Investigating Global Environmental Issues: An Overview of AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science offers students a comprehensive exploration of global environmental issues, empowering them to understand the complexities of environmental challenges and develop solutions for a sustainable future. Investigating global environmental issues in this course involves analyzing scientific data, understanding ecological principles, and exploring the interconnections between human activities and the environment. In this guide, we'll provide an overview of key global environmental issues studied in AP Environmental Science and discuss approaches to investigate them effectively.

1. Climate Change:

Climate change is one of the most pressing global environmental issues facing humanity today. AP Environmental Science students study the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to climate change, including the role of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and fossil fuel consumption. Investigating climate change involves analyzing temperature trends, sea level rise, extreme weather events, and their ecological, social, and economic impacts on global ecosystems and human communities.

2. Biodiversity Loss:

Biodiversity loss is another critical environmental issue with far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and human well-being. AP Environmental Science explores the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and overexploitation of natural resources. Investigating biodiversity loss entails studying species extinction rates, ecosystem fragmentation, habitat degradation, and the ecological services provided by diverse ecosystems.

3. Pollution:

Pollution in its various forms, including air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination, poses significant threats to environmental and human health. AP Environmental Science examines the sources, impacts, and management strategies for different types of pollution, from industrial emissions to plastic pollution in the oceans. Investigating pollution involves analyzing pollutant concentrations, identifying sources of contamination, assessing ecological and human health risks, and evaluating pollution control measures.

4. Resource Depletion:

The unsustainable extraction and consumption of natural resources, such as fossil fuels, minerals, and freshwater, contribute to resource depletion and environmental degradation. AP Environmental Science investigates the impacts of resource depletion on ecosystems, economies, and societies, as well as strategies for resource conservation and sustainable management. Investigating resource depletion requires analyzing resource extraction rates, assessing renewable and non-renewable resource availability, and exploring alternative energy sources and technologies.

5. Land Use Change:

Land use change, including urbanization, deforestation, agricultural expansion, and habitat conversion, alters ecosystems and landscapes, leading to biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and changes in ecosystem services. AP Environmental Science studies the drivers and impacts of land use change, as well as strategies for sustainable land management and conservation. Investigating land use change involves analyzing land cover changes, mapping land use patterns, and assessing the ecological and social implications of different land management practices.

6. Environmental Justice:

Environmental justice addresses the unequal distribution of environmental benefits and burdens among different social groups, particularly marginalized communities and low-income populations. AP Environmental Science explores environmental justice issues, including environmental racism, access to clean air and water, and the disproportionate impacts of pollution and environmental hazards on vulnerable communities. Investigating environmental justice involves analyzing socioeconomic disparities, assessing environmental health risks, and advocating for equitable environmental policies and solutions.

7. Interdisciplinary Approaches:

Investigating global environmental issues in AP Environmental Science requires interdisciplinary approaches that integrate knowledge and methods from various scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and geography. Students learn to apply scientific principles, conduct experiments, collect and analyze data, and communicate their findings effectively. Interdisciplinary approaches enable students to understand the complexity of environmental issues and develop holistic solutions that consider ecological, social, economic, and ethical dimensions.

8. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:

AP Environmental Science emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills to address complex environmental challenges effectively. Students learn to evaluate evidence, analyze data, construct arguments, and propose solutions to real-world environmental problems. Critical thinking skills enable students to assess the validity of scientific claims, identify bias and misinformation, and make informed decisions based on evidence and reasoning.


AP Environmental Science provides students with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives needed to investigate global environmental issues and contribute to positive environmental change. By studying climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, resource depletion, land use change, environmental justice, and other key topics, students gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of human activities and the environment. Through interdisciplinary approaches, critical thinking, and problem-solving, students develop the capacity to address complex environmental challenges and work towards a more sustainable and equitable future.