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Environmental Issues and the Economy Free Essay

Introduction

People and other living creatures are closely tied to a living nature surrounding them. The interaction is the foundation of the present push for environmental protection. The discoveries made by people created a greater desire for reconciling nature and its needs. Urban, industrial, economic, and technological advancements have been beneficial to human beings (Tietenberg and Lewis 15). However, pollution (air and water), deforestation, converting land for agricultural purposes, destruction of the ozone layer, global warming, climatic changes, waste accumulation, radioactivity, and the risk of extinction for certain plant and animal species have been the outcomes of the developments and are endangering the survival of people. The massive industrialization in the United States has brought with it not only benefits but also drawbacks (Tietenberg and Lewis 15). The most notable type of pollution that has had the most deleterious environmental and economic effects is ocean contamination. For a long time, it was ignored; however, with the recent incidences such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the consequences of ocean pollution have been brought to light. Presently, plastic, industrial, and oil pollution are the most common forms of ocean contamination with significant economic consequences.

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Ocean Pollution

Pollution refers to the release of undesirable elements into the environment. Industrial production, fossil fuel burning, agriculture, and the use of manufactured products act as sources of pollution that find their way into the ocean. In the past, it was thought that the vast nature of the ocean has the potential to dilute all pollutants to an extent where their polluting effects would be eliminated (Hofer 5). However, presently, it is well known that these elements can contaminate the ocean with deleterious consequences. Marine/ocean pollution takes place when harmful consequences occur due to the entry of chemicals, particles, waste/litter (agricultural, industrial, or residential), noise, or invasive organisms into the water (Hofer 5). Most of the marine pollution (80%) originates from land with the air pollution that is also contributing to ocean pollution. While there are multiple sources of ocean pollution, the primary pollutants are plastic, industry, and oil.

  1. Plastic Pollution.

Plastics are used daily by many people. Unfortunately, they are not properly cleaned and end up in the ocean. Globally, polymer materials and plastic production were at 311 million metric tons by 2014, which was a 2.9% increase from the 2013 production (Knight 10). Plastics are non-biodegradable, and they just break down into smaller microplastics that rapidly spread and pollute the ocean, thus causing microplastic pollution (Knight 10). However, other larger plastics are visible pollutants of the ocean that act as significant pollutants.

  1. Industrial Pollution.

Industrial pollution occurs when harmful chemicals and other compounds are discharged into the ocean. The discharge of such chemicals affects the marine environment and life due to their toxic nature (Hofer 7). The chemicals increase the ocean temperature, hence leading to thermal pollution.

  1. Oil Spill Pollution.

These are the spill of crude oil or products distilled from crude oil that has the potential of polluting the land, air, and/or water. Such pollution can be described as the negative effects of pollution from oil spills to the ocean and other areas (Hofer 7). The pollution occurs when the organic compounds that are present in crude oil and its distillates are released into the ocean.

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The Economic Effects

Pollution has several deleterious effects on the ocean and marine life. However, recent studies have revealed the significant economic effects of the key forms of ocean pollution. For example, the Deep Water Horizon oil spill of 2010resulted in huge economic damage to communities, businesses, and individuals. It is quantifiable through the examination of the compensation made by BP. By December 2015, the company had paid over $13 billion in damage claims (Adams 6). It had also paid $1.4 billion to different governments for the economic damages it had caused as well as $11.6 billion in economic damages and medical claims from individuals and other entities (Adams 6). The value is, however, higher, as there were further outstanding claims. The compensation claims were projected to reach about $19.5 billion with BP setting up a US$2.3 billion fund for the seafood industry (Adams 6). Moreover, there is a separate fund of $1.1 billion aimed at compensating business and property owners affected by the spill. Fish grounds were closed days after the spill, and the number of shrimps decreased by 32% in Louisiana, 60% in Mississippi, 15% in Florida, and 56% in Alabama. The menhaden landings declined by 17% in Louisiana, which resulted in a loss of about $247 million (Adams 6). Apart from the fisheries industry, the tourism industry was also significantly affected. According to a 2010 study by the Knowland Group, 60% of the hotels in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida experienced cancellations (Adams 7). The losses due to poor brand image in the tourism sector were projected to be $22.7 billion for the coastal economy.

Estimates indicate that approximately 8 million tons of plastic find their way into the ocean annually with the figure being considered to be significantly underestimated. The existing projections highlight that by 2050, plastic waste would outweigh the population of fish in the ocean (Matsangou). According to the World Trade Institute (WTI), the damage caused by plastic pollution to marine life is approximately $13 billion annually with the annual clean-up costs being $1.17 billion yearly (Matsangou). Lastly, there are no definite numbers for the costs of industrial pollution but the existing estimates indicate that they are close to those of plastic pollution.

Implemented Solutions to the Problems

To deal with the oil spills, several strategies were undertaken by BP, namely water-oil separation where multiple vessels were used to skim the water surface off the oil, including manual collection of the surface oil. It also utilized large centrifuges to separate the oil from the water. Further, the organization engaged in the controlled burning of large patches of surface oil (Brennan 13). The company also used chemical dispersants that involved sprinkling the oil cleaning chemicals that cause the oil to break into minute droplets that can easily dissolve in water. The primary solution at the onset was to stop the spillage, and BP ensured this (Brennan 13). Finally, to deal with the economic effects, compensatory plans were established for individuals and states to ensure that they recovered what they had lost. The strategies were effective, as they reduced the spread of the oil and allowed the thriving of aquatic life through the improvement of the marine environment. However, they may introduce other toxins into the ocean.

To deal with plastic and industrial pollution, laws can be introduced. Since plastic and industrial pollution result from human behavior, deterrent policies have been implemented. For plastic pollution, The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships was enacted (Xanthos and Walker 18). While the document deters plastic pollution, especially from vessels using the ocean, it has not been effective, as its members are reluctant to adhere to the provided requirements; hence, there is still an increase in plastic pollution (Xanthos and Walker 18). For industrial pollution, policies have been introduced to warn corporations against discharging their waste into the sea. While being effective in some questions, they lack legal backing; hence, the industries find legal loopholes that cushion them from prosecution.

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Conclusion and Recommendations

Ocean pollution has become rampant in the world. It is accompanied by significant economic consequences. While compensation, clean-up measures, and deterrent policies have been established, they have their shortcomings that fail to control ocean pollution. Therefore, it is recommended to implement wide-scale education and sensitization, including the establishment of strict laws, to ensure such contamination is handled.

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