The natural environment and human impacts
Book chapter, 2016
To comprehend the implications of the various environmental issues that man is inducing on the Earth (with a focus on the shipping industry), an understanding of the Earth's major systems is necessary. The natural environment, which consists of air, water, land and living organisms, is a dynamic system in which material and energy are exchanged within and between the individual components. The system is divided into four spheres (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphère), and fluxes of energy and material are exchanged amongst these spheres. The spheres also largely govern the fate of various environmental problems originating from the shipping industry. Therefore, background information related to these spheres is provided, and their major properties and implications are explained. Regarding the atmosphere, radiation and energy budgets are explained in conjunction with the weather and climate. Concerning the hydrosphere, oceanography is introduced together with marine ecology. Addressing the geosphere, the elements in the Earth's crust and mineral commodities are discussed. Regarding the biosphere, energy is transferred through food chains; the differences between life in water and life on land are examined. Energy flows through and is stored in these spheres; this stored energy is essential to the natural environment and human society. The different primary energy sources are described and divided into non-renewable and renewable sources. Finally, an introduction to human impacts on the natural environment and to major environmental issues is provided.
Primary energy sources