Topic Specific Language 4: Environment

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Topic Specific Language: Environment

Essay Questions

Although some people believe that global warming is the most pressing environmental problem currently, others think that deforestation has a bigger impact on the world.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

The government should reduce spending on local environment problems and spend it on more pressing issues such as global warming instead.

To what extent do you agree?

With increasing populations and spreading urban areas, many countries are in danger of losing their natural reserves and beauty spots.

What benefits are there in protecting these areas?

How can this issue be resolved?

Although public parks are valuable assets for many cities and urban areas, many people think this space could be better used for other purposes.

To what extent do you agree with this opinion?

With deforestation, hunting, and urban spread, many animals species are endangered to the point of extinction.

Do you think it is important to protect animals?

What measures can be taken to resolve this issue?

Global warming is one of the most serious environmental threats we currently face.

What causes global warming?

What solutions are there to this problem?

Governments are spending large amounts of money protecting animals and their habitats, some people believe this money should be spent on improving other problems such as poverty and a lack of healthcare.

To what extent do you agree?

As a consequence of urban growth, many city centres have heavily polluted environments.

Who is best able to tackle this issue, government or individuals?

Some believe that as global warming is indeed a global problem it can only be tackled by international agencies, while others argue that individuals can make a contribution to resolving this issue.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Global environmental problems are the problem of richer countries, not of poorer ones.

To what extent do you agree with this view?

Many people believe that environmental problems such as air pollution should be dealt with at the international level, not domestically.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

Many rare animals are being hunted to near extinction to fulfill humankinds greed for decorative purposes and so-called traditional medicine.

How can this problem be resolved?

Restricting air and car travel is the only way to reduce air pollution.

To what extent do you agree with this view?

Ideas for essays.

Global Warming

Greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun.

This cause global temperatures to rise

This is called the greenhouse effect

Human activity is a major cause of this

Factories and vehicles emit exhaust fumes

Many developing countries are becoming industrialised

The number of cars is increasing on the worlds streets

Cheap air travel means more people are flying thus causing more pollution

Effects of Global warming

Global warming is having a serious effect on our planet

Rising temperatures are melting the ice caps

Sea levels are rising

More extreme weather will happen in the future

Flooding and drought will happen more often

Impact of humans on the environment

Increasing population is using more and more natural resources

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are becoming depleted

Natural wildlife habitats are becoming destroyed

The rainforests are being cut down

Many animals and plant species are becoming/have become extinction

Solutions to environmental problems

Governments should introduce laws to limit car and factory emissions

They should invest in renewable energy such as solar, wind, and water power

They should impose green taxes on motor vehicles and airlines

Governments should promote recycling and impose fines on those who don’t

Natural habitats and wildlife need to be protected

Individuals should try to be greener in everything that they do

Such as, take fewer foreign trips

Take public transport instead of driving private cars

Buy products with less packaging

Recycle as mush as possible

Ride a bicycle instead of using motor vehicles


The amount of waste humans make has increased

Mainly as a consequence of the consumer society we now live in

Products have a built in obsolescence factor so if it breaks we buy a new one

It is easier to buy a new product than to have it repaired these days

Advertisements encourage us to buy the very latest products and fashions, if we need them or not

Packaging on food and other goods is too much and is mostly non-recyclable

It is also mostly non-biodegradable

Therefore the amount of household waste is increasing and ends up in ever larger and larger landfill sites


People do not consider the consequences of dropping litter in the street

They think that someone else will pick it up for them so they don’t have to

Most of the litter on streets is cigarette buts and fast food packaging


Companies should make their products last longer so fewer purchases are necessary

Less packaging should be used for all products

More legal limits should be placed on the amount of packaging a company can use

Consumers should be more choosy about the items they buy

More recycling and reuse of useful materials should be encouraged

More collection banks should be on the streets to recycle glass, plastic, and metal

Households should have separate bins for paper, plastic, etc

Nuclear power: advantages

Fossil fuels are running out

Nuclear power is a sustainable source of power

It could replace the burning of fossil fuels and is therefore less polluting

It can reduce carbon emissions and therefore reduce global warming

Nuclear power: disadvantages

Nuclear power has some safety concerns

No one wants to live next to a nuclear power station

Disposal of nuclear waste is a big problems

Terrorists might try to steal nuclear materials

It is safer to use renewables, such as wind, wave, or solar power

Essay Examples

Describe some of the ways in which humans are damaging the environment.

What can governments do to address these problems?

What can individual people do?

It can certainly be argued that humans are responsible for a variety of environmental problems, such as pollution of the atmosphere and a significant amount of waste and litter. These problems require action from governments and individuals, such as introducing laws to control emissions, and at a personal level, choosing to live a “greener” lifestyle to combat waste production.

Firstly, two of the biggest current threats to the environment are air pollution and waste. To address air pollution first, gas emissions from factories and cars are a major cause of global warming, which is having a devastating effect on the planet, such as melting of the ice caps and inclement weather conditions like typhoons and floods. Although individuals could make a difference here, it is almost certainly governments who would have to wield executive power to legislate and possibly impose fines and new taxes to reduce air pollution. For example, they could introduce laws to limit emissions from factories or to force companies to use renewable energy from solar, wind or water power. They could also impose ‘green taxes’ on drivers and in this way, people would be encouraged to use public transport thereby reducing emissions.

The second major problem can be tackled at a more personal level, that is to say, individuals should take responsibility for the impact they have on the environment. They can choose products with less packaging, and recycle as much as possible. For example, most supermarkets now provide reusable bags for shoppers as well as ‘banks’ for recycling glass, plastic and paper in their car parks. By reusing and recycling, we can help to reduce waste. Additionally, people should be made aware of the environmental benefits of adopting a “greener” way of life, in this regard, the state can play a role by sponsoring advertisements and public awareness campaigns to help citizens make the right choices about consumption and waste disposal.

In conclusion, although these problems may seem insurmountable, in order to make real change and protect the environment both national governments and individuals must play their part in this endeavour.

346 Words

Band 9

The best way to solve the world’s environmental problems is to increase the cost of fuel.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

It has been argued that the most effective way to solve today’s environmental problems is to raise the price of fuel. I disagree with this proposal as the world faces many problems and reducing fuel consumption may only have a limited effect. Secondly, this approach places responsibility for the environment on governments and doesn’t take into account individual actions to protect the environment.

Firstly, the main reason why raising fuel prices may not work is that there is not just one environmental problem the world faces today. Making fuel more expensive may well reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by car and vehicle emissions and so slow down the rate of global warming and air pollution. Research by the University of York in 2015 suggests that an increase in petrol prices in the UK of 15 to 25 per cent would have the effect of pricing 20 to 30 per cent of car owners off the roads. Whether this would be replicated in other countries is debatable however. Regardless of this, it would not help with other major problems such as deforestation, and overpopulation, to name two examples, these and other serious problems would require separate solutions.

Secondly, this policy arguably places responsibility for the environment on government, as they alone could raise the cost of fuel. However, many scientists would argue that many environmental issues, such as global warming, overpopulation, etc, need joint action by the state and individuals. For example, many environmental problems are the result of the way we live, having large families, driving private cars, over consuming, etc. Therefore, if we want to find a long-term and lasting solution to these problems we need to live in a “greener” way, as legislation can only go so far before impinging upon individual liberties and in effect becoming a green “dictatorship”. Saying this, what governments can and should do however, is to implement a global programme of education to inform people about the environmental consequences of their decisions and actions.

In conclusion then, increasing oil prices is a partial solution to only one environmental problem and would have no or marginal effect on other pressing issues such as deforestation, and overpopulation. A possible solution then, is to make education of how to live greener lives a priority for all citizens and not to rely on the state to solve every problem for us.
396 words

Band 9

Topic Specific Language

air quality: the cleanliness of the air we breathe

to become extinct: to no longer exist

to be under threat: to be in danger of becoming extinct

climate change: the change in worldwide weather patterns

to die out: see ‘to become extinct’

endangered species: categories of animals or plants that are in danger of becoming extinct

energy conservation: the careful management of energy resources to ensure they last as long as possible

environmentally friendly: behaviour and products that do not harm the environment

exhaust fumes: the toxic gases given off by vehicles powered by petrol

flash floods: floods that happen quickly

fossil fuels: energy resources like gas and oil that are produced deep below the ground over millions of years

future generations: the people who live after us

to get back to nature: to live a life that is closer to nature

global warming: the increasing temperature of the world brought about by gases such as carbon dioxide

heavy industry: the manufacture of heavy articles and materials in large numbers

humanitarian aid: the act of showing support to people struggling to survive

impact on: the effect on

loss of habitat: the decline in areas of land where animals and plants would normally exist

man-made disaster: widespread damage or loss of life brought about by the action of humans

natural disaster: an event such as an earthquake,  flood or hurricane which causes widespread damage or loss of life

natural environment: the place where animals and plants would normally be found in nature

the natural world: the world of nature

oil spill: waste usually deposited in the seas and oceans after an accident at sea

poaching: to hunt and kill wild animals illegally

pollution levels: the amount of toxic waste

pressure group: a group of people who try to raise awareness of issues and try to affect the views and actions of people and organisations

toxic waste: poisonous, unwanted rubbish often produced by industrial processes

wildlife conservation: to protect animals and plants and their habitats

Speaking Examples

Part 1

Q: “Are there any environmental problems in your country?”
A: “Yes, as you may know we have a serious issue with pollution levels in some of our big cities, like Beijing and Shanghai for example. I can say that exhaust fumes from cars and lorries, buses, etc are definitely one reason for the problem but we also have a lot of heavy industry and construction in some regions and this also results in poor air quality unfortunately.”

Q: “Do you take an interest in nature?”
A: “Well, I would say I’m a city person really and don’t get back to nature much at all sorry to say but like everyone else I’m fascinated by the natural world and I like watching documentaries showing wild animals in their natural habitat.”

Q: “Do you or your family take any measures to help the environment?”
A: “Actually, my parents are pretty green and have always tried to make us kids aware of our impact on the environment. I have to say they’re really into energy conservation and always try to buy environmentally friendly products if they have the chance, like energy-saving lightbulbs and all that kind of stuff”

Part 2

Q: Describe an environmental problem that has been in the news. You should say

  • when this was
  • where the event happened
  • what actually took place

and say how you felt about this problem.

A: “Well, this is an interesting question, let me think for a moment, you know, there are so many things I could think of, like natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods seem to be in the news almost every year. But now that I think on, there was one story recently about some animals that were under threat, it wasn’t focused on one place in particular. Actually, it was looking at several animals that might become extinct in some parts of Africa, if we don’t take steps to protect them. These were really well-known animals like gorillas, leopards, rhinos, etc, and apparently these creatures are considered to be endangered species now. Also, what made it quite depressing was they were in danger thanks to human actions, in some cases it was due to a loss of habitat because of agricultural production, which I can understand to some degree, or even worse because of hunting and poaching. You know, I hate to think of future generations being denied the chance to see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment, in fact, it’s lucky we have international organisations that focus on wildlife conservation, hopefully with their help we can put pressure on governments to do something to stop creatures like these from dying out.

Part 3

Q: “What do you think is the main danger the world faces in terms of the environment?”
A: “Well, of course climate change is a real issue, in my country we have flash floods and heatwaves every year, so yes I think global warming is the biggest issue.”

Q: “What examples are there of how we damage the natural world?”
A: “Too many to count actually, there are factories that empty toxic waste into the rivers, oil spills that pollute the ocean and coastline, the way we destroy vast areas of land and rain forests in search of fossil fuels or to increase agricultural production, just to give a few examples.”

Q: “In which ways do we respond well to environmental problems?”
A: “Well, on the one hand there are various worldwide agencies like Oxfam, or Medicin San Frontieres, that are always the first on the scene with humanitarian aid  after natural and man-made disasters and on the other hand we have environmental pressure groups , like Greenpeace say, that are constantly raising awareness of issues and trying to stop disasters happening.”