How to Talk about Environmental Issues

How to Talk about Environmental Issues

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
Wendell Berry, an American writer

How great it would be if an article about environmental issues were not necessary! Unfortunately, environmental pollution, global warming and climate change have become harsh realities of life, which we must accept and deal with. This article is for English learners who may want not just to learn new vocabulary but know more about the most concerning wold issues…


Over the last 100 years, the average temperatures of the earth’s surface has risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius, with human activity now believed to be the principal cause of global warming. If emissions from greenhouse gases continue to rise, the impact could be devastating. We will experience more extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, prolonged heatwaves and drought, and sea levels could rise even further.

In the Arctic, the temperature is rising twice as fast: sea ice is melting at an alarming rate, and this is already threatening the existence of many different species.

  • Use by for showing how much something has changed: 1) The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018. 2) Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3 percent.
  • Celsius /ˈselsiəs/ is a system for measuring temperature that is part of the metric system, in which water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100 degrees. 20 degrees Celsius = 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Global warming is the increase in temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that is caused by particular gases, especially carbon dioxide /ˌkɑː(r)bən daɪˈɒksaɪd/ (CO2). These gases are often referred to as greenhouse gases.
  • An emission is a substance, especially a gas, that goes into the air: Ahead of upcoming climate talks, the UN says countries must escalate (= increase rapidly) cutting CO2 emissions to keep global temperature rise at 2°C. 2) The hotter the day gets, the more emissions vehicles give off.
  • A flood /flʌd/ is a large amount of water that covers an area that was dry before: Deforestation (= the action of clearing a wide area of trees) causes floods/flooding
  • A hurricane /ˈhʌrɪkeɪn/ is a violent storm with extremely strong winds and heavy rain. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same weather phenomenon – tropical cyclones: 1) Atlantic hurricanes are becoming stronger and faster, largely due to climate change. 2) Climate change is contributing to stronger typhoons.
  • A heatwave is a continuous period of very hot weather, especially when this is unusual: After a scorching (= extremely hot) summer heatwave in 2018, planners of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are implementing measures to protect athletes, staff, and spectators at outdoor events from extreme temperatures during the 2020 Games.
  • A drought /draʊt/ is a long period of time when there is little or no rain and crops die: The Indian peninsula is facing a severe drought.
  • The Arctic the region that is the most northern part of the world. The most southern region is the Antarctic.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
  • A rate is the speed at which something happens within a particular period of time: The population was growing at an alarming rate.


When industrialization began, little thought was given to its ecological effect. Raw, untreated sewage was allowed to pollute our seas and rivers. Animals were killed for profit to the point of extinction. The loss of trees through uncontrolled deforestation caused erosion and unstable climate. Acid rain was caused by the poisonous gases man sent into the atmosphere. Chemicals in pesticides killed animal life. Herbicides destroyed plants. The balance of nature was disturbed.

It is only now that we are waking up to the problem. More natural, organic farming is advocated. Legislation controls the disposal (= discarding, throwing away) of waste products into our air and water. Wild life organizations are becoming more militant (= aggressive) in their fight for animal rights. Replanting policies in some parts of the world mean that our forests should in future be sustainable.

We can only hope that growing public awareness and enlightened (= advanced, informed) legislation will produce a world which is safe for us and will provide a good quality of life for future generations.

  • Industrialization is the process by which a country develops its industries or makes them more modern. The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to industrialize. Read about the history of industrialization here.
  • Sewage /ˈsuːɪdʒ/ is waste substances, especially waste from people’s bodies, removed from houses and other buildings by a system of large underground pipes called sewers /ˈsuːə(r)z/.
  • Extinction /ɪkˈstɪŋkʃ(ə)n/ is a situation in which a type of animal no longer exists: 1) Many species of animals are threatened with extinction. 2) The Tasmanian tiger was declared extinct in 1936.
  • Erosion /ɪˈrəʊʒ(ə)n/ is the process by which the surface of land or rock is gradually damaged by water, wind, etc. and begins to disappear: Each year, about 75 billion tons of soil is eroded from the land – a rate that is about 13–40 times as fast as the natural rate of erosion. Approximately 40% of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded (= reduced in quality).
  • Acid /ˈæsɪd/ rain is rain that contains chemicals from pollution and damages plants, etc.: The area has suffered the worst acid rain damage in the nation.
  • A pesticide /ˈpestɪsaɪd/ is a chemical used for killing insects, especially those that damage crops. A herbicide /ˈhɜː(r)bɪsaɪd/ is a chemical used for killing weeds.
  • If you wake up to a problem/fact, you start realizing it: Many people still need to wake up to the problem of climate change.
  • To advocate /ˈædvəkeɪt/ is to publicly support a particular policy or way of doing things: We advocate sustainability (= the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time). 
  • Sustainable is causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time: A large international meeting was held with the aim of promoting sustainable development in all countries.

Do you do anything to address the global environmental issues? If you do, please share your experience in the comments below. Thank you very much for your contribution!

Materials used: “Oxford Word Skills Idioms & Phrasal Verbs” by R.Gairns and S.Redman, “Advanced Vocabulary & Idioms” by B.J.Thomas

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