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Is Green Technology Harming Marine life?

Context

According to the researchers, the increasing demand for renewable energy technology, such as lithium batteries for electric vehicles, poses a potential threat to marine ecology.

Relevance

GS Paper 3: Environment

  • Conservation,
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment

Mains Question

What is Horizon Scanning? How it is used to identify issues that have global environmental impact?


The Concerning Issue

  • A new study has identified emerging threats to marine biodiversity that could have a significant impact over the next 5-10 years.
  • The study, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, also discusses the negative consequences of green technology adoption, which should not be overlooked.
  • A team of 30 multidisciplinary experts reached their conclusion using a technique known as ‘horizon scanning.’

The influence of green technology

  • With increased public pressure against marine plastic pollution, an attempt has been made to replace fossil fuel-based plastic with biodegradable polymers, such as ‘biodegradable plastic bags’ made from plant starches.
  • However, the researchers claim that these materials do not biodegrade in the ocean under natural conditions, and that their widespread use may result in marine litter.
  • Because their long-term impact on the environment is unknown, they may cause new problems.
  • According to the researchers, the increasing demand for renewable energy technology, such as lithium batteries for electric vehicles, poses a potential threat to marine ecology.
  • Deep sea ‘brine pools’ of more saline water contain higher concentrations of lithium and could be used for extraction in the future. The study discovered that these ecosystems support a diverse range of species, many of which are largely unknown.
  • Rising demand for lithium-powered electric vehicles may endanger these ecosystems.

Other difficulties

  • Overfishing has already been identified as an immediate problem, with the WTO calling for the prohibition of subsidies to those engaged in overfished stock fishing at its most recent Ministerial Conference on June 23.
  • The authors predict increased fishing in deeper sea water to address growing global food security concerns.
  • There are approximately 10 billion tonnes of small lanternfishes in the mesopelagic zone (depths of 200m – 1,000m) that are not fit for human consumption but can be sold to fish farms or used as fertiliser.
  • Large-scale harvesting of mesopelagic fish, on the other hand, would cause massive environmental damage because these species act as an ocean pump, removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Horizon Scanning

  • It is a technique for identifying novel but little-known issues that are likely to have significant consequences over the next decade.
  • According to the study’s researchers, this methodology is intended to “primarily act as signposts, focusing on specific issues and providing support for researchers and practitioners to seek investment in these areas” before they have a significant impact.
  • It is also an effective method of bringing together experts from various subject areas to examine common issues and develop more comprehensive solutions.
  • Previously, the horizon scan method was used to identify issues that are now known to have a global environmental impact.
  • A 2009 scan provided an early warning about the threat that microplastics (small plastic debris less than 5 mm in size) pose to marine environments.
  • Since then, countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have prohibited the use of microbeads in cosmetics.

Brine pool

  • A brine pool, also known as an underwater, Deepwater, or brine lake, is a collection of brine in a seafloor depression.
  • The pools are dense bodies of water with salinities three to eight times that of the surrounding ocean.

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September 2022
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