The 10 biggest environmental challenges of 2024

Humans produce more waste than the planet can handle. If not recycled, they end up in landfills, polluting the air, contaminating water and soil and exacerbating the climate crisis, although they are now affected by countless factors, some of which undoubtedly require more attention.

From deforestation and biodiversity loss to food waste and fast fashion, these are some of today’s biggest environmental challenges that need more urgent action in 2024 than ever before.

Global warming from fossil fuels

2024 was the hottest year on record, while carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were higher than ever. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all of this is a “direct result of human activity” caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, which in turn has catastrophic effects around the world.

However, the worrying fact is that even if greenhouse gas emissions are stopped immediately, global temperatures will continue to rise in the coming years. This is also the reason why we need to drastically reduce them, invest in renewable energy sources and phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Food waste

1/3 of the food intended for human consumption – about 1.3 billion tons – is wasted or lost, while this is enough to feed three billion people! Food waste is said to be responsible for about 1/4 of greenhouse gas emissions each year. To put this in perspective, consider that it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases at the national level, after China and the United States.

What’s even sadder is that a large amount of food is thrown away for purely aesthetic reasons. For example, in the United States alone, more than 50% of produce is thrown away because it is considered “too bad” to sell to consumers, which equates to about 60 million tons of fruits and vegetables.

Loss of biodiversity

Humanity uses more resources than it can replenish naturally. According to a WWF report (2020), between 1970 and 2016, populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians declined by an average of 68%. conversion of habitats such as forests and grasslands to agricultural systems. More than 500 species of land animals are already on the brink of extinction and are likely to disappear within twenty years. Without catastrophic human intervention, it would take years to achieve this rate of loss, scientists say.

Pollution from plastic

In 1950, the world produced more than two million tons of plastic annually. By 2015, this annual production had risen to 419 million tons. A report published in the scientific journal “Nature” states that today, about 14 million tons of plastic flows into the oceans every year, harming wildlife and the animals that live there. If no action is taken, this amount will increase to 29 million tons per year by 2040, and if we include microplastics, the cumulative amount in the oceans could reach 600 million tons.

Also shockingly, National Geographic found that 91% of all plastic produced is not recycled. Consider here that the decomposition took about 400 years.

Fast fashion

According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for almost 20% of global liquid waste and 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions due to garment dyeing, producing more than the aviation sector and shipping.

At the same time, most non-biodegradable clothing and textiles end up in landfills, while microplastics from polyester, nylon, polyamide, acrylic and other synthetic materials seep into soil and nearby water sources. Also, large quantities of textiles are dumped in underdeveloped areas such as Chile’s Atacama Desert, where at least 39,000 tons of textile waste ends up from around the world.


More than three billion people around the world have fish as their main source of protein. But overfishing is harmful to the environment, causing algal blooms, destruction of fishing communities, ocean pollution and extreme biodiversity loss.


In addition to sequestering carbon, forests also prevent soil erosion because tree roots prevent landslides. By 2030, only 10% of the planet’s forests may remain, and if deforestation is not stopped immediately, it is equally likely that they will all be gone in less than a hundred years.

Air pollution

According to the World Health Organization estimates, around 4.2-7 million people worldwide die from air pollution every year and 9 out of 10 people breathe air with high levels of pollutants, and in 2023 air pollution in South Asia will be one of the most polluted regions in the world. , reducing its lifespan by about five years. In Europe, a recent report by the European Environment Agency showed that more than half a million people died in 2021 from health problems directly related to exposure to toxic pollutants.

Melting ice and rising sea levels

Because of the climate crisis, the Arctic is warming more than twice as much as anywhere else on the planet. Today, sea levels are rising twice as fast as during most of the 20th century due to rising temperatures on Earth. In the Arctic, the Greenland ice sheet poses the greatest risk to rising sea levels as its dry ice melts.


The world has a large amount of arable land and an equally large amount of fresh water is used to grow it, making it one of the biggest problems on the list. At the same time, studies have shown that the global food system is responsible for 1/3 of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, with 30% coming from livestock and fisheries. Scientists and environmentalists warn that we need to rethink our current food system, as a more vegan approach would drastically reduce our footprint.

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