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6 environmental issues of 2019 that you should know about

Looking back at 2019, there were so many environmental issues and news happening around the world that even the most closed off person would have heard about it.

Getting to know more about these issues and doing something about them will be way more meaningful than criticizing TIME Magazine’s person of the year for 2019 Greta Thunberg and her campaign. (ahem, Trump)

As we close the year, let us all take a look back on the major environmental issues for 2019 you should know (and hopefully concerned) about:

1.Our oceans are running out of oxygen
The oxygen in our ocean is depleting.

While the species on land are breathing freely, the species in the oceans are slowly suffering from low level of oxygen.

In a report by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the loss of oxygen from the world’s ocean is increasingly threatening fish species and disrupting ecosystems.

Driven by climate change and nutrient pollution, ocean oxygen loss is a growing problem for species such as tuna, marlins and sharks.

These species are particularly sensitive to low oxygen because of their large size and energy demands.

They are slowly being driven into increasingly shallow surface layers of oxygen-rich water causing them to become more vulnerable to over-fishing and becoming bycatch.

On top of this, very low ocean oxygen levels can also affect basic processes like the cycling of elements crucial for life on Earth such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

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2.Almost half of the world’s Heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100
Glasiers are slowly disappearing from World Heritage sites such as in the Swiss Alps.

We know that our glaciers are disappearing, but according to a study by IUCN they are disappearing from almost half of the world’s heritage sites.

These sites include Grosser Aletschgletscher in the Swiss Alps, Khumbu Glacier in the Himalayas or Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbrae.

Researchers predicted glacier extinction by 2100 under a high emission scenario in 21 of the 46 natural World Heritage sites where glaciers are currently sites.

Even under a low emission scenario, eight of the 46 World Heritage Sites will completely lose their ice by 2100.

In order to save our glaciers, there is a need to see significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

3.More and more animals are found with plastics inside their stomachs
2020 is the year that everyone should dispose their plastic waste properly and say ‘No’ to single-use plastic bags.

Whales, birds, deer, turtles and cows; these are among the animals found to have died from plastic ingestion this year.

Plastic pollution remained one of our top environmental issues for 2019. Clearly, we are not doing enough to curb the problem.

It is unsure if animals with plastic-filled stomachs are becoming more common sightings, or if we are more aware of the issue now.

Nonetheless, according to National Geographic, we are producing more plastics than ever.

In 1950, we produced 2.3 million tonnes of it. In 2015, we produced 448 million tonnes. Production is expected to double by 2050.

Unless we do something about our plastic pollution, we will see more and more animals with plastics in their stomachs making headlines in 2020.

4.Only one-third of the world’s longest rivers remain free-flowing
Just one-third of our rivers are free-flowing, some of them are blocked by a dam like this.

According to a study by scientific journal Nature, only 37% of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing.

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So what caused our river not to flow? Dams and reservoirs are greatly reducing the benefits that healthy rivers provide.

Now, only 21 of the world’s 91 rivers longer than 1,000 km still have a direct connection from source to sea.

Most of these rivers are in the Arctic, Amazon basin and the Congo basin.

Additionally, the study estimates they are about 60,000 large dams worldwide with more than 3,700 hydropower dams on the way.

Another terrifying fact is that recent analysis of 16,704 populations of wildlife globally showed that populations of freshwater species experienced the most pronounced declined of all vertebrates over the past half-century.

5.Forest fires became one of our top environmental issues for 2019
Forest fires are happening around the world from the Amazon to Borneo.

From Indonesia to Siberia, our forests are burning. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research the number of fires in the country had jumped 84% in August this year over the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile according to Global Forest Watch, the tropics have lost some 8.9 million acres of primary rainforest.

Even Siberia is burning with massive blazes producing more than 166 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019. That is almost equal to the annual emission of 36 million cars!

6.One billion people will be threatened by climate change by 2050

With the oceans warming and glaciers are melting, no part of the world will be spared by rising sea-levels.

These impacts of climate change could affect one billion people by 2050.

A new United Nation (UN) report released in September 2019 makes it clear that changes will continue, and they will be irreversible even if the climate stabilizes.

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For example, ice-dependent polar species such as walruses and penguins are threatened with extinction as their sea ice habitat disappears.

All photos are from Pixabay.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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