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Environmental Risks

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  1. Use Figure 3.71 and Video 3.71 to complete the following tasks.
  2. Draw and label a sketch map showing the location of the pacific garbage patches.
  3. Explain what the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone is and what it has to do with the garbage patches.
  4. Why has so much debris collected in the Pacific?
  5. Where does about 80% of the trash come from?
  6. Where does the rest of the trash come from?
  7. Why does plastic make up most of the trash in the ocean?
  8. Describe 4 ways in which this ocean pollution is dangerous to marine life.
  9. Why is nobody cleaning it up?
Figure 3.71: National Geographic Report about the Pacific Garbage patch (source)
Video3.71: Pacific Garbage Patch

Vast quantities of electrical waste from developed countries end up being shipped to less developed countries for recycling. Basic techniques and poor regulation of the industry is resulting in significant environmental damage and causing health problems for the workers involved.


  1. Briefly describe the location of Guiyu.
  2. How many people make a living recycling e-waste here?
  3. Describe the damage to the water system that is being caused?
  4. What materials are the workers trying to retrieve from burning electrical wire?
  5. Describe the environmental impact of burning the wires.
  6. Describe the human impacts of the recycling.
Video 3.73: e-waste Recycling in Guiyu, China

Eutrophication occurs when fertilisers (leaching) or animal waste (runoff) enters water courses (rivers and lakes) and causes excess growth of algae and aquatic plants. This extra growth depletes the oygen in the water ultimately leading to the death of fish and other marine species. The additional plant growth blocks out sunlight.

The environmental impact is the decline of the species diversity in the river/lake ecosystem.


  1. Draw a simple flow diagram that shows how eutrophication occurs.
  2. Explain 3 effects of eutrophication (eg. impact on food chains and human activities).
  3. Suggest steps that could be taken to reduce the occurance of eutrophication.
eutrophication diagram
Figure 14.1 Eutrophication causes

Industry and transport release nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides through the burning of fossil fuels. These gases mix with moisture in the atmosphere and fall as acid rain (nitric and sulphuric acid).

Acid rain can be a truly international pollution even due to the pollution emmitted by one country falling as acid rain in another one.

Acid rain affects trees (burning conifer needles and damaging the roots ability to absorb nutrients). It also turns lakes increasibgly acidic leading to a decrease in the biodiversity.


  1. Explain why the international nature of acid rain has made solving it difficult.
Acid Rain Diagram
Figure 14.2 Acid rain causes and effects

Climate change has dominated environmental headlines over recent years with much of the dicsussion revolving around the greenhouse effect.

Incoming solar radiation brings energy into the atmosphere, some is reflected by clouds/atmospheric pollution, some is reflected by the earths surface (albedo rates), the rest is absorbed by the oceans and land.

The absorbed sunlight is transformed into heat energy and released back into the atmosphere as longerwave radiation (infra-red). It is this type of radiation that is being increasingly trapped in the atmosphere leading to warming.

Climate change is a major concern due to its environmental implications and subsequent economic impacts. In addition it is a global problem that will require coordinated efforts to start reaching effective solutions.


  1. Describe 4 effects of climate change, try to extend your answers to include knock on effects.
  2. Suggest ways in which humans can attempt to minimise the impacts of climate change.
greenhouse effect diagram
Figure 14.3 Enhanced greenhouse effect diagram

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