditions.

If there is too much air pollution, animal populations may decline due to diseases related to air pollution .

Due to natural causes like earthquakes or also through human intervention, the soil in many ecosystems can become polluted which hurts the local flora and fauna and can lead to further ecological problems since ecosystems are quite complex and interactional.

Man-made ecological problems can also lead to the depletion of natural resources .

Due to the growing world population, also the demand for material goods increases. These goods have to be constructed out of natural resources.

However, many of these natural resources like metal are non-renewable and may become depleted in the future if we do not reduce our consumption levels.

Ecological problems like the emission of harmful greenhouse gases contribute to the global warming issue.

Global warming in turn will lead to a massive decline in biodiversity and will also hurt many people who will have to migrate in order to find a new home.

Biodiversity loss may be caused by many ecological problems, either by natural causes like earthquakes or also through human interventions in ecological systems.

In the last decades, we have already lost a significant amount of species.

The problem of biodiversity loss is likely to increase in the future due to many ecological problems our planet currently faces.

the ways of solution ecological problems

Solutions for Ecological Problems

Conservation areas, restore ecological systems, government regulations, high fines for littering and illegal dumping, stop deforestation, reduce consumption, reduce waste, reuse and recycle.

One measure to protect our ecological systems is to install conservation areas where animals and plant populations can recover and live in peace with nature and are safe from harmful human interventions.

Conservation areas may therefore help to reestablish the balance of ecosystems.

Many ecological systems had been suffering from human interventions in the past.

These ecosystems should be restored in order to preserve endangered species and to give them a habitat where they can restore their populations.

There should be quite strict government regulations regarding the use of natural habitats for human purposes.

It should be more difficult for profit-maximizing firms to use untouched nature for their purposes which often involves significant amounts of pollution.

Governments should set a framework in which the protection of ecological systems is regarded as more important than the goal of profit maximization of firms.

Illegal dumping and littering can impose severe damage to our ecosystems.

Therefore, in order to reduce the incentive for those harmful actions, fines and control mechanisms regarding those actions should be increased significantly.

Our forests are crucial for human survival since they are storage spaces for many harmful gases and also provide plenty of oxygen.

They are also a natural habitat for a variety of animals and other organisms.

Thus, in order to mitigate a variety of ecological problems, we have to stop or at least reduce the level of deforestation .

Our consumption behavior is a big problem for our ecological systems.

We have to be aware that all goods we consume are made out of natural resources.

Excessive consumption can therefore lead to resource depletion and will also lead to the destruction of many natural habitats.

Therefore, it is crucial to reduce our consumption behavior in order to protect our ecosystems.

Large amounts of waste are produced every day.

In order to get rid of this waste, a significant fraction of it is burned which leads to all sorts of ecological problems.

Moreover, another part of the waste is dumped into landfills, where toxic chemicals may lead to massive soil pollution.

In order to mitigate the adverse effects on our ecological systems, we should try to reduce waste production whenever possible in our daily life.

Reusing and recycling material things is crucial in order to mitigate several ecological issues.

When you have old things that you do no longer use but that are still working, ask your family or friends if they need those items.

If not, at least make sure that you dispose of these items appropriately in order to enable effective recycling.

We have to educate our children about the adverse effects of human interventions on our ecological systems.

By doing so, when these children turn into grownups, they are likely to behave in an ecologically-friendly manner.

Moreover, children are often able to convince their parents which may also behave more environmentally-friendly .

Our ecological systems are quite important since they are the basis for the development of all life on earth.

Our planet currently faces many ecological problems, many of them made by human behavior.

Therefore, in order to mitigate these problems, everyone of us can contribute his or her part through easy measures in our daily life.

By doing so, we can make our contribution to mitigating ecological problems and therefore to ensure a livable future for the next generations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_pyramid

https://www.ecology.com/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/ecology

the ways of solution ecological problems

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

Wanna make a contribution to save our environment? Share it!

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Ecavo

10 Environmental Problems and Solutions in 2023

September 6, 2022

Graham Sawrey

There are so many environmental problems we face today, and they all have to be addressed. But which environmental issues demand our attention now?

We’ll discuss 10 environmental problems and solutions that we can work on now to change our collective future for the better!

10 Environmental Problems and Solutions

Want to know even more? Check out our List of Environmental Issues Examples where we discuss the 30 biggest threats earth faces today for a more in-depth understanding of environmental problems.

Here are the top 10 environmental issues that require immediate attention for the health of our planet and our own survival.

  • Climate Change
  • Water Pollution
  • Air Pollution
  • Natural Resource Depletion
  • Waste Management
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Energy Consumption
  • Environmental Degradation
  • Deforestation
  • Recycling Inefficiencies

We’ll discuss these top 10 environmental problems in detail and offer some real-world solutions to each one.

There is no magic bullet solution for the environmental issues we face. The real solution will come when individuals choose to make decisions in favor of the earth’s welfare .

When billions of us combine a lot of small actions they add up to a big impact on the earth.

1. Climate Change

A sign from a protestor saying there is no Planet B trying to fight Climate change

Climate change is a massive topic. Inside this topic are all the subtopics and environmental problems that add up to climate change.

Climate change is the term we use to refer to the changing atmospheric conditions that affect life on earth.

  • Global warming
  • The greenhouse effect
  • Increased saturation of atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • Polar ice melt
  • Rising seawater levels
  • Ozone layer depletion

These things are intertwined and many of them have the same root cause – the main one is the burning of fossil fuels.

However, along with increased carbon dioxide output from fossil fuels, there are mainly CFCs and halons though other substances also destroy ozone molecules.

These substances are found in aerosols, refrigerants (like air conditioners) and other machinery. CFCs are banned, but other ozone-destroying chemicals are still in use.

Depletion of the ozone layer allows more UVB rays to get through the atmosphere which has a warming effect in the atmosphere of the globe. This changes weather patterns and climate expectations everywhere.

Climate Change Solutions

The solutions to climate change involve viewing the world differently than we currently do as a global culture.

We view the world as something to use. We want to get as much as we can while it’s available. This is causing us to use things we don’t need, create waste, and deplete our resources too fast.

Here are a few things we can do to help combat climate change.

  • Drive less often and less far. If there is an option to walk, ride a bike, carpool, or use public transportation then use those options first to help decrease your carbon footprint.
  • Reuse things instead of throwing them away. Americans seem to view recyclables as the way forward but they have limitations. They help us to reuse existing resources, but an even better choice is to choose reusable items every chance we get.
  • Aim for zero waste. Think about it before you buy. Choose to invest your money in things that will last a long time and can be reused or upcycled instead of thrown away. The world is awash in used cheap clothing, single-use plastics, and cheap appliances that are recyclable yet sit in filthy heaps.
  • Get involved. Too many people like to talk about climate change and even yell about climate change but don’t do anything to solve it. Work to increase recycling facilities in your area, educate your community about reusables, and plant native species in your town.
  • Get Renewable Energy. Renewable energy is a must. Buying an EV car isn’t enough because plugging into a fossil fuel electric grid just perpetuates the problem. Investigate your own chain of energy and opt for the cleanest energy you can afford.

Climate change is a real environmental issue and it’s full of uncertainties. One thing we know is that the decisions we make today can have a major impact on the quality of life on planet earth in the future.

2. Water Pollution

A stream with garbage in it showing Water pollution

Water pollution includes marine pollution and freshwater pollution. Let’s take a look at both.

Marine pollution is largely caused by nitrogen that washes away from inland soils and drains into the ocean water.

The excess nitrogen creates algae blooms that prevent sunlight and oxygen from penetrating into the ocean water.

This creates a hypoxic environment called a “dead zone” where fish, crustaceans, and sea mammals can’t live. Mobile marine animals leave the area. Immobile marine life dies.

This is the primary cause of our loss of coral reefs around the globe.

Marine pollution also takes the form of trash and recyclables that wash into the ocean and form massive flotillas of rubbish .

Freshwater pollution refers to the pollution of inland water like rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. We rely on these bodies of water for our drinking water, but they are quickly becoming too polluted to drink.

Freshwater pollution also happens due to nitrogen in the water , but it can also be the result of things people do.

  • Trash that ends up in the water
  • Sewer treatment plant releases (treated and untreated)
  • Dirty stormwater runoff
  • Pharmaceuticals, detergents, and other things people put in the water system
  • Heavy metals like lead and mercury

Some of these things we can’t avoid, but a lot of it is preventable.

Water Pollution Solutions

The effects of pollution could be minimized and possibly healed if we began to consciously make decisions that will protect our watershed instead of polluting it.

  • Farmers can use cover crops to fix nitrogen in the soil . It’s an investment, not an overnight fix, but it will make the biggest impact on the health of the oceans and will eventually eliminate dead zones.
  • Homeowners can use as little culinary water as possible for watering outdoor plants. Try xeriscaping to save water. Install rain barrels to collect free water to use on outdoor plants and trees.
  • Dispose of medicines, motor oil, household chemicals, and paint in the proper facilities so they stay out of the watershed.
  • Eat organic as much as you can. This isn’t fail-proof, but most organic farms rely on natural sources of nitrogen rather than synthetic nitrogen to increase crop yields.
  • Be happy with imperfect produce. There is a massive global cost to get those perfect fruits and vegetables. They’re treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers to make them lovely. Go natural to encourage farmers who want to save the planet.
  • Enjoy water sports without a motor. You can greatly reduce your own impact on inland water supplies by enjoying muscle-powered water sports that don’t introduce oils, gasoline, and exhaust particulates into the water supply.

Think about how you’re using our precious water resources. Clean water is so easy to get in developed countries that we tend to forget the watershed it comes from.

That watershed needs our protection to continue to provide us with the clean water we need to survive.

3. Air Pollution

Industrial area with smoke and air pollution

Air pollution is what we call the suspended particulates that become part of the atmospheric gases that we breathe.

We’re not running out of oxygen. The earth has plenty of oxygen. The problem is that the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing disproportionately and it’s pretty much all our fault.

There is a natural carbon dioxide cycle that we have with all of the plants on the planet. We naturally produce carbon dioxide, and they breathe it in and convert it to oxygen.

In a natural state, this would be in perfect balance.

However, when we burn fossil fuels we pump massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that can’t be offset by the plants in the world.

Furthermore, the carbon dioxide is mixed with a slurry of carcinogens and toxins like methane, formaldehyde, phosphorus, styrene, and more.

Curious to see the full list? The EPA has a list of 188 air pollutants . Nobody benefits from breathing in these compounds.

Air pollution affects everything – us, plants, animals, all water on the planet, and marine fish and mammals.

Air pollution causes and effects have to be clearly understood to really grasp the solutions that we have to implement to clear the air.

Air Pollution Solutions

The biggest solution we can implement is the switch to clean alternative energy sources because fossil fuels are the biggest polluters on the planet.

However, we have to be clear that there isn’t a totally clean energy solution .

  • Solar panels are made with coal and require toxic waste disposal when they’re decommissioned.
  • Wind turbines have some recyclable parts but the huge fiberglass parts end up in landfills. One of the pros of wind energy is that wind turbines produce zero-cost electricity for about 10 years.
  • Nuclear energy pros and cons are hotly debated. It’s a dependable and safe energy source that produces zero carbon emissions . However, uranium mining and disposal cause major environmental hazards.
  • One of the advantages of biomass electricity that it creates fewer carbons than fossil fuels. However, biomass production is resulting in deforestation .

Having said all that, we still have to choose these alternative energy sources over straight-up fossil fuel consumption.

Fossil fuels are the dirtiest sources of energy that we have and they contribute the most to the dirty air that we suffer from around the world.

  • Limit your time on the road. Vehicle emissions are responsible for most of the dirty air that’s found in cities and communities around the world.
  • Turn off the lights and turn down the heat. Electricity usage is directly tied to fossil fuel consumption for powering the electrical grid in many areas.
  • Help plant trees. You can plant native tree species in your own town to help clean the air.
  • Contribute to rainforest reforestation projects that aim to help strengthen the world’s clean air and biodiversity.
  • Choose reusable items and avoid using plastics as much as possible. Manufacturing single-use items contribute a lot to air pollution.

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels will go the farthest in clearing the air around the world.

4. Natural Resource Depletion

A closed dam showing how we can use natural resources effectively.

The world is full of natural resources. A natural resource is anything that we can use to live or make something from.

Some natural resources examples include:

  • Fossil fuels

The world is full of natural resources that we use to enable life as we know it. Natural resources feed us, give us electricity, wire our laptops, and keep us hydrated.

The problem is not all natural resources are renewable . Coal, natural gas, uranium, gold, and even salt are natural resources we depend on but once they’re used up we have no more.

This is why we have to focus on stewarding our renewable natural resources.

  • Keeping our water clean
  • Collecting sunlight for energy
  • Ensuring that fisheries are not over-harvested
  • Keeping soil as clean as possible – avoiding the use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers
  • Managing timber stands wisely so that we aren’t using more trees than we can replenish in several decades.

When we overuse our natural resources we get a short-term payoff but a long-term loss.

For example, establishing reservoirs in the southwest was a good idea 90 years ago. It allowed the development of desert areas.

However, as communities expand across arid areas under the assumption that established water sources will be reliable, the water sources are being used faster than they can naturally replenish.

Natural Resource Depletion Solutions

One of the main natural resources that we’re depleting is fossil fuel. It is not only going away, but it’s also ruining our planet as we use it for fuel and energy.

Switching to cleaner energy sources is a non-negotiable for solving our climate crisis, but we also have to focus on decreasing our need for energy .

Here are some good ways to decrease your own energy demand so we use fewer natural resources to produce electricity.

  • Use less air conditioning in the summer. Willingness to be a little warm will go a long way toward decreasing your contribution to air pollution.
  • Use less heat in the winter. Wear a sweater and some slippers instead of cranking up the heat.
  • Get up and go to bed with the sun. This is harder in the winter, but by adjusting your waking and sleeping schedule to be more in tune with the sun you’ll feel better and use less electricity in the morning and at night.
  • Help to plant trees. Again, replenishing the world’s forests help ensure that our air is healthy and that we have timber stands ready to harvest in the future.
  • Waste less food. This doesn’t mean cleaning your plate. This means putting less on it in the first place. Food waste begins at the store and it can end there too.
  • Eat whole foods. Whole, natural foods don’t require processing. This means that there isn’t a ton of electricity and fossil fuels going into the production of what you eat. Whole foods are better for the environment and better for your body.
  • Refill your water bottle. The majority of single-use plastics that are wandering around in the environment are plastic water bottles. Get a sturdy reusable bottle and refill it. You can keep thousands of water bottles out of the waste stream in your lifetime.

By focusing on sustainability we can help to reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources and help to conserve the resources that we have so they last longer.

5. Waste Management

A woman sorting her recyclables and garbage so she can help avoid causing environmental problems

Waste management has come a long way in the last decade, but it has a long way to go in certain areas of the United States.

According to the EPA, the total waste production in the United States averages out to 4.9 pounds per person per day . This includes all sorts of trash that is binned and collected.

  • Recyclables (plastic, paper, glass)
  • Landfill items that can’t be recycled
  • Grass clippings
  • Electronics
  • Appliances, etc.

50% of the waste stream goes into landfills .

About 32% of the waste collected in the United States gets recycled or composted .

Nearly 12% gets burned as “biomass” to generate electricity.

Around 6% of the waste is food waste that gets treated in other ways. It might be used in animal feed, turned into fertilizer, used in the creation of biochemicals, or other methods of disposal or reuse.

It’s clear that the US has made a concerted effort to deal with waste streams. The problem is that the amount of waste generated per person is growing drastically.

In 1980 each person generated about 3.66 pounds per day. In 2018 that figure had risen to 4.9 pounds per day. This is the trend that we must change.

Worldwide waste production equals about 1.63 pounds per person with the bulk of that waste being generated in highly developed countries.

Though developing countries don’t tend to generate nearly as much waste per person, they don’t have any safe waste disposal infrastructure which leads to the creation of massive open dumps .

All landfills emit tons of greenhouse gases – mostly methane and carbon dioxide. This is another major contributor to global warming.

While recycling efforts in the United States and elsewhere have produced great results, the recycling waste stream produces much more material than can be currently recycled – ending in waste.

Waste Management Solutions

Waste management must be solved worldwide, but the only thing we can affect is our own consumption and waste patterns.

If each of us becomes wiser consumers we can have a dramatic impact on the waste streams and the carbon emissions from them.

  • Waste stops at the store. We can’t impact how much production waste there is unless we stop supporting it with our money. Less demand equals less production.
  • Choose reusables. The best purchases are things that can be used hundreds of times before they’re broken or used up.
  • Choose recyclables. The recycling stream is quickly outpacing available recycling facilities, so this still isn’t the best choice, though it’s better than throwing things in the landfill.
  • Don’t buy more food than you can eat. Some areas have food composting programs, but when food is thrown away it also releases greenhouse gases. Don’t fill your garbage can with food. Reduce your waste and compost food waste if you can. That will also help increase soil health.
  • Lobby for recycling. There are billions of dollars being spent on United States “infrastructure.” Citizens need to raise awareness of the need for more and bigger recycling centers so the United States can process its own rubbish.
  • Lobby for action. Certain landfills are known as “super emitters.” If local authorities and national politicians will focus on cleaning up the emissions from these sites it will make a huge difference.

In the case of waste streams, part of the responsibility lies with municipal governments to handle waste more cleanly.

The other part of the responsibility lies with the citizens. We are the ones generating the waste. We can all do our part to cut down on our own waste as much as possible.

6. Urban Sprawl

Los Angeles is a prime example of environmental problems caused by urban sprawl

Urban sprawl is the term used to describe the way that cities spread from an urban center into widening suburban neighborhoods. Dwellings go from high-density to low-density, taking up more land.

Urban sprawl is characterized by land use and natural resource consumption .

Undeveloped land that was farmland, ranchland, native plants and soil, or forest is paved over for low-density housing and new strip malls, grocery stores, and restaurant chains.

Here are key takeaways you should know about Urban Sprawl.

  • These sprawling areas greatly tax the water supply in the area because the new parks, city strips, lawns, and gardens have to be watered continuously to keep their nice appearance.
  • Urban sprawl is a major contributor to the carbon emissions from vehicles . People must commute from sprawling areas into the downtown area for work and school. This increases time on the road. In the worst cases, these vehicles idle while they’re stuck in traffic.
  • Urban sprawl creates a need for additional garbage processing resources, greenspace planning, freshwater wells, water treatment plants, waste treatment plants, power plants, substations, and more.

Many of these things aren’t bad, and urban sprawl is often the natural outflow of living in a prosperous area .

It can also be a sign that the municipal government is not keeping the urban areas clean and safe.

Regardless, it is a style of living that uses many more resources than a high-density urban lifestyle.

Some cities including the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and Los Angeles are experiencing increasing urban density as more residents refurbish downtown areas to make them desirable neighborhoods.

Urban Sprawl Solutions

There aren’t any surefire solutions to urban sprawl. The fact is that people move away from urban areas for many reasons – not all of which can be solved.

Here are a few things that local governments can do to encourage people to adopt a high-density housing lifestyle in urban areas.

  • Keep residents safe. When people and businesses don’t feel safe in an area they move. Most of the time they choose to move into a suburban or rural area that feels safer. When cities put the safety of residents first they enjoy the prosperity that a thriving urban core brings.
  • Focus on key infrastructure. Garbage services, stormwater runoff, sewage treatment, and traffic controls make a big difference in the quality of life in urban areas. When the urban areas feel dirty and congested people move out of the city.
  • Encourage community spirit. Cities that find ways to involve citizens in city life enjoy a much higher sense of community pride. This benefits everyone because people who take pride in their community work harder to keep it clean and safe.
  • Keep taxes fair. Many people choose to live outside of municipal boundaries because property taxes are much lower in unincorporated areas. Cities that cut fiscal waste can also keep property taxes lower while providing excellent city services.

Over time cities can turn urban life into a desirable living situation for many, diminishing the exodus to outlying areas and helping to curb the rapidity of urban sprawl.

7. Energy Consumption

High voltage transmission lines bring electricity to homes and businesses.

Our overall high energy consumption is the main contributor to climate change because 61% of the electricity generated in the United States is from burning fossil fuels.

So, on top of burning fossil fuels to commute from sprawling communities, we are also burning fossil fuels to charge our EV cars , keep the air conditioners running, and keep the lights on.

There is no denying the negative impact that our high energy consumption has on the planet, but we also rely on it for our highly technological way of life.

For example, let’s take a look at data centers . The world relies on data centers.

They serve all of your cloud storage, social media content, online shopping, virtual worlds, game streaming, on-demand entertainment, and remote workflows.

Right now, data centers alone consume about 2% of all the energy generated in the United States, and that number is growing as data centers pop up everywhere to handle cloud storage needs.

We can’t just stop feeding data centers because we rely on them for work, data storage, and socialization. Younger generations are more dependent on data center capacity and speed than ever before .

That’s just one example of an energy consumer that we can’t just shut down to save the planet. So we have to look at home to decrease energy consumption .

Energy Consumption Solutions

As with most solutions to our global environmental crisis, the answer begins at home.

  • Shut off the lights and opt for sunshine. Even small amounts of wattage saved add up to big savings for the planet.
  • Keep appliances clean. Did you know that vacuuming your refrigerator condenser will help it to run less often and cool more efficiently? Keep the dryer clean too so it can dry clothing faster and use less energy.
  • Accept a little discomfort. Instead of running the heat and air conditioning to keep yourself at the ideal temperature, let it fluctuate up and down to save energy.
  • Reduce energy use during peak hours. 7am to 10pm are peak energy hours for most of the country during most of the year. It’s hard to cut down on energy usage during waking hours, but if you can you’ll save a lot of energy and cut down on your bill too.
  • Invest in solar panels. Even a couple of solar panels can really help offset your energy usage. Many utility companies around the United States are taking advantage of government incentives and may be able to install your solar system for free!
  • Buy into renewable energy. Many energy companies offer programs where subscribers can buy into renewable energy projects. The electricity from renewables costs a bit more, but by buying in you allow your energy provider to buy into renewable and burn fewer fossil fuels.

There are dozens of ways we can all think of to save a little energy here and there. From riding a bike to eating fresh foods we can help decrease the amount of energy it takes to power our lives.

8. Environmental Degradation

Garbage floating in a waterway in India - a land suffering from the effects of air, soil, and water pollution.

Environmental degradation occurs when human activities change the environment for the worse.

Environmental Degradation Definition

Environmental degradation is the destruction or deterioration of the quality of natural resources and habitats including soil, water, air, and wildlife .

Degradation primarily happens through pollution, over-harvesting, and erosion.

Here are some examples of environmental degradation .

  • Strip mining
  • Urban sprawl
  • Overfishing
  • Marine pollution
  • Air pollution

Environmental degradation is inevitable because we have to use the land for food production, energy production, and dwellings, but we can do a lot to help preserve the quality of the land.

Environmental Degradation Solutions

There are a number of thing we can do to help reduce the amount of environmental degradation that happens as a result of our own needs and wants.

  • Replant native trees and plants . Much environmental degradation occurs because native plants are stripped away for development. Replanting exposed soil helps to replenish minerals, nitrogen, habitats, and stop erosion.
  • Curb energy consumption. Again we come back to energy use. The majority of the air pollution in the United States is caused by energy consumption and transportation.
  • Plan travel wisely. Instead of making lots of small trips, try to consolidate trips in the car to cut down on air pollution.
  • Invest in alternative energy. Alternative energy sources also cause soil degradation because of the raw materials that have to be mined to make them and soil disruption from placement. However, it is much less pollutive to the air than fossil fuels.
  • Eat whole foods. Responsible farming and ranching helps to replenish soils through crop rotation and the use of nitrogen-fixing cover crops. However, America’s insatiable appetite for snack foods creates a high demand for irresponsibly grown crops. Eating whole foods is much better for the earth.
  • Invest in urban revitalization. If you’re a renter it can be hard to find an urban dwelling. However, if you’re an invester, consider revitalizing downtown industrial areas for housing instead of developing low-density suburban housing.

Humans aren’t responsible for all types of environmental degradation, but we contribute a lot to it. We can also help clean up our habits and use fewer resources that result in habitat destruction.

9. Deforestation

A biomass power plant that burns chipped trees to generate electricity - causing deforestation.

Deforestation happens when trees are stripped away or burned away. It can be human-caused or the result of a natural disaster.

Sometimes humans and nature work together to create deforestation. Examples include when a hydroelectric dam bursts due to catastrophic rainfall, or a volcano like Mt. Saint Helens flattens a forest.

Human-caused deforestation is two-fold. Sometimes managed forests owned by timber companies are stripped and then replanted. This happens for lumber and to create biomass for power plants.

While habitat loss and environmental degradation are heartbreaking, the trees will regrow within a few decades. However, the animals and birds must shift from place to place to survive.

On the other hand, forest fires caused by human activity will deforest an area that may not ever recover. Habitat loss is sometimes permanent .

Deforestation Solutions

The most obvious solution to deforestation is to replant trees in areas that are logged or burned for any reason. Replanting with native species is a must.

The second solution to deforestation is to decrease the demand for paper products and lumber. Choose things that are reusable as much as possible.

The alternative to lumber is steel which creates a different problem because it requires mining and uses non-renewable resources .

However, steel can be recycled forever. One of the benefits of recycling steel is that the recycled steel is just as strong and pure as virgin steel.

So while the recycled steel industry can’t keep up with the need for new steel, as more steel is recycled for construction purposes we should see it gradually relieve some of the need for lumber.

10. Recycling Inefficiencies

Bales of recyclable paper waiting to be processed into new paper products.

The final huge environmental problem that we must solve domestically is our recycling inefficiencies.

Most Americans don’t realize that our recycling system is strained and largely broken because we don’t recycle our trash at home.

The story of US recycling is a long one that’s full of problems, even from the beginning. China used to handle the bulk of our recycling, but it is so polluted that they banned it in 2018.

Now America’s recycling waste is shipped to developing countries like Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia where it is piled waiting to be sorted and recycled into usable materials.

The problem is that anywhere from 20 to 70% of our recyclables end up in a landfill overseas or are burned. This is an outrage that has sparked a lot of discussions but it needs to be addressed at home.

Here are the reasons our recycling is not being recycled.

  • People are putting contaminated items into recycling bins. Dirty recyclables can cause an entire load of recyclables – several tons – to be dumped in a landfill.
  • People include non-recyclables in recycling bins. This wishful recycling is a major cause for discarding entire loads of recyclables. It’s too expensive to go through and sort it all back out, so it all gets put in the dump.
  • The United States isn’t processing recyclables. The United States doesn’t have a federal recycling program and has been dependent on other countries to handle our waste. Now they don’t want it, so we’re stuck with it. We have to implement a recycling program and do it ourselves to succeed.
  • Recycling is expensive. Cities used to sell their recycling as a type of raw material and make money from it. Now that global market has dried up and cities are having to pay to get rid of recyclables. That means tons of it are going into the landfill instead of being recycled.
  • There are too many types of plastic. Plastic is a particular problem because there are so many types and not all are recyclable. Even though there is a number and a recycling symbol on the bottom doesn’t mean it’s accepted for recycling.

All of this is discouraging because those of us who recycle carefully realize that in spite of us our clean, sorted recyclables might still be ending in a landfill.

Recycling Solutions

The keys to our recycling disaster are expensive, and we have to play the long game to win.

  • Education. Educate the public about what’s happening to recyclables and why. When people understand why they can’t throw grocery bags or plastic wrap in with clean water bottles they’ll stop doing it.
  • Federal Investment. The federal government needs to invest in recycling centers that can turn US recyclable waste into clean, usable materials. It’s an expensive solution but the only one that can turn the situation around long-term.
  • Business Investment. One of the major recycling benefits is that businesses can create packaging and goods with recycled materials. This will help to create a circular market for recyclables in the US economy.
  • Reduction. The US must turn away from consumerism and focus on sustainability. As long as we buy into the consumerist culture of getting as much as possible, the waste problem will continue to grow.

We can help at home by ensuring that our recyclables are clean and generating less of a need for recycling by decreasing our dependence on single-use items.

It would also be helpful to limit plastic production to only types that are safe to use and can be recycled.

The benefits of recycling clothes and textiles can’t be overstated. Engaging in this circular economy saves money, eliminates fabric waste, and turns fabric into a renewable resource!

Causes of Environmental Problems

The causes of environmental problems usually come back to excess consumption . As the human population expands we are also collectively demanding more resources per person.

Humans want to use more energy, more precious metals, more water, more food, and more luxurious items like fashionable clothing and multiple vehicles.

All of these demands can be met, but only by expending more of the earth’s natural resources. Metals and fossil fuels are non-renewable so as demand increases the price goes up and the supply goes down.

The key to so many of our major environmental problems is to decrease personal consumption.

Why are environmental problems common in developing countries?

Good question and the answer comes back to excess consumption . Many developing countries receive our excess clothing, recyclables, and used goods.

They develop a market around these used goods, but there is simply too much. It ends up in massive waste piles because many of the goods we discard are low-quality and non-recyclable.

Developing countries lack the infrastructure to deal with polluted water, overflowing landfills, and piles of unused recyclables so they stay in the environment creating health and environmental hazards.

One example is electronics recycling. While we all want to reap the benefits of recycling electronics , when they’re sent overseas for recycling the results are dangerous.

“Informal” recyclers are exposed to extremely high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens as they break down e-waste by hand to recover gold, silver, copper, and other precious metals.

Instead of exposing the poor to these hazardous materials we should be doing the recycling at home and helping to develop a clean recycling industry abroad.

Final Thoughts

We’ve discussed 10 global environmental problems, and most of them center around the demands of the economically developed world.

The problems we face on planet earth can seem overwhelming, but they aren’t. We can solve them beginning with our own buying and consumption habits .

We can become involved in clean-up efforts in our own communities. We can lobby for domestic recycling plants.

We can help educate our own community members about why recycling is important and why it’s vital to do it right.

What do you think about these environmental problems and solutions? Do you have more ideas for how we can help to solve these environmental problems? Let us know in the comments below!

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Environmental Problems & Solutions

Two environmental activists promoting awareness at an event.

Solutions for Soil Pollution

The planet faces a variety of troubling issues that stem from man-made contamination. Many of these lead to environmental problems that are causing long-term damage to the earth’s ecosystem. The Global Issues website explains that the only way to control current environmental issues is to create sustainable development strategies and continue to instill conservation methods.

Environmental Accidents

Some man-made accidents threaten wildlife and the ecosystem. Although these accidents are relatively rare because of increased safety procedures, accidents still occur, sometimes with devastating effects. Examples include oil spills, radioactive leaks, tanker spills, pipeline bursts and drilling accidents. The best solution for accidental spills and leaks is to create additional safety protocol using both computerized and human detection systems.

Water Pollution

Water pollution is a growing problem globally. According to the Thinkquest website, large industries including those that make chemicals and plastics dump a large amount of waste into the water. Human waste and rubbish also ends up in the oceans and lakes. The Clean Water Act of 1972 allows the U.S. government to enforce restrictions on those who dump trash and waste. To address the problem, individuals can improve recycling and waste disposal, and they can volunteer to clean up shorelines and nearby public locations. Businesses should develop ongoing protocols to reduce the amount of chemicals and other waste they put into the water supply.

Hazardous Waste

According to the Learner website, the mishandling of hazardous waste materials poses immediate and long-term risks to plants, animals, humans and the environment. Hazardous waste is any liquid or solid that contains carcinogenic or teratogenic compounds, including pesticides, paint strippers, solvents, paint, gasoline, bleach, ammonia, industrial cleaning agents and drain cleaners. Individuals and businesses should make sure that hazardous-waste disposal experts handle all hazardous waste, and should never dump hazardous waste with regular trash or into rivers or ditches.

Ozone Depletion

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, there are several airborne materials that can lead to ozone pollution. Ground-level ozone, particulate matter, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide are all dangerous when released into the air. These pollutants can cause human health problems and damage to plants and animals. The EPA enforces laws controlling the release of these substances into the atmosphere. Controlled air quality leads to less stress on the outer ozone layer of the planet that helps protect us from the sun.

Soil Contamination

According to the Science Daily website, man-made chemicals released into the dirt either by accident or through poor disposal techniques cause soil contamination. Rupture of underground storage tanks, acid rain, leaching of hazardous waste from a landfill, pesticides and herbicides, and discharge from industrial chemical wastes all can contaminate the soil in which farmers grow crops or graze livestock that people eventually eat. Laws against such contamination need to be stringent, and the appropriate agencies have to be tough in the enforcement of those laws to help keep soil safer for humans and animals.

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  • Global Issues: Environmental Issues
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Julie Boehlke is a seasoned copywriter and content creator based in the Great Lakes state. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Boehlke has more than 10 years of professional writing experience on topics such as health and wellness, green living, gardening, genealogy, finances, relationships, world travel, golf, outdoors and interior decorating. She has also worked in geriatrics and hospice care.

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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

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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

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What are the consequences of deforestation.

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News, views and stories from the front lines of conservation

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5 ways indigenous knowledge can solve global problems.

Too often, the voices of the world’s 370 million indigenous people are left out of global conversations on critical issues, such as climate change. This isn’t just bad news for indigenous groups; the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples could help address environmental problems that plague the entire planet.

As Conservation International’s (CI) Johnson Cerda framed it: “The knowledge of Indigenous peoples continues to provide key information to protect the resources of the Mother Earth, and to create opportunities for climate change adaptation and mitigation actions across diverse ecosystems.” Cerda is an indigenous Kichwa from the Ecuadorian Amazon who leads CI’s work with the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities , a global initiative of which CI is the executing agency

As the 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues kicks off in New York, here are five things we can learn from traditional knowledge passed down through time.

1. Restoring Hawai‘i’s native fish ponds

Right now, 63% of Hawai‘i’s seafood is imported — a surprising stat for an island chain in the middle of the Pacific. But those waters are far from pristine; pollution runoff, overfishing and coral reef degradation all mean that many seafood specials are flown in from thousands of miles away.

To address this, some native Hawaiians have turned to Hanai i’a, the practice of raising fish in loko i’a, the fish ponds built on the coasts by their ancestors. These fish ponds once provided millions of pounds of seafood to local communities, simultaneously restocking surrounding reefs with fish when pond managers release stock into the wild. Given their location in coastal zones, resurrecting a single fish pond requires completing a complex permitting procedure — so Conservation International (CI) is helping streamline the process.

By rekindling time-tested hunting, fishing, farming and gathering traditions, communities in Hawai‘i and worldwide can become more self-sufficient — and often reduce their environmental footprints while doing so.

2. Establishing a conservation corridor that protects more than trees

Don’t let its small size fool you — Suriname is a conservation giant. In addition to retaining over 94% of its original rainforest cover (the highest in the world), in 2015 indigenous communities there declared an indigenous Southern Suriname Conservation Corridor (SSCC) covering 7.2 million hectares (17.8 million acres). While current law doesn’t allow for indigenous management, CI is working closely with the government and indigenous communities to allow community-owned conservation areas like the SSCC to be incorporated into the country’s official protected areas.

Besides protecting nearly all of Suriname’s watersheds and an array of Amazonian species, the SSCC provides economic benefits to the 3,000 Trio and Wayana indigenous peoples inhabiting it through ranger and monitoring jobs supported by CI and partners. Suriname’s indigenous peoples have set remarkable precedents in the country: Not only have they declared the corridor and designated their land for conservation, the government has formally recognized their declaration. In doing so, the people of Suriname are preserving the tropical forests vital for storing carbon and combating climate change.

3. Looking to indigenous leaders to guide the way

Adapting to climate change looks different depending on where you are — and for any community to do it successfully, local customs and traditional knowledge must be taken into account. Through CI’s Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship program , indigenous leaders have the opportunity and funding to explore climate change solutions using traditional knowledge, science and partnership with local institutions. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a former CI fellow who recently spoke at the signing of the Paris Agreement, used the fellowship as a launching pad for her work to raise awareness about the shrinking of Lake Chad and the negative effects that is having on the Mbororo people, who rely on the lake for water during the dry season.

With no large-scale activities around the lake that would account for the water loss — no dams, industry or large irrigation systems for agriculture — Ibrahim felt confident climate change was responsible and used her fellowship to explore ways indigenous knowledge could help her community adapt to it.

In a recent interview, she expounded on her findings: “One way we are adapting is through weather-casting: using ecological observations to help us move from place to place. By observing environmental changes — from the liquid inside certain types of fruit, to the flowers, to the position of the stars — we can predict the strength of the next rainy season and can be more prepared. For example, if certain birds make their nests in branches near the water, you know that the next year will not have heavy rains. If they build the nests in the tops of the trees, then you know that the whole area will be inundated.”

4. Fighting forest fires with time-tested methods

In the far north of Australia where wildfires are a constant threat, the government is recognizing the value of the land management practices of Aboriginal communities — including setting controlled early-season fires to prevent the build-up of dense ground vegetation . Through a combination of government-accredited funding and offset payments from corporations, northern Aboriginal communities are gaining economic opportunities and reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by fires — all by introducing early-burning techniques based on traditional knowledge. As one Balangarra woman explained , it’s not just Australia’s savannas that are benefiting: the government funding provides a much-needed source of income for local communities. In addition, the fire management program “spreads elders’ knowledge about early-season burning to young people, who have grown up without such intimate understanding of their ancestral country.”

5. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground

Do current data- and politics-based arguments for reducing global dependence on fossil fuels and turning to non-petroleum alternatives fail to resonate with you? For Patricia Gualinga, an indigenous Kichwa woman from the Sarayaku community in the Ecuadorean Amazon, they do: “Our people believe that petroleum is the blood of our ancestors deep in the Earth, and the Earth is our mother. So you are taking the blood from the mother and you are creating a total imbalance. Petroleum is powerful, but when it’s outside of the ground, it produces a lot of ambition, a lot of contamination, a lot of death.”

Organizations including CI seek to enable communities and countries to account for the long-term value of nature — including keeping resources in the ground despite their immediate extractive value. Gualinga makes the case for integrating other types of values into natural resource management — ones that go well beyond money.

Sophie Bertazzo is a staff writer for Conservation International.

Further reading

  • Murders of environmental activists reflects chronic clashes over resource use
  • Halt in construction of Brazilian dam sign of progress on indigenous rights

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Problems and solutions: an ecological view

  • Published: 18 April 2020
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A problem is a difference between what a person has and wants. A solution is anything that reduces the difference. These two simple definitions form the foundation of an ecological perspective on the often-complex, reciprocal relationships among people, their environments and their behaviours—a perspective that mixes causal ideas from psychology with consequential ideas from economics. The present article offers a brief introduction to this perspective and suggests how it might be instantiated by naturalistic observations and content analyses of narratives.

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15 Biggest Environmental Problems of 2024

15 Biggest Environmental Problems of 2024

While the climate crisis has many factors that play a role in the exacerbation of the environment, some warrant more attention than others. Here are some of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime, from deforestation and biodiversity loss to food waste and fast fashion.

1. Global Warming From Fossil Fuels

2023 was the hottest year on record , with global average temperatures at 1.46C above pre-industrial levels and 0.13C higher than the eleven-month average for 2016, currently the warmest calendar year on record. The year was marked by six record-breaking months and two record-breaking seasons.

What’s more, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have never been so high . After being consistently around 280 parts per million (ppm) for almost 6,000 years of human civilisation, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are now well above 420 ppm, more than double what they were before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Rick Spinrad, the steady annual increase is a “direct result of human activity,” mainly from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation but also from cement manufacturing, deforestation , and  agriculture .

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime: as greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat, leading to global warming.

Monthly mean carbon dioxide CO2 measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Image: Global Monitoring Laboratory

Monthly mean carbon dioxide (CO2) measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Image: Global Monitoring Laboratory

Increased emissions of greenhouse gases have led to a rapid and steady increase in global temperatures, which in turn is  causing catastrophic events all over the world – from Australia and the US experiencing some of the most devastating bushfire seasons ever recorded, locusts swarming across parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, decimating crops, and a heatwave in Antarctica that saw temperatures rise above 20C for the first time. S cientists are constantly warning that the planet has crossed a series of tipping points that could have catastrophic consequences, such as  advancing permafrost melt in Arctic regions, the Greenland ice sheet melting at an unprecedented rate, accelerating sixth mass extinction , and increasing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest , just to name a few.

The climate crisis is causing tropical storms and other weather events such as hurricanes, heatwaves and flooding to be more intense and frequent than seen before. However, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted immediately, global temperatures would continue to rise in the coming years. That is why it is absolutely imperative that we start now to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy sources, and phase our fossil fuels as fast as possible.

You might also like: The Tipping Points of Climate Change: How Will Our World Change?

2. Poor Governance

According to economists like Nicholas Stern, the climate crisis is a result of multiple market failures .

Economists and environmentalists have urged policymakers for years to increase the price of activities that emit greenhouse gases (one of our biggest environmental problems), the lack of which constitutes the largest market failure, for example through carbon taxes, which will stimulate innovations in low-carbon technologies.

To cut emissions quickly and effectively enough, governments must not only massively increase funding for green innovation to bring down the costs of low-carbon energy sources, but they also need to adopt a range of other policies that address each of the other market failures. 

A national carbon tax is currently implemented in 27 countries around the world , including various countries in the EU, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Ukraine and Argentina. However, according to the 2019 OECD Tax Energy Use report, current tax structures are not adequately aligned with the pollution profile of energy sources. For example, the OECD suggests that carbon taxes are not harsh enough on coal production, although it has proved to be effective for the electricity industry. A carbon tax has been effectively implemented in Sweden ; the carbon tax is U$127 per tonne and has reduced emissions by 25% since 1995, while its economy has expanded 75% in the same time period. 

Further, organisations such as the United Nations are not fit to deal with the climate crisis: it was assembled to prevent another world war and is not fit for purpose. Anyway, members of the UN are not mandated to comply with any suggestions or recommendations made by the organisation. For example, the Paris Agreement , a historic deal within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), says that countries need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly so that global temperature rise is below 2C by 2100, and ideally under 1.5C. But signing on to it is voluntary, and there are no real repercussions for non-compliance. Further, the issue of equity remains a contentious issue whereby developing countries are allowed to emit more in order to develop to the point where they can develop technologies to emit less, and it allows some countries, such as China, to exploit this. 

3. Food Waste

A third of the food intended for human consumption – around 1.3 billion tons – is wasted or lost. This is enough to feed 3 billion people. Food waste and loss account for approximately one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions annually ; if it was a country, food waste would be the third-largest emitter  of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US. 

Food production accounts for around one-quarter – 26% – of global greenhouse gas emissions. Our World in Data

Food production accounts for around one-quarter – 26% – of global greenhouse gas emissions. Our World in Data

Food waste and loss occurs at different stages in developing and developed countries; in developing countries, 40% of food waste occurs at the post-harvest and processing levels, while in developed countries, 40% of food waste occurs at the retail and consumer levels. 

At the retail level, a shocking amount of food is wasted because of aesthetic reasons; in fact, in the US, more than 50% of all produce thrown away in the US is done so because it is deemed to be “too ugly” to be sold to consumers- this amounts to about 60 million tons of fruits and vegetables. This leads to food insecurity , another one of the biggest environmental problems on the list. 

You might also like: How Does Food Waste Affect the Environment?

4. Biodiversity Loss

The past 50 years have seen a rapid growth of human consumption, population, global trade and urbanisation, resulting in humanity using more of the Earth’s resources than it can replenish naturally. 

A 2020 WWF report found that the population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians have experienced a decline of an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. The report attributes this biodiversity loss to a variety of factors, but mainly land-use change, particularly the conversion of habitats, like forests, grasslands and mangroves, into agricultural systems. Animals such as pangolins, sharks and seahorses are significantly affected by the illegal wildlife trade, and pangolins are critically endangered because of it. 

More broadly, a recent analysis has found that the sixth mass extinction of wildlife on Earth is accelerating. More than 500 species of land animals are on the brink of extinction and are likely to be lost within 20 years; the same number were lost over the whole of the last century. The scientists say that without the human destruction of nature, this rate of loss would have taken thousands of years. 

In Antarctica, climate change-triggered melting of sea ice is taking a heavy toll on emperor penguins and could wipe out entire populations by as early as 2100 , according to 2023 research.

You might also like: The Remarkable Benefits of Biodiversity

5. Plastic Pollution

In 1950, the world produced more than 2 million tons of plastic per year . By 2015, this annual production swelled to 419 million tons and exacerbating plastic waste in the environment. 

plastic packaging waste; plastic pollution; beverage single-use plastic bottles in landfill. Photo: PxHere

The world generates 300 million tonnes of plastic waste on average each year.

A report by science journal, Nature, determined that currently, roughly 14 million tons of plastic make their way into the oceans every year, harming wildlife habitats and the animals that live in them. The research found that if no action is taken, the plastic crisis will grow to 29 million metric tons per year by 2040. If we include microplastics into this, the cumulative amount of plastic in the ocean could reach 600 million tons by 2040.

Shockingly, National Geographic found that 91% of all plastic that has ever been made is not recycled, representing not only one of the biggest environmental problems of our lifetime, but another massive market failure. Considering that plastic takes 400 years to decompose, it will be many generations until it ceases to exist. There’s no telling what the irreversible effects of plastic pollution will have on the environment in the long run. 

You might also like: 8 Shocking Plastic Pollution Statistics to Know About

6. Deforestation

Every hour, forests the size of 300 football fields are cut down. By the year 2030, the planet might have only 10% of its forests; if deforestation isn’t stopped, they could all be gone in less than 100 years. 

The three countries experiencing the highest levels of deforestation are Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest – spanning 6.9 million square kilometres (2.72 million square miles) and covering around 40% of the South American continent – is also one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems and is home to about three million species of plants and animals . Despite efforts to protect forest land, legal deforestation is still rampant, and about one-third of global tropical deforestation occurs in Brazil’s Amazon forest, amounting to 1.5 million hectares each year . 

deforestation

The world has been chopping down 10 million hectares of trees every year to make space to grow crops and livestock, and to produce materials such as paper.

Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, another one of the biggest environmental problems appearing on this list. Land is cleared to raise livestock or to plant other crops that are sold, such as sugar cane and palm oil . Besides for carbon sequestration, forests help to prevent soil erosion, because the tree roots bind the soil and prevent it from washing away, which also prevents landslides. 

You might also like: 10 Deforestation Facts You Should Know About

7. Air Pollution 

One of the biggest environmental problems today is outdoor air pollution .

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide every year and that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. In Africa, 258,000 people died as a result of outdoor air pollution in 2017, up from 164,000 in 1990, according to UNICEF . Causes of air pollution mostly comes from industrial sources and motor vehicles, as well as emissions from burning biomass and poor air quality due to dust storms. 

According to a 2023 study, air pollution in South Asia – one of the most polluted areas in the world – cuts life expectancy by about 5 years . The study blames a series of factors, including a lack of adequate infrastructure and funding for the high levels of pollution in some countries. Most countries in Asia and Africa, which together contribute about 92.7% of life years lost globally due to air pollution, lack key air quality standards needed to develop adequate policies. Moreover, just 6.8% and 3.7% of governments in the two continents, respectively, provide their citizens with fully open-air quality data.

In Europe, a recent report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) showed that more than half a million people living in the European Union died from health issues directly linked to toxic pollutants exposure in 2021.

More on the topic: Less Than 1% of Global Land Area Has Safe Air Pollution Levels: Study

8. Melting Ice Caps and Sea Level Rise

The climate crisis is warming the Arctic more than twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet. Today, sea levels are rising more than twice as quickly as they did for most of the 20th century as a result of increasing temperatures on Earth. Seas are now rising an average of 3.2 mm per year globally and they will continue to grow up to about 0.7 metres by the end of this century. In the Arctic, the Greenland Ice Sheet poses the greatest risk for sea levels because melting land ice is the main cause of rising sea levels.

Representing arguably the biggest of the environmental problems, this is made all the more concerning considering that last year’s summer triggered the loss of 60 billion tons of ice from Greenland, enough to raise global sea levels by 2.2mm in just two months . According to satellite data, the Greenland ice sheet lost a record amount of ice in 2019: an average of a million tons per minute throughout the year, one of the biggest environmental problems that has cascading effects. If the entire Greenland ice sheet melts, sea level would rise by six metres .

Meanwhile, the Antarctic continent contributes about 1 millimetre per year to sea level rise, which is one-third of the annual global increase. According to 2023 data, the continent has lost approximately 7.5 trillion tons of ice since 1997 . Additionally, the last fully intact ice shelf in Canada in the Arctic recently collapsed, having lost about 80 square kilometres – or 40% – of its area over a two-day period in late July, according to the Canadian Ice Service .  

Over 100,000 images taken from space allowed scientists to create a comprehensive record of the state of Antarctica’s ice shelves. Credit: 66 North/Unsplash

Antarctica has lost approximately 7.5 trillion tons of ice since 1997

Sea level rise will have a devastating impact on those living in coastal regions: according to research and advocacy group Climate Central, sea level rise this century could flood coastal areas that are now home to 340 million to 480 million people , forcing them to migrate to safer areas and contributing to overpopulation and strain of resources in the areas they migrate to. Bangkok (Thailand), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Manila (Philippines), and Dubai (United Arab Emirates) are among the cities most at risk of sea level rise and flooding.

You might also like: Two-Thirds of World’s Glaciers Set to Disappear by 2100 Under Current Global Warming Scenario

9. Ocean Acidification

Global temperature rise has not only affected the surface, but it is the main cause of ocean acidification . Our oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide that is released into the Earth’s atmosphere. As higher concentrations of carbon emissions are released thanks to human activities such as burning fossil fuels as well as effects of global climate change such as increased rates of wildfires, so do the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed back into the sea. 

The smallest change in the pH scale can have a significant impact on the acidity of the ocean. Ocean acidification has devastating impacts on marine ecosystems and species, its food webs, and provoke irreversible changes in habitat quality . Once pH levels reach too low, marine organisms such as oysters, their shells and skeleton could even start to dissolve. 

However, one of the biggest environmental problems from ocean acidification is coral bleaching and subsequent coral reef loss . This is a phenomenon that occurs when rising ocean temperatures disrupt the symbiotic relationship between the reefs and algae that lives within it, driving away the algae and causing coral reefs to lose their natural vibrant colours. Some scientists have estimated coral reefs are at risk of being completely wiped by 2050. Higher acidity in the ocean would obstruct coral reef systems’ ability to rebuild their exoskeletons and recover from these coral bleaching events. 

Some studies have also found that ocean acidification can be linked as one of the effects of plastic pollution in the ocean. The accumulating bacteria and microorganisms derived from plastic garbage dumped in the ocean to damage marine ecosystems and contribute towards coral bleaching.

10. Agriculture 

Studies have shown that the global food system is responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, of which 30% comes from livestock and fisheries. Crop production releases greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide through the use of fertilisers . 

60% of the world’s agricultural area is dedicated to cattle ranching , although it only makes up 24% of global meat consumption. 

Agriculture not only covers a vast amount of land, but it also consumes a vast amount of freshwater, another one of the biggest environmental problems on this list. While arable lands and grazing pastures cover one-third of Earth’s land surfaces , they consume three-quarters of the world’s limited freshwater resources.

Scientists and environmentalists have continuously warned that we need to rethink our current food system; switching to a more plant-based diet would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the conventional agriculture industry. 

You might also like: The Future of Farming: Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It?

11. Food and Water Insecurity

Rising temperatures and unsustainable farming practices have resulted in increasing water and food insecurity.

Globally, more than 68 billion tonnes of top-soil is eroded every year at a rate 100 times faster than it can naturally be replenished. Laden with biocides and fertiliser, the soil ends up in waterways where it contaminates drinking water and protected areas downstream. 

Furthermore, exposed and lifeless soil is more vulnerable to wind and water erosion due to lack of root and mycelium systems that hold it together. A key contributor to soil erosion is over-tilling: although it increases productivity in the short-term by mixing in surface nutrients (e.g. fertiliser), tilling is physically destructive to the soil’s structure and in the long-term leads to soil compaction, loss of fertility and surface crust formation that worsens topsoil erosion.

With the global population expected to reach 9 billion people by mid-century, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects that global food demand may increase by 70% by 2050 . Around the world, more than 820 million people do not get enough to eat. 

The UN secretary-general António Guterres says, “Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food security emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children.” He urged for countries to rethink their food systems and encouraged more sustainable farming practices. 

In terms of water security, only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater , and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use. As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. 

You might also like: Global Food Security: Why It Matters in 2023

12. Fast Fashion and Textile Waste

The global demand for fashion and clothing has risen at an unprecedented rate that the fashion industry now accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, becoming one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. Fashion alone produces more greenhouse gas emissions than both the aviation and shipping sectors combined , and nearly 20% of global wastewater, or around 93 billion cubic metres from textile dyeing, according to the UN Environment Programme.

What’s more, the world at least generated an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste every year and that number is expected to soar up to 134 million tonnes a year by 2030. Discarded clothing and textile waste, most of which is non-biodegradable, ends up in landfills, while microplastics from clothing materials such as polyester, nylon, polyamide, acrylic and other synthetic materials, is leeched into soil and nearby water sources. Monumental amounts of clothing textile are also dumped in less developed countries as seen with Chile’s Atacama , the driest desert in the world, where at least 39,000 tonnes of textile waste from other nations are left there to rot.

fast fashion waste

Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills.

This rapidly growing issue is only exacerbated by the ever-expanding fast fashion business model, in which companies relies on cheap and speedy production of low quality clothing to meet the latest and newest trends. While the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action sees signatory fashion and textile companies to commit to achieving net zero emission by 2050, a majority of businesses around the world have yet to address their roles in climate change.

While these are some of the biggest environmental problems plaguing our planet, there are many more that have not been mentioned, including overfishing, urban sprawl, toxic superfund sites and land use changes. While there are many facets that need to be considered in formulating a response to the crisis, they must be coordinated, practical and far-reaching enough to make enough of a difference. 

You might also like: Fast Fashion and Its Environmental Impact

13. Overfishing

Over three billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein. About 12% of the world relies upon fisheries in some form or another, with 90% of these being small-scale fishermen – think a small crew in a boat, not a ship, using small nets or even rods and reels and lures not too different from the kind you probably use . Of the 18.9 million fishermen in the world, 90% of them fall under the latter category.

Most people consume approximately twice as much food as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on earth as there were at the close of the 1960s. This is one driver of the 30% of commercially fished waters being classified as being ‘overfished’. This means that the stock of available fishing waters is being depleted faster than it can be replaced.

Overfishing comes with detrimental effects on the environment, including increased algae in the water, destruction of fishing communities, ocean littering as well as extremely high rates of biodiversity loss.

As part of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14) , the UN and FAO are working towards maintaining the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels. This, however, requires much stricter regulations of the world’s oceans than the ones already in place. In July 2022, the WTO banned fishing subsidies to reduce global overfishing in a historic deal. Indeed, subsidies for fuel, fishing gear, and building new vessels, only incentivise overfishing and represent thus a huge problem. 

You might also like: 7 Solutions to Overfishing We Need Right Now

14. Cobalt Mining

Cobalt is quickly becoming the defining example of the mineral conundrum at the heart of the renewable energy transition . As a key component of battery materials that power electric vehicles (EVs), cobalt is facing a sustained surge in demand as decarbonisation efforts progress. The  world’s largest cobalt supplier is the Democratic Republic of Congo  (DRC), where it is estimated that up to a fifth of the production is produced through artisanal miners.

Cobalt mining , however, is associated with  dangerous workers’ exploitation and other serious environmental and social issues. The environmental costs of cobalt mining activities are also substantial. Southern regions of the DRC are not only home to cobalt and copper, but also large amounts of uranium. In mining regions, scientists have made note of high radioactivity levels. In addition, mineral mining, similar to other industrial mining efforts, often produces pollution that leaches into neighbouring rivers and water sources. Dust from pulverised rock is known to cause breathing problems for local communities as well.

15. Soil Degradation

Organic matter is a crucial component of soil as it allows it to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Plants absorb CO2 from the air naturally and effectively through photosynthesis and part of this carbon is stored in the soil as  soil organic carbon (SOC). Healthy soil has a minimum of 3-6% organic matter. However, almost everywhere in the world, the content is much lower than that.

According to the United Nations, about 40% of the planet’s soil is degraded . Soil degradation refers to the loss of organic matter, changes in its structural condition and/or decline in soil fertility and it is often the result of human activities, such as traditional farming practices including the use of toxic chemicals and pollutants. If business as usual continued through 2050, experts project additional degradation of an area almost the size of South America. But there is more to it. If we do not change our reckless practices and step up to preserve soil health, food security for billions of people around the world will be irreversibly compromised, with an estimated 40% less food  expected to be produced in 20 years’ time despite the world’s population projected to reach 9.3 billion people.

Featured image by Roy Mangersnes (Earth.Org Photographer)

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  • Rachel Ehlers
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Water and Drought

Coastal resilience.

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The 2024‑25 Budget

Crafting climate, resources, and environmental budget solutions, executive summary, introduction, discussion of governor’s overall approach, zero‑emission vehicles, wildfire and forest resilience, nature‑based activities.

  • Other Recent Augmentations

Overview of This Report. In response to the multibillion‑dollar budget problem the state is facing, the Governor’s budget proposal identifies significant solutions from recent augmentations made to climate, resources, and environmental programs. This report describes the Governor’s proposals and provides the Legislature with suggestions for how it might modify the spending plan to better reflect its priorities and prepare to address a potentially larger budget problem. The report begins with a discussion of the Governor’s overall approach, including background on recent funding augmentations and the state’s budget problem; a high‑level overview of the Governor’s proposals; our overarching assessment of the proposed approach; and recommendations for how the Legislature could proceed. We then walk through the Governor’s proposed solutions in each of 11 thematic areas, including examples of alternative or additional budget solutions the Legislature could consider.

Recent Budgets Included Significant General Fund Augmentations. Combined, the 2021‑22 and 2022‑23 budget agreements included notable amounts of new spending for a wide variety of activities related to mitigating and responding to climate change, as well as for protecting and restoring natural resources and the environment. In most cases, these augmentations represented unprecedented levels of General Fund for these types of programs, many of which historically have been supported primarily with special funds or bond funds. These budget packages also included agreements to provide additional funding in future years for a six‑year total of about $39 billion (2020‑21 through 2025‑26). To help address the General Fund shortfall that began materializing last year, the 2023‑24 spending plan made a number of revisions—including reductions, delays, and fund shifts—to the thematic packages agreed to in earlier budget deals. On net, the revised budget agreement intended to maintain $36 billion from a combination of funding sources (93 percent of the original total) from 2020‑21 through 2026‑27 for these activities. (In some budget documents the administration cites higher climate spending amounts because it includes several large programs in its totals that we exclude from ours, such as related to transportation and housing.)

Governor Proposes $4.1   Billion in General Fund Solutions for 2024‑25 Budget Problem. Similar to last year, the Governor relies on three strategies to achieve additional General Fund savings from climate, resources, and environmental programs across the budget window (2022‑23 through 2024‑25)—$2 billion from spending reductions, $1.1 billion from delaying spending to a future year, and $1 billion from reducing General Fund and backfilling with a different fund source (primarily using the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, [GGRF]). The amount of multiyear savings proposed across the combined budget window and forecast period (2023‑24 through 2027‑28) is somewhat less—$3.6 billion. This is the net result of some additional out‑year reductions which are more than offset by the costs associated with the resumption of delayed expenditures.

Given State Budget Shortfall, Overall Proposed Approach Has Several Merits. The magnitude of the General Fund problem means that the Legislature faces difficult choices in developing its budget this year. Within this context, we find a number of redeeming qualities in the Governor’s proposal. Specifically, it: (1) continues to fulfill most state objectives by sustaining the vast majority of planned multiyear funding and activities; (2) focuses reductions on recent one‑time augmentations, which is less disruptive than reducing ongoing base programs; (3) does not reduce funding that has already been committed to specific projects or grantees; (4) utilizes GGRF to sustain numerous programs while also achieving General Fund savings; and (5) eliminates most unappropriated General Fund planned for the budget year and future.

Governor’s Proposal Reflects Administration’s Priorities, Maintains Significant Amount of Unspent Funds. The administration’s choices regarding which programs to preserve and which to reduce largely reflect the Governor’s priorities. Specifically, many of the proposed cuts are to programs for which the Legislature advocated during budget negotiations, rather than those that were initially proposed by the Governor. To the extent the Legislature’s priorities differ from the Governor’s, we recommend it select a different mix of programs for funding reductions. Moreover, our review of expenditure data suggests the Governor’s proposal maintains over $1 billion in uncommitted prior‑ and current‑year appropriated funds. The Legislature could reduce some of this funding and achieve General Fund savings as additions or alternatives to the Governor’s proposals, in most cases without major disruptions to specific programs or projects. However, should it wish to capture these savings, we recommend the Legislature consider taking early action ahead of the June budget deadline as in many cases departments have plans to make additional grant awards this spring.

Proposed Delays and Out‑Year Commitments Complicate Future Budget Situation. While the Governor eliminates most of the unappropriated planned General Fund, some of this funding is only temporarily reduced—$1.7 billion in General Fund expenditures are delayed to future years. While these delays provide short‑term savings and might preserve intended activities over the longer term, they also exacerbate future budget problems by increasing out‑year General Fund spending commitments. The proposal also would maintain over $900 million in General Fund spending that previous budget agreements planned for 2025‑26. Building a multiyear spending plan that incorporates this funding sets expectations for potential projects and grantees that may be hard to keep given projected out‑year budget deficits. Moreover, the Governor’s proposal includes plans to dedicate a notable share of out‑year discretionary GGRF revenues for specific purposes (primarily for spending related to zero‑emission vehicles) rather than deferring those spending decisions to future budget negotiations. The Legislature might benefit from preserving additional flexibility around how it wants to use future GGRF resources. Overall, we recommend the Legislature minimize out‑year commitments for both the General Fund and GGRF.

Recommend Legislature Identify Alternative and Additional Budget Solutions Depending on Its Priorities and the Evolving General Fund Condition. We think that generating at least the same magnitude of General Fund solutions from climate, resources, and environmental programs as the Governor will be important in solving the budget problem. Maximizing spending reductions from one‑time funds will allow the Legislature to minimize the use of other budget  tools—like   reserves—that  likely will be needed to address deficits in future years. To the degree some of the Governor’s proposed program reductions represent important efforts for the Legislature, however, it could opt to sustain that funding and instead find a like amount of savings by making alternative reductions, such as to programs with uncommitted funds. Besides alternative reductions, we recommend the Legislature also begin identifying options for potential additional budget solutions from these programs. Further reductions to this one‑time spending could prove helpful in a number of potential scenarios, such as if (1) the budget condition worsens (current LAO revenue projections suggest this is likely), (2) the Legislature wants to reject some of the Governor’s proposed General Fund budget solutions in other policy areas, (3) the Legislature wants to “make room” to fund some of its key priorities, and/or (4) the Legislature determines that some of the solutions included in the Governor’s proposal may not yield anticipated savings. While this process will be challenging, taking the time to consider potential options over the spring will better prepare the Legislature to make decisions in June when it will not have much time to gather information before the budget deadline.

In response to the multibillion‑dollar budget problem the state is facing, the Governor’s budget proposes reducing net General Fund spending by $3.6 billion across six years from climate, resources, and environmental programs. The proposal saves $4.1 billion in General Fund affecting the 2024‑25 budget from a combination of spending reductions, shifting spending to different fund sources, and delaying funding for certain programs to a future year, but over the multiyear period some of these savings are offset by the resumption of the delayed spending. This report describes the Governor’s proposals and provides the Legislature with suggestions for how it might modify the spending plan to better reflect its priorities and prepare to address a potentially larger budget problem.

The report begins with a discussion of the Governor’s overall approach, including background on recent funding augmentations and the state’s budget problem; a high‑level overview of the Governor’s proposals for climate, resources, and environmental programs; our overarching assessment of the proposed approach; and recommendations for how the Legislature could proceed.

We then walk through each of the Governor’s proposed solutions by thematic area, including examples of alternative or additional solutions the Legislature could consider. These thematic areas include:

  • Zero‑Emission Vehicles (ZEVs).
  • Water and Drought.
  • Wildfire and Forest Resilience.
  • Nature‑Based Activities.
  • Community Resilience.
  • Coastal Resilience.
  • Sustainable Agriculture.
  • Circular Economy.
  • Extreme Heat.
  • Other Recent Augmentations.

Recent Budgets Included Significant General Fund Augmentations for Climate, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection. Combined, the 2021‑22 and 2022‑23 budget agreements included notable amounts of new spending for a wide variety of activities related to mitigating and responding to climate change, as well as for protecting and restoring natural resources and the environment. These budget packages also included agreements to provide additional funding in future years for a six‑year total of about $39 billion (2020‑21 through 2025‑26). Most of this funding was grouped into thematic packages, such as for ZEVs, wildfire and forest resilience, and water and drought‑related activities. (Recent budgets also provided some additional augmentations for natural resources and environmental protection departments that we do not include in these totals. Additionally, as we describe in the box below, this amount does not include some additional non‑environmental funding that the administration sometimes includes in its “Climate Budget” totals.) The funding was spread across numerous departments and was primarily from the General Fund, but did include about $6 billion from other funds, mostly the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and Proposition 98 (dedicated school funding for kindergarten through community college, used here for zero‑emission school buses). In general, these augmentations were all for activities that were one time or limited term in nature, such as providing grants for local entities to construct infrastructure or carry out habitat restoration projects. Some of the augmentations provided funding for activities to be undertaken by state agencies, such as to secure additional electricity resources intended to ensure summer electric reliability.

Clarifying Different “Climate Budget” Spending Totals

Budget documents released by the administration cite higher totals for spending on climate programs than we discuss in this report. Specifically, the administration states that intended multiyear spending for the administration’s “California Climate Commitment” originally totaled $54 billion (as compared to our $39 billion). That document also cites higher numbers for the proposed 2024‑25 budget solutions from climate‑related programs ($6.7 billion as compared to our $4.1 billion) and the revised proposed multiyear total maintained ($48 billion compared to our $34 billion). This discrepancy stems from the administration counting several additional programs in its totals that we exclude from ours. These include multiyear spending plans related to transportation infrastructure ($13.8 billion, which includes $4.2 billion in bond funding for the high‑speed rail project), housing development ($975 million), and various research initiatives and infrastructure projects at the University of California and California State University systems ($722 million), as well as a number of programs in both the health and workforce policy areas.

Presumably, the administration includes this wider array of programs in its climate spending totals because it finds that they have some nexus to addressing or responding to climate change causes and impacts. We have two primary rationales for omitting these programs from our content in this and previous reports related to spending on climate and environmental programs.

First, while many of the programs included in the administration’s totals may have some nexus with climate change, in most cases that is not their primary focus. For example, while developing infill housing could help the state meet its climate goals by reducing driving and associated emissions, the primary goal of the Infill Infrastructure Grant, Adaptive Reuse, and State Excess Site Development programs (all of which are included in the Governor’s Climate Budget totals) is to expand the state’s housing inventory. Indeed, given how widespread climate change impacts are becoming, one might be able to draw some relation between addressing or responding to climate change and an increasingly wide array of state expenditures, meaning grouping and tracking them comprehensively would become progressively more unwieldy and impractical.

Second, to help avoid confusion, we have aligned our summaries with the way the Legislature has approached discussing and adopting its decisions. That is, the thematic “packages” and the handful of other environmental program augmentations we present in this report match the content discussed and voted on in the budget subcommittees that are directly charged with considering fiscal and policy issues related to climate change, natural resources, and environmental protection. The programs we exclude from our totals were deliberated upon in other legislative budget subcommittees and were not considered together in an overarching “legislative climate budget.”

This slight divergence in how the administration and our office summarize climate spending is not new—we each have been largely consistent in our approaches since 2022‑23. (We have adjusted our totals slightly in this report to incorporate some additional “non‑package” augmentations which the Governor is now proposing to modify, as we describe in the text.) Moreover, these distinctions do not represent a true difference in spending estimates, but rather alternative choices in how to frame the discussion of state spending for climate programs.

General Fund Augmentations Represent Significant Departure From Historical Funding Trends. In most cases, the recent augmentations represent unprecedented levels of General Fund for these types of programs, many of which historically have been supported with special funds or bond funds. This anomalous General Fund spending was enabled by the significant tax revenue surpluses the state received (and expected to receive) over the past couple of years. Figure 1 highlights these trends. The figure shows total annual funding (including both the recent one‑time augmentations as well as baseline funds) for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the departments within the California Natural Resources Agency and California Environmental Protection Agency, along with just the climate‑specific funding provided to some additional departments through the thematic packages. As shown, in the years prior to 2021‑22, spending on climate, natural resources, and environmental programs averaged around $10 billion annually, and General Fund typically made up roughly one‑third of the totals. In contrast, from 2021‑22 through 2023‑24, average annual funding levels for these departments more than doubled, with the General Fund contributing more than half of the funding. In some cases, this short‑term infusion of new funding has allowed the state to expand previous programs or initiate new activities, while in others the state is providing General Fund support to continue existing activities that previously were supported with other fund sources.

Figure 1 - General Fund Spending on Climate, Resources, and Environment Programs Surged in Recent Years

Fiscal Downturn Led to Some Reductions and Modifications to Packages in 2023‑24 Budget Agreement. To help address the General Fund shortfall that began materializing last year, the 2023‑24 spending plan made a number of revisions—including reductions and delays—to the thematic packages agreed to in earlier budget deals. Specifically, the budget included General Fund reductions to the climate funding packages totaling $8.7 billion across 2021‑22 through 2023‑24, although it backfilled about $2 billion of that amount by shifting costs to other fund sources (particularly GGRF). Because the spending plan achieved some of those General Fund savings by delaying funding to future years and also anticipated additional out‑year GGRF backfills, the planned net programmatic reduction from these packages across the multiyear period was only $2.8 billion. That is, the budget agreement intended to maintain $36 billion from a combination of funding sources (93 percent of the original total) from 2020‑21 through 2026‑27 for specified climate‑related and natural resources activities. Figure 2 displays the multiyear funding totals for each package as revised by the 2023‑24 budget agreement. The figure also includes $2.3 billion for certain other significant climate and environmental spending not adopted as part of the thematic packages, including $1 billion to implement the Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plan (CERIP), $500 million to clean up contaminated brownfield sites, and $477 million for a Climate Innovation Program.

Revised Recent and Planned Augmentations to Climate, Resources, and Environmental Programs

(In Millions) a

State Faces a Multiyear, Multibillion‑Dollar Budget Problem.   Due to a deteriorating revenue picture relative to expectations from June 2023, both our office and the administration anticipate that the state faces a significant multiyear budget problem. A budget  problem—also  called a  deficit—occurs  when funding for the current or upcoming budget is insufficient to cover the costs of currently authorized services. Estimates of the magnitude of this shortfall differ based on how “baseline” spending is  defined—the  administration estimates a $38 billion problem whereas in January our office estimated that the Governor’s budget addresses a $58 billion problem—as well as somewhat different revenue projections. Regardless of these distinctions, it is clear that the state faces the task of “solving” a substantial budget problem. Moreover, both our office and the administration estimate that, based on current revenue forecasts, the state will face significant operating deficits in subsequent fiscal years. The Governor proposes to address the 2024‑25 budget problem through a combination of strategies, including relying on reserves and reducing recent one‑time spending commitments. Given that the climate, resources, and environmental policy areas were the largest categories for recent one‑time investments, the Governor targets these programs for a notable share of these spending solutions. Under the administration’s projections, even after adopting the Governor’s proposals, the state still would face operating deficits of $37 billion in 2025‑26, $30 billion in 2026‑27, and $28 billion in 2027‑28. (We discuss the overall budget condition in our January 2024 report,  The 2024‑25 Budget: Overview of the Governor’s Budget .)  

Governor’s Proposals

Uses Three Strategies to Generate $4.1   Billion in General Fund Solutions for 2024‑25 Budget Problem. Similar to last year, the Governor relies on three strategies to achieve additional General Fund savings from climate, resources, and environmental programs: reductions, funding delays, and fund shifts. This generates approximately $4.1 billion in General Fund savings across the budget window (2022‑23 through 2024‑25)—$2 billion from spending reductions, $1.1 billion from delaying spending to a future year, and $1 billion from reducing General Fund and backfilling it with a different fund source. In some cases, the Governor proposes a combination of strategies, such as delaying spending to a future year and shifting the fund source. The amount of multiyear savings proposed across the combined budget window and forecast period (2023‑24 through 2027‑28) is somewhat less—$3.6 billion. This is the net result of some additional out‑year reductions which are more than offset by the costs associated with the resumption of delayed expenditures.

  • Reductions.  The Governor reduces $2 billion in General Fund support for selected programs across the budget window. In some of these cases, the proposal is to rescind funding that was provided in the current or prior year that departments have not yet expended. In others, the Governor proposes not providing funding in 2024‑25 that was pledged as part of a recent budget agreement. For some programs, the Governor partially reduces the intended funding levels and for others the proposal completely eliminates the funding. Besides the $2 billion in reductions affecting the 2024‑25 budget, the proposal reduces an additional $543 million from General Fund expenditures that recent budget agreements had planned for the out‑years (2025‑26 through 2027‑28).
  • Funding Delays.  The Governor proposes delaying $1.1 billion in intended General Fund for certain programs, with the intent to provide it in a future year rather than within the budget window as originally planned. This would achieve near‑term General Fund savings, but shift the associated costs to a future year. In addition to the $1.1 billion originally planned for the current or budget year, the Governor also proposes delaying $635 million in General Fund expenditures that had been planned for 2025‑26.
  • Fund Shifts.  The Governor achieves an additional $1 billion in savings affecting the budget window by reducing or eliminating the intended General Fund for a program but then backfilling it with GGRF.

Relies on GGRF to Maintain Funding for Certain Programs. Of the $2.3 billion in GGRF that the administration estimates is available for discretionary expenditures in 2024‑25, the Governor proposes using more than three‑quarters to backfill proposed General Fund reductions, including the $1 billion in fund shifts for climate and environmental programs. This includes $557 million in current‑year expenditures (primary within the ZEV package) for which the Governor is requesting that the Legislature take early action to reduce General Fund and backfill it with GGRF. (The administration has requested that administering departments pause their spending of authorized General Fund for these programs to avoid eroding these potential current‑year savings.)

The Governor also proposes delaying $600 million in planned GGRF spending for ZEV programs from 2024‑25 to 2027‑28. While this does not directly result in General Fund savings, it has the effect of freeing up additional GGRF resources in 2024‑25 which can then be redirected for alternative purposes (such as the proposed fund shifts, which do generate budget solutions). The Governor also would sustain previous plans to provide $600 million from GGRF for the ZEV package in 2025‑26 and 2026‑27. Please see our companion publication, The 2024‑25 Budget: Cap‑and‑Trade Expenditure Plan , for a more detailed discussion of the Governor’s GGRF proposals.

Vast Majority of Intended Multiyear Funding Would be Maintained. Responding to the causes and impacts of climate change presents significant challenges for California and has therefore been a clear priority of both the administration and the Legislature in recent years. Indeed, the resources and environmental policy areas received the largest proportional share of discretionary one‑time General Fund spending from recent budget surpluses. The Governor’s budget largely sustains this commitment. As shown in Figure 3 , even with the Governor’s proposed budget adjustments, the majority of the spending and activities included in recent budget agreements would continue. Specifically, the proposal would sustain $33.7 billion, or 86 percent of the total original intended amounts. Even these reduced amounts still would represent significant augmentations compared to historical levels for most of these programs. Moreover, as shown earlier in Figure   1, even with the Governor’s proposed reductions, funding levels for climate and resources‑related activities would remain at levels that are roughly comparable to those that were in place in 2019‑20, before the unprecedented increases that have occurred over the last couple of years. This can give the Legislature confidence that even at moderately reduced spending levels such as those proposed by the Governor, the state can continue to make significant progress on its climate and environmental goals. However, as shown in the figure, the proportion of funding proposed to be maintained—and therefore the relative magnitude of the activities that could continue being implemented—does vary by thematic package. For example, the Governor proposes maintaining essentially all of the total intended funding for ZEV programs, but only about half for coastal resilience activities.

Figure 3 - Governor's Proposal Would Retain Majority of Planned Multiyear Climate Funding

Given State Budget Shortfall, Overall Proposed Approach Has Several Merits. The magnitude of the General Fund problem means that the Legislature faces difficult choices in developing its budget this year. Within this context, we find a number of redeeming qualities in the Governor’s proposal. Specifically, it:

  • Continues to Fulfill Most State Objectives. As noted, even with the Governor’s proposed reductions, the vast majority of multiyear funding and activities included in recent budget agreements would be sustained.
  • Focuses Reductions on Recent One‑Time Augmentations. Pulling back one‑time expenditures is less disruptive than making reductions to ongoing base programs.
  • Does Not Reduce Funding That Has Already Been Committed to Specific Projects or Grantees. Sustaining committed funding avoids creating challenges for local grantees and project sponsors that may already have entered into contracts, attained other financing, or initiated construction.
  • Utilizes Other Available Funds to Sustain Numerous Programs. The strategy of using GGRF to backfill many General Fund reductions allows the state to both achieve savings and maintain planned activities.
  • Eliminates Most Unappropriated General Fund Planned for Budget Year and Future. Pulling back on plans to provide funding that had been scheduled for 2024‑25 or future years is among the least disruptive reductions the state can make, in that administering departments should not yet have proceeded in making grant solicitations or initiating projects.

Reducing Remaining General Fund From 2024‑25 and Out‑Years Could Be Less Disruptive Than Some Other Alternatives. While the Governor’s proposal eliminates most of the General Fund that past budget agreements had planned for but not yet provided, it leaves some in place. Specifically, the proposal would maintain about $380 million of General Fund spending planned for 2024‑25 (including $200 million for drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects and about $160 million for several energy programs). Moreover, the Governor sustains plans to provide about $930 million from the General Fund in 2025‑26 (including $500 million for water storage projects, over $300 million for energy programs, and $100 million to implement portions of CERIP). Because these funds have not yet been appropriated and departments do not have the legal authority to spend them, the Legislature should have some certainty that they have not yet been awarded or committed for specific projects. As such, avoiding appropriating this budget‑year and out‑year funding in the first place could be less disruptive for departments and other entities than retracting existing funding. Moreover, avoiding incorporating one‑time expenditures into out‑year spending plans would help address the projected future budget deficit and avoid setting spending expectations that may be hard to keep.

Proposed Delays Complicate Future Budget Situation. While the Governor eliminates most of the unappropriated General Fund planned for 2024‑25, some of this funding is only temporarily reduced. Specifically, as noted above, the Governor proposes delaying a total of $1.7 billion in General Fund expenditures to future years. (This consists of $1.1 billion affecting the 2024‑25 budget window and an additional $635 million from 2025‑26.) While these delays provide short‑term savings and might preserve intended activities over the longer term, they also exacerbate future budget problems by increasing out‑year General Fund spending commitments. Specifically, the delays result in higher planned spending of $315 million in 2025‑26, $665 million in 2026‑27, and $750 million in 2027‑28. As noted above with regard to the out‑year planned funding the Governor proposes to maintain, building a multiyear spending plan that incorporates this delayed funding sets expectations for potential projects and grantees that may be hard to keep given projected out‑year budget deficits. We estimate that state revenues in the out‑years would need to exceed the administration’s forecast by roughly $50 billion per year in order to sustain the total amounts of spending proposed by the Governor’s budget across all policy areas.   Moreover, state priorities may shift in the coming years—based both on the revenue picture but also evolving circumstances such as potential floods or droughts, policy changes at the federal level, or other unforeseen events—and avoiding overcommitting out‑year funds would help preserve legislative flexibility to respond.

Legislature Could Pursue Alternative Approach for Prioritizing GGRF in Current and Budget Years. While the Governor’s approach of using GGRF to backfill General Fund reductions and sustain certain activities has merit, the Legislature could adopt this same strategy in a somewhat different way to align with its priorities. Specifically, it could achieve the same amount of savings as the Governor through directing GGRF funds to backfill a different mix of General Fund reductions. For example, the Governor proposes directing a total of $1.3 billion from GGRF to backfill all the proposed General Fund reductions to the ZEV package, but only $37 million to sustain a mere 8 percent of the proposed reductions to coastal resilience activities. Based on its highest priorities, the Legislature could choose a different allocation. The Legislature has flexibility around how it is able to direct GGRF revenues because the program was authorized in a way that is akin to a tax, meaning the funds can legally be used for broad purposes. Historically, the state has used GGRF for a wide range of environmental programs (along with programs in other policy areas such as transportation and housing).

Extensive Reliance on Out‑Year GGRF Makes Assumptions About Future State Priorities and Revenues. While the state dedicates a share of annual GGRF revenues to recurring ongoing activities (such as the high‑speed rail project, sustainable housing and transit programs, and forest health activities), it generally has maintained about 35 percent for discretionary spending decisions agreed upon by the Legislature and Governor as part of each year’s budget negotiations. The 2023‑24 budget package broke with historical practice somewhat by including plans to dedicate a notable share of out‑year discretionary GGRF revenues for specific purposes rather than deferring that decision to future legislative and administration negotiations. Specifically, the agreement planned to dedicate $600 million from discretionary GGRF annually for three years beginning in 2024‑25 to backfill General Fund reductions within the ZEV package. As noted above, the Governor’s proposal maintains these plans and adds an additional out‑year GGRF commitment of $600 million in 2027‑28 resulting from a proposed delay of some planned ZEV package spending. This would commit a total of $1.8 billion ($600 million per year) in future GGRF revenues from 2025‑26 through 2027‑28. While this approach allows the state to maintain long‑term intended ZEV spending plans and save General Fund, it does raise two key concerns.

First, the Legislature might benefit from preserving additional flexibility around how it wants to dedicate future GGRF funds. Specifically, given the projected budget deficits in the coming years, the Legislature could face some very difficult choices around its expenditures—including a potential need to reduce General Fund support for core ongoing programs. In such a case, the Legislature could find that it has higher priorities for GGRF revenues than sustaining planned one‑time program expansions. While nothing precludes it from revisiting these spending intentions in a future year, leaving them in its multiyear spending plan for now could set unrealistic expectations and make redirecting the funds in the coming years more challenging. In contrast, holding off on making spending commitments until it has more information about the budget situation it faces in each given fiscal year would preserve more flexibility for the Legislature to target available discretionary GGRF funds to its pressing and emerging priorities.

Second, considerable uncertainty exists around how much GGRF revenue will be available in future years. Historically, GGRF revenues have experienced significant volatility. A precipitous drop in GGRF revenues could jeopardize not only these planned out‑year ZEV expenditures but also other longstanding state priorities for which the state has historically relied upon this funding source—raising further questions about the wisdom of committing these additional funds so many years in advance.

Data Indicate Significant Amount of Appropriated Funding Has Not Yet Been Committed by Administering Departments. Of the General Fund appropriated for the thematic packages from 2021‑22 through 2023‑24, we estimate that over $4 billion remains uncommitted. (This typically means that it has not yet been dedicated to specific projects or activities.) Of this total, we estimate that the Governor is proposing solutions—including reductions, delays, and fund shifts—affecting under $3 billion. This leaves over $1 billion in uncommitted prior‑ and current‑year appropriated funding that has not been proposed for a General Fund solution. The Legislature could reduce some of this funding and achieve General Fund savings as additions or alternatives to the Governor’s proposals, in most cases without major disruptions to specific programs or projects. We discuss various specific examples of programs that the Legislature could consider reducing in the subsequent thematic sections of this report.

Governor Gives Precedence to Administration’s Initiatives Over Legislative Priorities . The administration’s choices regarding which programs to preserve and which to propose for reductions largely reflect the Governor’s priorities. Specifically, many of the proposed cuts are to programs for which the Legislature advocated during budget negotiations, rather than those that were initially proposed by the Governor. For example, the Governor proposes cutting $452 million from the multiyear budget agreement for coastal resilience activities—proportionally more than any other of the thematic packages—much of which was originally added by the Legislature. The Governor also proposes cutting several other programs that the Legislature augmented as priorities during previous budget negotiations, such as watershed climate resilience projects ($126 million proposed reduction), addressing per‑ and polyfluoroalkyl substances ($102 million proposed reduction), the Outdoor Equity Grant Program ($25 million proposed reduction), and the Urban Waterfront Program ($12.3 million proposed reduction). Notably, at the same time, the Governor proposes to maintain uncommitted funding for a number of the administration’s priorities, such as for water storage projects ($500 million proposed to retain), water resilience projects ($228 million), and coastal acquisitions ($49 million). To the extent the Legislature’s priorities differ from the Governor’s, it could select a different mix of programs for funding reductions.

We also note that the administration has considerable control over the pace at which programs are administered. For example, we understand that the administration has suspended grant solicitations for certain programs due to funding uncertainty—thus likely contributing to higher uncommitted amounts available for potential reduction—whereas others proceeded in their solicitations without interruption.

Administration Plans to Commit More Funding to Specific Projects in Coming Months. Departments in charge of administering the funding provided through recent budgets indicate that some programs expect to commit additional funds soon by making further grant awards within the next few months. For example, the administration indicates it expects to make some grant awards in spring 2024 for water resilience projects ($228 million currently uncommitted), transmission financing ($200 million currently uncommitted), the Wildlife Conservation Board’s various nature‑based solutions programs (affecting $73 million of the $100 million currently uncommitted), and funding to protect salmon (affecting $30 million of the $35 million currently uncommitted). After those grant awards are made, grantees will reasonably expect that funding is forthcoming and take steps such as entering into contracts and initiating construction activities. At that point, the Legislature will lose the option of reverting the associated funding and capturing savings without causing significant disruptions. As such, for some programs, the Legislature may want to consider taking early action to make funding reductions ahead of the June budget deadline to ensure departments do not proceed with their current plans to commit unspent funds (and erode potential savings). As noted above, we think these amounts could total over $1 billion.

Entities in California Are Receiving Significant Federal Funds for Climate‑ and Environmental‑Related Activities. Recent federal legislation, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), have provided large increases in funding for various climate‑ and environmental‑related activities. As shown in Figure 4 , we estimate that, thus far, entities in California—including state agencies and departments, local governments, tribes, private companies, and nongovernmental organizations—have received commitments totaling roughly $9.7 billion from IIJA and IRA to support a wide range of climate‑ and environmental‑related activities. Some of the program areas slated to receive the most funding include drought and water resilience (much of which is for drinking water‑related projects), clean energy, ZEVs, and wildfire and forest resilience. Additionally, many federal agencies have not yet allocated all of their IIJA and IRA funding, so entities in California will have the opportunity to compete for—and potentially secure—additional funding in the near future.

Figure 4 - California Estimated to REceive Billions in Climate and Resources-Related Funds from IRA and IIJA

Notably, many of the federally funded activities are broadly similar to those supported by the state’s programs. However, typically they do not provide an identical dollar‑for‑dollar replacement for state funds, as they may have different eligibility criteria or allowable uses. For example, in some cases, federal programs also require a local funding contribution, which can result in higher barriers to access than some state programs. Despite these program differences, the availability of billions of dollars of federal funds to support climate‑ and environmental‑related activities will ensure that even with recent and proposed reductions to state funding, significant support still is available for many of the same broad purposes planned for in recent state budgets. This consideration may be particularly important if the Legislature finds it needs to make additional reductions to General Fund‑supported programs. For example, it could identify program areas where state entities are receiving significant infusions of federal funds (such as drinking water and ZEVs) and evaluate whether it could make additional reductions to proposed state funds and still make notable progress toward achieving its priorities.

Information on Program Effectiveness Is Limited. Ideally, the Legislature’s decisions around which programs to sustain or reduce could be informed by evidence regarding which activities are most effective at limiting the magnitude and impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, such data are not widely available. In some cases, this is because activities funded by recent budgets are being attempted for the first time. Even for most previously funded programs, however, such outcome data are not regularly collected or tracked. The lack of such information also impedes the Legislature’s longer‑term decisions, such as regarding which programs should be prioritized for future funding investments.   Moreover, future decisions would benefit from information about the process of implementing the recent unprecedented level of funding, including the design of and demand for specific programs, as well as successes and challenges for both administering departments and project sponsors.

Recommendations

While we have identified some advantages to the Governor’s overall approach, the administration’s proposals do not represent the only set of options for addressing the budget problem. The Legislature could make changes to (1) reflect its priorities (such as by making alternative reductions or fund shifts), (2) avoid growing out‑year budget deficits (such as by limiting the use of funding delays), and (3) include a higher level of budget solutions (such as by making additional reductions to unspent prior‑ or current‑year funds). Below, we discuss our overarching recommendations to the Legislature for crafting climate, resources, and environmental budget solutions, which we also summarize in  Figure 5 .

Summary of Overarching Recommendations for Crafting Climate, Resources, and Environmental Budget Solutions

Maximize General Fund Savings by Reducing Significant One‑Time Spending From Climate Packages. We recommend the Legislature adopt a budget that includes significant General Fund savings from climate, resources, and environmental programs—at least as much as the Governor. While this could entail making reductions to some programs the Legislature believes are important, the vast majority of the unprecedented recent investments still would be sustained. Maximizing spending reductions from one‑time funds will allow the Legislature to minimize the use of other budget  tools—like   reserves—that  likely will be needed to address deficits in future years. Moreover, the Legislature faces some urgency in making these changes, as this strategy will not be as readily available as time passes—once one‑time funds are spent, they no longer are available to pull back, leaving fewer (and often more disruptive) options for balancing the budget, such as making cuts to ongoing programs.

Identify Alternative and/or Additional Budget Solutions Depending on Legislative Priorities and the Evolving General Fund Condition. We think that generating at least the same magnitude of General Fund solutions from climate, resources, and environmental programs as the Governor will be important to solving the budget problem. However, we recommend the Legislature modify the Governor’s proposals to reflect its priorities. To the degree some of the Governor’s proposed program reductions represent important efforts for the Legislature, it could opt to sustain that funding and instead find a like amount of savings by making alternative reductions, such as to programs with uncommitted funds. Besides finding alternative reductions, we recommend the Legislature also begin identifying options for potential additional budget solutions from climate, resources, and environmental programs. Further reductions to this one‑time spending could prove helpful in a number of potential scenarios, such as if (1) the budget condition worsens (current LAO revenue projections suggest this is likely); (2) the Legislature wants to reject some of the Governor’s proposed General Fund budget solutions in other policy areas (such as to human services programs); (3) the Legislature wants to “make room” to fund some of its key priorities, which could include support to implement recently chaptered legislation (which the Governor’s budget does not fund); and/or (4) the Legislature determines that some of the solutions included in the Governor’s proposal may not yield the anticipated savings. While this process will be challenging, taking the time to consider, research, and select potential options over the spring will better prepare the Legislature to make decisions in May and June when it will not have much time to gather information before the budget deadline.

Consider Taking Early Action to Halt Program Spending in the Current Year and Capture Associated Savings. To the degree the Legislature identifies uncommitted funding from prior‑ and current‑year appropriations it feels are good candidates for making reductions, it may want to act on them ahead of the June budget package. This will help ensure that departments do not proceed in making grant awards (eroding the potential savings) and that the funds can be captured without causing undue disruptions. As noted above, we think the total amount of additional prior‑ or current‑year unspent funds could total over $1 billion. The Governor already has proposed a package of early action budget items to which the Legislature could add, but this likely will require identifying and acting upon the target programs within the next month or two. The Legislature also could consider directing the administration to temporarily pause all spending of uncommitted prior‑ and current‑year funding from these packages to preserve its options as it gets a better sense of the revenue picture and deliberates its budget package this spring. However, we note that the administration’s compliance with such direction may be difficult to enforce.

Use GGRF to Help Sustain Highest Legislative Priorities. We recommend the Legislature adopt the Governor’s overall strategy of using GGRF to help backfill General Fund reductions for certain programs. This approach allows the state to achieve necessary budget savings while continuing important activities. However, we recommend the Legislature adopt a GGRF spending package that preserves funding for its highest‑priority activities, which may represent a different mix from that proposed by the Governor. For example, instead of prioritizing GGRF to sustain all of the original intended funding for ZEV activities, the Legislature could redirect some of those funds to sustain some additional funding for other program areas proposed for deeper reductions, especially given the significant amount of federal funds available for ZEVs.

Minimize Out‑Year Commitments for Both General Fund and GGRF. As noted, the Governor proposed delaying about $1.7 billion in General Fund spending for climate, resources, and environmental programs to future years, sustains over $900 million in General Fund planned for 2025‑26, and also commits $1.8 billion in out‑year GGRF for maintaining intended multiyear spending levels in the ZEV package. While this approach might preserve funding over the longer term, it also exacerbates future budget problems. Given the out‑year budget forecast, we recommend that—for now—the Legislature consider both reducing planned out‑year funding that has not yet been appropriated, and reducing rather than delaying expenditures and revisiting them in a future year when it has a better sense of its available fiscal resources and highest spending priorities for both the General Fund and GGRF. This would help avoid both worsening out‑year budget deficits and creating spending expectations the state may not be able to fulfill.

Conduct Robust Oversight of Spending and Outcomes, and Consider Whether Additional Program Evaluations Might Be Worthwhile.   We recommend the Legislature conduct both near‑term and ongoing oversight of how the administration is  implementing—and  local grantees are  utilizing—funding  from the recent budget augmentations. In particular, we recommend the Legislature track: (1) how the administration is prioritizing funding, especially within newly designed programs; (2) the levels of demand and over‑ or under‑subscription for specific programs; (3) any barriers to implementation that departments or grantees encounter; and (4) the impacts and outcomes of funded projects. The Legislature has a number of different options for conducting such oversight, all of which could be helpful to employ given that they would provide differing levels of detail. These include requesting that the administration report at spring budget hearings, requesting reports through supplemental reporting language, and adopting statutory reporting requirements (such as those typically included for general obligation bonds). Additionally, to the degree it might want more intensive external program evaluations for certain high‑priority programs to help assess their effectiveness, the Legislature could consider adopting language that directs the administration to set aside a portion of provided funding to contract with researchers to conduct more in‑depth studies.

Overview of Specific Proposed Adjustments

Recent Budget Agreements Included $10   Billion Over Several Years for ZEV Programs. The 2021‑22 and 2022‑23 budgets included plans to provide a combined $10 billion over several years to different departments for a collection of activities intended to promote statewide adoption of ZEVs. Of this initial funding plan, the majority of support was from the General Fund ($6.3 billion), but also included $1.6 billion from Proposition 98 General Fund, $1.3 billion from GGRF, and about $700 million combined from federal and other special state funds. As shown in Figure 6 , funded activities included programs for both light‑ and heavy‑duty vehicles, such as vehicle purchase incentives and projects to expand the state’s vehicle charging network.

Governor’s Proposed Changes to ZEV Package

General Fund Unless Otherwise Noted (In Millions)

The 2023‑24 budget agreement made some changes to this original package in light of the evolving General Fund condition. Specifically, it reduced multiyear funding for several programs by a total of $845 million. This included reducing $550 million for transit buses and infrastructure, $150 million for school buses and infrastructure, and $85 million for ports. However, the current‑year agreement also added money for a new flexible ZEV transit capital program that provides formula funding to transit agencies which they can use to support zero‑emission buses and related infrastructure and/or to cover their operating expenses. This program is funded with GGRF and intended to provide $910 million over four years, thereby more than offsetting the reductions in terms of total multiyear planned ZEV spending. To achieve General Fund savings, the 2023‑24 budget package also included a number of fund shifts to use GGRF revenues in place of some planned General Fund (including for out‑year expenditures) and delayed certain intended spending to 2026‑27.

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $38   Million, Delays $600   Million, and Shifts $475   Million to GGRF. As shown in Figure 6, the Governor’s budget proposes to reduce net multiyear spending for ZEV activities by $38 million relative to the 2023‑24 budget package. The proposal also includes delays and fund shifts. Specifically:

  • Modest Reductions to Four Programs ($38   Million). The budget makes reductions to the following programs: California Energy Commission (CEC) ZEV manufacturing grants ($7 million), CEC emerging opportunities ($7 million), and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and CEC drayage trucks and infrastructure pilot projects ($14 million and $9 million, respectively).
  • Funding Delays ($600   Million). The Governor proposes delaying a total of $600 million in planned expenditures from GGRF for seven programs from 2024‑25 to 2027‑28. (This delay has the net effect of freeing up $600 million in GGRF funds in the budget year, which the Governor then uses to backfill General Fund reductions for other programs. The proposal also would commit a like amount of GGRF in 2027‑28 for the delayed expenditures.) The affected programs are: CEC ZEV fueling infrastructure grants ($120 million); CEC clean trucks, buses, and off‑road equipment ($137 million); Clean Cars 4 All ($45 million); CEC and CARB drayage trucks and infrastructure ($50 million and $48 million, respectively); CARB sustainable community plans and strategies ($100 million); CEC Equitable At‑Home Charging ($80 million); and CARB charter boats compliance ($20 million). The administration notes that prior‑year funding is available for most of these programs to meet applicant demand in the interim.
  • Current‑Year Shift to GGRF ($475   Million, Early Action). The budget proposes shifting $475 million of current‑year ZEV expenditures from General Fund to GGRF for the following programs: ZEV fueling infrastructure grants ($219 million); drayage trucks and infrastructure ($157 million); transit buses and infrastructure ($29 million); and clean trucks, buses, and off‑road equipment ($71 million). This proposed change is enabled by higher‑than‑projected cap‑and‑trade auction revenues materializing in the current year. The Governor is requesting that the Legislature take early action to effectuate this fund shift so that programs can proceed with making grant awards this spring.

LAO Comments: Legislature Could Consider Alternative and/or Additional Reductions. While there is significant unspent funding planned for the budget year and out‑years in the ZEV package, most of this funding is from GGRF. Consequently, making reductions would not automatically generate General Fund savings. However, the Legislature could achieve further budget solution if it were to reduce GGRF spending on ZEV activities, make additional General Fund reductions elsewhere, then redirect the freed‑up GGRF to backfill those other priorities. Based on available data on remaining funds, the Legislature could consider reducing the following:

  • School Bus and Infrastructure (About $1   Billion in Proposition   98 General Fund). The 2022‑23 budget package established a new program to fund zero‑emission school buses and related infrastructure administered by CARB and CEC. The Legislature previously approved $500 million of Proposition 98 General Fund to fund the first round of grants and adopted intent language to allocate additional funding in the future. The Governor’s budget provides an additional $500 million of Proposition 98 General Fund for a second round of grants in 2024‑25. The administration has indicated it is in the process of, but has not yet allocated, the original grant funding. With this in mind, we recommend the Legislature: (1) consider reverting the prior funding (about $500 million) to achieve General Fund savings, and (2) reject the new $500 million proposed in the budget year. For more information about the school bus spending, please see our report, The 2024‑25 Budget: Proposition   98 K‑12 Education Analysis .
  • Buses and Off‑Road Equipment (At Least $249   Million). CARB has used its appropriations for this category of activities to fund its Hybrid and Zero‑Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program. Expenditure data suggest $249 million of the GGRF previously appropriated for this program is unspent and could be reverted and redirected to achieve General Fund savings elsewhere. CEC also received funding in this category but the administration had not provided data on CEC’s expenditures as of this writing.
  • Charter Boats Compliance ($60   Million). CARB closed its grant solicitations for this program in December 2023 and currently is reviewing applications. Approximately $40 million of General Fund plus $20 million of GGRF remains in the balance. The Legislature could consider reverting this $60 million but likely would have to take early action in order to capture the savings as CARB is in the process of preparing to award the funds.
  • Emerging Opportunities ($47   Million). CARB is using this funding for ZEV technology demonstration projects. Of the $53 million General Fund originally allocated, $47 million remains in the program’s balance and could be reverted for General Fund savings.
  • CEC ZEV Program Funding (Unknown, Potentially Several Hundreds of Millions of Dollars). Updated information on CEC’s ZEV package expenditures was not available at the time of this writing. Based on historical CEC ZEV spending time lines, we suspect that several hundreds of millions dollars of unspent funding could be available. We will provide more information to the Legislature after we receive these data from the administration.

Recent Budget Agreements Included $8.8   Billion Over Several Years for Water and Drought‑Related Activities. As shown in Figure 7 , the 2022‑23 budget appropriated and intended to provide a combined $8.8 billion ($8.3 billion from the General Fund and about $450 million from other funds) over several years to various departments for emergency drought response and water resilience activities. Nearly half of the funding ($4 billion) was to support activities related to drinking water quality and availability, water recycling and groundwater cleanup, water supply, and flood management. About $1.4 billion was intended for immediate drought response activities, such as for the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to respond to drinking water emergencies. The remaining funding ($3.3 billion) was to support habitat restoration, water quality, and conservation activities. The 2023‑24 budget agreement reduced total multiyear funding by $632 million General Fund (7 percent). Major reductions included $278 million for water recycling, $119 million for Salton Sea restoration activities, and $60 million for local assistance grants related to implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Water and Drought Resilience Package

General Fund Unless Otherwise Noted a (In Millions)

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $810   Million, Delays $100   Million, and Delays and Shifts $21   Million. Also shown in Figure 7, the Governor’s budget proposes to reduce multiyear General Fund spending for water and drought resilience, relative to the 2023‑24 budget agreement, by $810 million. (The $7.3 billion the Governor proposes to retain represents 84 percent of the original 2022‑23 package.) The proposal would revert $100 million appropriated in earlier years for water recycling projects administered by SWRCB and delay providing it until 2025‑26. Similarly, for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA’s) State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the proposal would revert $21 million General Fund appropriated in earlier years and instead provide the same amount of funding from GGRF in 2024‑25. Proposed reductions include:

  • Watershed Climate Resilience. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $438 million ($126 million to the Department of Water Resources [DWR] and $312 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board [WCB]), retaining just 11 percent ($56 million) of the original amount. DWR indicates that the proposed reduction would affect the number of long‑term projects it can fund but not its near‑term program plan, which includes six pilot studies and a subsequent set of grants. While the reduction will lead to WCB awarding fewer grants, it has other funding sources available for these types of projects, including $43 million from Proposition 68 (2018) and annual support of $21 million from the Habitat Conservation Fund.
  • Water Recycling and Groundwater Cleanup: The proposal would reduce funding for groundwater cleanup by $55 million and for water recycling by $119 million (the 2023‑24 budget already reduced funding by $278 million). (As noted above, the budget also would delay $100 million until 2025‑26 for water recycling.) Relative to the original package, the budget would retain $348 million, or 43 percent for these two programs. SWRCB indicates it would prioritize providing low‑cost financing for water recycling projects through its State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs and providing grants for water recycling and clean water projects in disadvantaged communities. In addition, the federal IIJA is providing more federal funding than normal for SRF programs between 2022 and 2026 ($1.16 billion for the Drinking Water SRF and $790 million for the Clean Water SRF), which can be used for water recycling and groundwater cleanup projects.
  • Per‑ and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs) Support. The proposal would reduce funding for addressing PFAs by $102 million (retaining $53 million, or 27 percent, of the original total, after accounting for additional reductions made in 2023‑24). PFAs are long‑lasting chemicals which are hard to break down and have been used in a variety of consumer and industrial products. Reduced funding would result in fewer and/or smaller state‑funded grants. However, SWRCB will receive approximately $460 million in federal funds through its SRF programs from 2022 through 2026 to address “emerging contaminants,” which include PFAs.
  • Dam Safety. The budget would halve funding—from $100 million to $50  million—for dam safety pilot projects administered through a competitive grant program by DWR. The reduction would result in DWR funding fewer projects.
  • Agricultural Programs. The budget would reduce funding for drought relief for small farmers by $13 million and for on‑farm technical assistance by $6 million. (Relative to the original package, the budget would retain $21 million, or 53 percent, for these two programs.) CDFA indicates that demand for drought relief grants was lower than anticipated (it awarded about $12 million of the available $25 million), perhaps in part due to a similar program being offered through the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO‑Biz). The on‑farm technical assistance program was similarly undersubscribed, although CDFA indicates this could reflect the limited capacity of technical assistance providers, rather than the needs of farmers.
  • Forecasting Activities. The budget would reduce an ongoing appropriation for DWR—from $17 million to $10 million annually—that supports water supply/runoff forecasting. Specifically, the reduction would result in conducting fewer aerial snow surveys and conducting them (and associated modeling) in fewer watersheds.

LAO Comments: Legislature Could Consider Alternative and/or Additional Reductions. In light of the state budget condition, the Legislature has several options for additional and/or alternative reductions from the water and drought resilience package.

  • Water Storage Projects ($500   Million in 2025‑26). The administration’s original proposal for this funding noted that it would build on the $2.7 billion provided by Proposition 1 (2014) for water storage projects, yet specific details on how the funds would be used have not been provided. Given this funding has not yet been appropriated, eliminating it likely would be less disruptive compared to certain other options before the Legislature.
  • Drinking Water Project Grants ($200   Million). While these programs are important, the state currently has an unprecedented amount of federal funding available for these purposes through the federal SRFs. In addition, state statute requires an annual GGRF appropriation of $130 million (through 2030) to SWRCB for the same types of drinking water projects. As such, the state could continue to pursue its goals and focus on the drinking water needs of disadvantaged communities even with a reduction in General Fund support.
  • Water Recycling (Reduce Rather Than Delay $100   Million). Although eliminating this funding—rather than delaying it, as proposed by the Governor—would reduce the number of projects SWRCB could support with state funding (which is more flexible than federal funding), other funding sources are available for these projects. Specifically, SWRCB can use federal funds provided through the SRF for water recycling projects.
  • Revert Unspent Funding Provided in Earlier Budgets. Of the $6.5 billion General Fund already appropriated for water and drought resilience packages across 2021‑22, 2022‑23, and 2023‑24, the Governor proposes reducing about $524 million of uncommitted funds (as discussed above). Based on our review of other uncommitted funds, the Legislature could consider additional reductions of close to $775 million. For example, SWRCB has about $300 million in uncommitted funds for drinking water/wastewater programs. SWRCB expects to commit a good portion of this funding between April and June, with an estimated $65 million remaining by the end of the 2023‑24 fiscal year. Consequently, depending on how much of this funding the Legislature wished to pull back, it may have to act quickly to capture the potential savings that currently are available. While these programs remain important, particularly among disadvantaged communities, SWRCB could partially offset reductions with federal SRF funding and its annual GGRF appropriation. Additionally, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has approximately $228 million in uncommitted funds for water resilience grants. The administration indicates it will select awardees in the March/April time frame, meaning the Legislature would have a short window to act and reduce these funds to solve the budget problem. Other examples include $50 million for dam safety (given the Governor already proposes a reduction of the other $50 million, an additional reduction would eliminate the pilot program) and $104 million for WCB’s streamflow enhancement program.

Recent Budget Agreements Included $7.9   Billion Over Several Years for Energy Programs. The 2021‑22 and 2022‑23 budgets included plans to provide a combined $7.9 billion ($6.9 billion from the General Fund and about $1 billion from other funds) over several years to different departments for an energy package. As shown in Figure 8 , funded activities focused primarily on three categories—reliability , clean energy, and ratepayer relief. (In addition to programs shown in the figure, the recent agreements included $1 billion for CERIP implementation and a Climate Innovation program, both of which are discussed in the “Other Recent Augmentations” section of this report.) On net, the 2023‑24 budget agreement reduced total multiyear funding by $944 million. Major reductions included $549 million from the California Arrearage Payment Program at the Department of Community Services and Development, $270 million from the Residential Solar and Storage Program at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), $105 million from the Distributed Energy Backup Assets (DEBA) program at CEC ($100 million of which was redirected to the Investments in Strategic Reliability Assets program at DWR for no net budget savings), and $50 million from the program providing incentives for long‑duration storage. In addition, the 2023‑24 adjustments to the energy package included numerous funding delays as well as shifts totaling about $1 billion from the General Fund to GGRF.

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Energy Package

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $419   Million, Delays $505   Million, and Shifts $144   Million to GGRF. Also shown in Figure 8, the Governor’s budget proposes to reduce net multiyear spending for energy activities by $419 million relative to the 2023‑24 budget package. (This would retain 83 percent of the original intended amount.) The proposal also includes funding delays for four programs totaling $505 million. Finally, the Governor shifts $144 million for two programs from the General Fund to GGRF (Equitable Building Decarbonization and incentives for long‑duration storage). Major proposed program changes include:

  • Funding Delays for Four Programs. The  proposal delays funding for (1) Residential Solar and Storage (instead of $75 million in 2024‑25 and $125 million in 2025‑26, it would provide $100 million in both 2026‑27 and 2027‑28), (2) a pump storage project at the Oroville Dam complex (instead of $90 million in 2024‑25 and $110 million in 2025‑26, it would provide $100 million in both 2026‑27 and 2027‑28), (3) Investments in Strategic Reliability Assets (delays $55 million from 2024‑25 to 2025‑26), and (4) DEBA (reverts $50 million from 2023‑24 and instead provides $25 million in both 2025‑26 and 2026‑27).
  • Equitable Building Decarbonization. The budget proposes reducing overall funding for this CEC program by $283 million, retaining $639 million, or 69 percent, of the original allocation. This program is intended to support energy upgrades for low‑ and middle‑income households and still is being developed by CEC. The reduction would result in fewer direct install incentives. (The Governor also proposes to shift $87 million for this program from General Fund to GGRF in 2024‑25, which would have no programmatic effect.)
  • Carbon Removal Innovation Program. This proposal would reduce this program by $40 million, adding to the $25 million reduction that was adopted in 2023‑24. There is no further funding proposed for this program beyond the $35 million retained in 2022‑23 (representing 35 percent of the original allocation).
  • Industrial Decarbonization. The budget would reduce funding for this new CEC program that provides incentives for technologies that reduce emissions at industrial operations by $22 million, retaining $68 million from its original planned allocation of $100 million. The proposal would reduce the number of state‑funded projects, but the program plans to leverage $90 million in federal Department of Energy (DOE) funds, which would help offset the reduction.
  • Hydrogen Grants. The proposed reduction of $35 million would retain $65 million of the original amount for CEC to provide these grants. The administration noted this program is a good candidate for reductions due to more than $1 billion newly coming to California from DOE to support hydrogen energy development through the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) initiative.
  • Food Production Investment Program. This proposed reduction of $19 million would be in addition to $10 million reduced from the program in 2023‑24. Relative to the original package, the budget would retain $46 million, or 62 percent, for this program. CEC expects it would support 10 to 14 fewer projects as a result of the proposed reduction.
  • Capacity Building Grants. The original package provided $30 million across 2021‑22 and 2022‑23 to provide capacity grants to tribes and community‑based organizations to participate in CPUC decision‑making processes. CPUC has not yet spent this funding and the Governor proposes to reduce it by $20 million. To accommodate this reduction, CPUC would decrease its grant funding allocations by approximately 70 percent and forgo a planned technical assistance contract.

LAO Comments: Legislature Could Consider Alternative and/or Additional Reductions. In light of the state budget condition, the Legislature has several options for generating General Fund savings through making additional and/or alternative reductions from the energy package. Based on the best available data on remaining funds, the Legislature could consider reducing the following programs (all amounts from the General Fund unless otherwise noted).

  • Hydrogen Grants (Additional $65   Million). The Legislature could consider a further reduction or elimination of the program’s funding—beyond the $35 million proposed by the Governor—due to the significant federal funding (more than $1 billion) newly available for hydrogen development in California through ARCHES. None of this funding has yet been committed.
  • Industrial Decarbonization (Additional $60   Million). The Legislature could consider a further reduction or elimination of the program’s funding beyond the $22 million proposed by the Governor. As noted above, federal funds are also available to support the goals of this program. This program has not yet begun dispersing funding.
  • Food Production (Additional $35   Million). The Legislature could consider further reductions beyond the $19 million the Governor proposes for this program, which has only committed a small portion of its funding. However, if the Legislature wants to make additional reductions, it may have to take early action, as the administration plans to collect proposals later this spring. The funds the Governor proposes retaining for the program are from GGRF, not General Fund, but the Legislature could instead eliminate General Fund for a different program and redirect this GGRF to offset those reductions in order to achieve additional savings.
  • Transmission Financing ($225   Million). Previous budgets appropriated $225 million to the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank to boost new electricity transmission in the state. The administration has not yet dispersed these funds, though it plans to do so later this spring. The Legislature could consider making reductions or eliminating this funding, but it may have to take early action. Additionally, federal energy funds the state is receiving to support grid reliability may be able to help offset reductions to this program.
  • DEBA ($543   Million). As of this writing, data from the administration indicate this program (which is intended to provide incentive funding to promote more efficient backup energy resources) has $543 million from previously appropriated funds remaining in its balance. CEC indicates that it expects to release additional solicitations this spring. Given the large size of this allocation and that CEC has only spent a total of $2 million (on administrative costs) thus far, it seems a reasonable candidate for capturing additional savings. Depending on the level of savings needed, the Legislature could prioritize equity by making reductions to the portion of program funding not explicitly directed to disadvantaged communities (roughly half of the funding). Given CEC’s plans to proceed with new grant solicitations this spring, the Legislature may have to consider early action if it wants to make reductions.

Recent Budget Agreements Included $2.8   Billion for Wildfire Resilience‑Related Activities. Recent budget packages included a total of $2.8 billion over a four‑year period—2020 ‑21 through 2023‑ 24—to support wildfire and forest resilience. Roughly 40 percent of the funding over the four years—$1.1  billion—was for programs designed to promote healthy forests and landscapes, generally by removing hazardous fuels. Just over one‑quarter of the funding—$766  million—was  to support the installation and maintenance of wildfire fuel breaks. The remaining  funds—totaling  $909  million—was  for projects to increase regional capacity for conducting forest health projects, as well as to encourage forest‑sector economic stimulus, science‑based forest management, and community hardening. Of the $2.8 billion total, $2 billion was from the General Fund and the remaining $755 million was from GGRF.

The 2023‑24 budget agreement reduced net funding for various wildfire and forest‑resilience activities by $47 million and shifted $14 million from the General Fund to Proposition 98. The largest reduction—$25  million—was  for efforts to steward state lands, intended to help CNRA departments bring buildings in high‑fire‑risk zones into compliance with new defensible space regulations that are under development pursuant to Chapter 259 of 2020 (A B 3074 , Friedman). As shown in Figure 9 , after these reductions, the budget retained a multiyear total of $2.8 billion for wildfire and forest resilience activities (98 percent of the original planned amount).

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Wildfire and Forest Resilience Package

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $101   Million and Shifts $163   Million. The Governor’s 2024‑25 budget proposes some additional General Fund reductions to the wildfire and forest resilience funding that was included in recent budget agreements. Cumulatively, the reductions would lower General Fund spending by $101 million across the following seven programs, while retaining a total of $2.7 billion for wildfire and forest resilience (95 percent of the original funding provided). In general, the proposed reductions will result in fewer projects being undertaken by each program. The affected programs consist of:

  • Forest Legacy Program. This program funds conservation grants and easements with private landowners to protect forest land from conversion to non‑forest uses and to support good management practices. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $4 million, retaining $45 million.
  • Prescribed Fire and Hand Crews. This funding supports the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) fuels reduction crews, as well as a CalFire contract with the California National Guard to perform vegetation management work. The costs of the National Guard crews ultimately were paid by the federal government, resulting in savings. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $5 million, retaining $129 million.
  • Conservancy Projects. This funding was provided for multiple state conservancies to support projects aimed at improving resilience to wildfires. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $28 million ($9.4 million from the San Diego River Conservancy, $9 million from the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, $5.7 million from the Sacramento‑San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, $2.3 million from the State Coastal Conservancy, and $1.3 million from the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy). While these reductions would lessen the number of projects that conservancies can undertake, it still would leave significant funding—$350  million—for conservancy‑led wildfire resilience efforts.
  • Biomass to Hydrogen/Biofuels Pilot. This funding was for a pilot administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) aimed at creating hydrogen and/or liquid fuel from forest biomass. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $44 million (retaining $6.5 million). The retained funding has already been used for a first round of planning grants for project developers and DOC’s administrative activities. The proposed reduction will mean that DOC will not move forward with an originally planned second round of grant funding, which had been expected to support the implementation of pilot projects.
  • Monitoring and Research. This funding was to support various efforts—including by CalFire as well as universities and other researchers—to improve knowledge of forest conditions and the effectiveness of different practices to reduce the risk of wildfire spread or damage. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $6 million, retaining $32 million.
  • Interagency Forest Data Hub. This funding was to create an Interagency Forest Data Hub. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $3 million, retaining $7 million.
  • Home Hardening. This funding was provided to implement the wildfire mitigation assistance pilot program authorized by Chapter 391 of 2019 (A B 38 , Wood), providing grants to homeowners in certain vulnerable communities for retrofits aimed at improving resilience to wildfires. The budget proposes to reduce funding by $12 million, retaining $38 million. The proposed reduction would mean fewer homes and communities would be included in the pilot.

In addition to the reductions discussed above, the budget shifts $163 million across four programs to GGRF, including (1) stewardship of state‑owned lands ($34.5 million), (2) fire prevention grants ($82 million, proposed for early action), (3) Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program ($20 million), and (4) unit fire prevention projects ($26 million). Notably, the Governor does not propose to make any changes to the $200 million continuous appropriation from GGRF for forest health and wildfire prevention that was authorized as part of the 2021‑22 budget but is not fully reflected in the budget packages. Accordingly, in addition to the amounts in Figure 9, under the Governor’s plan, an additional annual $200 million from GGRF would be provided for these purposes in 2024‑25 through 2028‑29.

LAO Comments: Legislature Still Has a Few Potential Alternative and/or Additional Reductions It Could Make to Unspent Current‑ and Prior‑Year Funds. The Legislature has a few other options that it could consider in addition to or in place of the Governor’s proposed solutions. For example, the Legislature could replace some or all of the proposed fund shifts with reductions, which would make additional GGRF available for other critical legislative priorities.

Additionally, the Legislature could consider (1) making reductions to programs that have significant uncommitted balances but are not included in the Governor’s proposed solutions and/or (2) increasing the size of the reductions to certain programs beyond what the Governor proposes to capture the full uncommitted balance. Some potential options for these types of additional solutions include:

  • Tribal Engagement ($22   Million). This program supports tribes in the planning and implementation of projects that advance wildfire resilience, forest health, and cultural use of fire. It has an uncommitted balance of $22 million General Fund, almost all of which is currently anticipated to be awarded sometime in summer 2024.
  • Forest Improvement Program ($22   Million). This program provides financial assistance to private, nonindustrial forestland owners under cost‑share agreements. This program has an uncommitted balance of roughly $22 million ($20 million of which is General Fund and $2 million of which is GGRF). Of this total, CalFire plans to award an $8 million block grant by April 2024 to allow partner organizations to offer similar assistance outside of the Forest Improvement Program. CalFire expects to award the remaining funding through its typical rolling solicitation process, which provides awards of a couple of million dollars every two months. The Legislature could consider reducing funding for this program, with the amount available for generating savings dependent on when the Legislature acts.
  • Prescribed Fire and Hand Crews ($31   Million GGRF). In addition to the $5 million in uncommitted General Fund that the Governor proposes reducing, the program currently has roughly $31 million of uncommitted GGRF from prior appropriations. The Legislature could consider also reducing these funds and redirecting them to offset other General Fund costs. If it were to reduce funds for this program, CalFire would have less funding for fuel reduction work and research grants. We note that if the Legislature is interested in reducing the portion of this funding that CalFire uses for research grants ($4.5 million), taking early action would be important to reduce disruptions given the department plans to make those awards in May 2024.
  • Home Hardening Program ($13   Million). This program has faced various implementation challenges and as such has roughly $25 million of General Fund that has not yet been committed. Accordingly, in addition to the Governor’s proposed $12 million reduction, the Legislature could consider capturing an additional $13 million in General Fund savings. A reduction to the funding for the program would result in fewer homes and communities being included in the pilot.

Recent Budget Agreements Included $1.6   Billion for Nature‑Based Activities. Recent budget agreements included $1.6 billion on a one‑time basis over three years—from 2021‑22 through 2023‑ 24—from  the General Fund for various departments to implement a variety of nature‑based activities. As shown in Figure 10 , about one‑third of the total funding—$495  million—was to support programs focused on acquiring and managing land for conservation and habitat restoration‑related purposes. Just over one‑quarter of the funding—$403  million—was  to support wildlife protection programs. The remaining  funding—totaling  $667  million—was  for regionally focused programs, youth and tribal programs, wetland‑focused projects, and other types of activities. Many of the funded programs are related to helping the state achieve various goals and plans established by the administration over the past few years, such as the objective of conserving 30 percent of the state’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 (“ 30x30 ”) as established by the  Governor’s Executive Order N‑82‑20  and the  Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategies .

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Nature‑Based Activities Package

General Fund (In Millions)

The 2023‑24 budget agreement made General Fund reductions to planned nature‑based activities totaling $155 million across five programs. The largest reduction—$100  million—was  to funds provided to various conservancies across the state. Some other notable changes included reducing: $35 million for a WCB program to mitigate the impacts of climate change on wildlife, $10 million for the State Coastal Conservancy’s (SCC’s) San Francisco Bay wetlands support, and $6 million for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW’s) Natural Community Conservation Program Planning and Land Acquisition program. After accounting for these reductions, the budget retained $1.4 billion for nature‑based activities (90 percent of the original planned amount).

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $15   Million. As shown in Figure 10, the Governor’s 2024‑25 budget proposes to achieve $15 million in General Fund savings by eliminating funding for the following two nature‑based activity‑related programs:

  • Wetlands Restoration at Redondo Beach. The original package provided $10 million for CNRA to provide funding to the City of Redondo Beach to purchase a former power plant site on which the city would like to develop a regional park and restore historic wetlands. CNRA indicates that the city intended to use the funds to bid on the property at auction after the resolution of legal matters that are still pending. If the funding is eliminated as proposed, the city may not have sufficient funds to acquire the property, however, the timing of when the city might need the funds still is uncertain.
  • Regional Conservation Strategies. The original package provided $5 million for a WCB program created by Chapter 455 of 2016 (A B 2087 , Levine) that supports the development of voluntary, nonregulatory regional planning processes. This program also previously received $5 million in Proposition 68 funding in 2018. WCB expects the impact of the proposed General Fund elimination would be minimal because it still has remaining Proposition 68 funding for this same purpose.

After accounting for these reductions, the budget proposes to retain a total of $1.4 billion for nature‑based activities (89 percent of the original planned amount).

LAO Comments: Legislature Could Consider Alternative and/or Additional Reductions From Unspent Current‑ and Prior‑Year Funds. Based on our review of expenditure data, we estimate that about $400 million remains uncommitted from various prior‑ and current‑year nature‑based activity‑related program appropriations that the Governor does not propose reducing. Given the significant amount of uncommitted funding in this area, to the extent the Legislature needs to identify alternative and/or additional solutions, it has multiple options to consider. Some examples include:

  • Various WCB Programs ($102   Million). These WCB programs support planning, acquisition, and restoration projects on natural and working lands . Currently, about $102   million of the $245   million originally provided for these programs remains uncommitted and could be considered for reduction. Such a reduction would mean fewer projects are completed. However, a significant amount of funding still would be retained, both in these programs as well as in other programs that support activities with similar objectives, such as CDFW’s program to mitigate climate change impacts on wildlife and WCB’s other programs. We note that WCB indicates that it plans to make additional awards for these programs in the coming months. Thus, if the Legislature would like to reduce funding for these programs, taking early action would maximize the amount of savings available.
  • WCB’s Program to Protect Wildlife From Changing Conditions ($100   Million). WCB originally received $353 million to protect wildlife from changing conditions. Of this amount, $218 million has been committed to projects and the 2023‑24 budget package reduced $35 million. However, nearly $100 million remains uncommitted and thus could be considered as a potential solution. As with WCB’s other programs discussed above, additional reductions would result in fewer projects, but the board still would maintain significant funding for similar activities from other sources. WCB indicates that it plans to make additional awards totaling roughly $30 million in the coming months, making this program another potential candidate for early action.
  • CNRA’s Tribal Nature‑Based Solutions Program ($97 Million).  This is a new program aimed at helping facilitate access, co‑management, and ancestral land return. While providing funding to support tribes has merit in light of historical injustices, only about $3   million of the $100   million provided in 2022‑23 or 2023‑24 has been committed. Thus, the remaining $97   million could potentially be considered for reduction given the severity of the state’s budget problem. We note, however, that the administration indicates that it expects to make awards as soon as April 2024, so should the Legislature want to consider reducing the funding, it would be advisable to take early action. (We note that the budget also proposes to convert a temporary staff position that supports this program to permanent status. Should the program be eliminated, that position would no longer be needed, resulting in a small amount of ongoing savings.)
  • SCC’s Coastal Acquisitions ($49   Million).  This funding has been set aside for SCC to undertake acquisitions that help protect natural resources and provide for public access. Currently, roughly $49 million of the $50 million that was originally provided for this purpose remains uncommitted. SCC reports that it anticipates it ultimately would use the funding for a complex, significant acquisition opportunity which currently is in the appraisal phase.
  • Wetlands Restoration Program ($13   Million). The original package provided $54 million for this CDFW program, which funds wetland and meadow restorations, and also supports a recently created Beaver Restoration Program. Of the $54 million, roughly $34 million remains uncommitted. CDFW anticipates awarding roughly $21 million early this spring, leaving $13 million the Legislature could reduce.
  • Wildlife Corridors ($20   Million). Of the $42 million originally provided to CDFW for wildlife corridors, roughly $20 million remains uncommitted and therefore could be considered for a budget solution. CDFW notes that it is reviewing proposals on a continuous basis, so the amount available for reduction would be dependent on when the Legislature takes action.
  • Climate Smart Land Management Program ($7.5   Million). This is a new program administered by DOC that aims to increase the capacity of state partners to support natural working lands and 30x30 goals. Roughly $7.5   million of the $16   million originally provided for this program remains uncommitted and DOC does not anticipate making awards until June or July 2024. Given the condition of the General Fund, the Legislature could make further reductions and use the first round of funding as a more limited pilot. It could then evaluate the outcomes of that funding before deciding whether it is worthy of future support.

Recent Budget Agreements Provided $2.2   Billion for Community Resilience. As shown in Figure 11 , recent budgets included $2.2 billion for programs focused on helping communities address the causes and impacts of climate change. Funding was provided across 2021‑22 through 2024‑25. The funds support both previously existing and newly established programs. For example, the largest share of the funding is for a program established in  2017—through  Chapter 136 (A B 617 , C. Garcia)—that supports efforts to reduce pollution and improve air quality in highly impacted communities. The same is true for the Transformative Climate Communities Program, which began in 2018 and funds community‑led development and infrastructure projects. The remaining programs displayed in Figure 11 were initiated with funding provided in the recent budget packages.

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Community Resilience Package

The 2023‑24 budget revised the funding for several of these programs to save $765 million General Fund through a combination of reductions and fund shifts. Specifically, the 2023‑24 budget package included $515 million in reductions (24 percent), delayed $50 million from 2023‑24 to 2024‑25, and shifted $250 million for the A B 617 program from the General Fund to GGRF. After accounting for the reductions, the budget retained $1.7 billion for community resilience activities across the multiyear period (76 percent of the original planned amount)—about $1 billion from GGRF and $607 million from the General Fund. As a separate but related action (not reflected in the figure), the budget doubled funding for the California Climate Action Corps program (from $4.7 million to $9.3 million per year beginning in 2023‑24) and made the funding ongoing rather than ending in 2025‑26 as originally planned.

Governor’s Proposal: Reduces $90   Million General Fund. As shown in the figure, the Governor proposes new General Fund reductions totaling about $90 million across a few programs in the community resilience package. These include $75 million from the regional climate resilience program, $9.8 million from regional climate collaboratives, and $5 million from the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Planning Grants Program. In a separate but related action (not reflected in the figure), the Governor proposes providing $250 million from GGRF for an additional year of support for the A B 617 program in 2024‑25.

LAO Comments: Proposal Captures Most Remaining General Fund but Legislature Could Consider Other Possible Solutions. Based on our review of expenditure data, some additional funding in the community resilience package remains uncommitted and could be considered for reductions. These include:

  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience Planning Grants ($10   Million). Only $10 million of the $25 million provided for this program has been committed to date. While the Governor proposes reducing associated funding by $5 million, an additional $10 million would remain uncommitted. The administration currently is finalizing its guidelines for the next round of grants and expects to close applications and begin making awards in late spring or early summer.
  • Environmental Justice Initiatives (Between $5   Million and $15   Million). The administration indicates that it is finalizing awards for the first round of these grants and expects to still have between have between $5 million and $15 million General Fund available for future grant cycles that would be initiated in the second half of 2024 or later. The Legislature could consider reducing the funding for these programs to achieve General Fund savings rather than moving forward with the next rounds of the grants.
  • Climate Action Corps Program (Up to $9.3   Million Ongoing Annually). The 2023‑24 budget package doubled annual funding levels for this program and made it ongoing. The Legislature could consider lowering or eliminating the ongoing commitment. While taking such action ultimately would result in fewer individuals participating in these activities, scaling back a recently initiated program likely would be less disruptive than making reductions to longstanding ongoing programs—which could become necessary if the fiscal situation worsens and the Legislature is unable to identify sufficient budget solutions elsewhere. Additionally, federal funding supports a similar program.

Recent Budget Agreements Included $1.3   Billion for Coastal Resilience Activities. As shown in Figure 12 , recent budgets included $1.3 billion across four years (2021‑22 through 2024‑25) for a variety of activities to increase coastal resilience and adapt to the effects of sea‑level rise. The package included funding for SCC for projects to protect the coast (including coastal watersheds) from the effects of climate change ($500 million), adapt to the effects of sea‑level rise using nature‑based approaches ($420 million), and adapt infrastructure to the effects of sea‑level rise ($144 million). The package also included funding for the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to support projects to protect and restore marine wildlife and ocean and coastal ecosystems ($117 million) and to implement Chapter 236 of 2021 (S B 1 , Atkins), which aims to support local governments in sea‑level rise planning ($102 million). The enacted 2023‑24 budget reduced this overall funding by $183 million, primarily in SCC’s coastal protection program.

Governor’s Proposed Changes to Coastal Resilience Package

Original Multiyear Total a

Revised Multiyear Total b

Proposed Redutions

Proposed Multiyear Total

Protecting the coast from climate change

‑$171

Adapting to sea‑level rise

Adapting infrastructure to sea‑level rise

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