By now, the headlines about dead whales washing ashore with pounds of plastic in their belly are commonplace. Photos of bird carcasses bursting with bottle caps and other plastic detritus are seared into our memory. But plastic’s effects on nature doesn’t stop there ― it’s also making climate change worse.
A new report published this week by the Center for International Environmental Law details the greenhouse gas emissions from each step in the lifecycle of plastics: from fossil fuel extraction, transport and refining to the production of consumer goods, the managing of plastic waste, and the proliferation of trash in the oceans. The study authors warn that, if demand for plastics continues to rise, the material’s contribution to climate change will grow significantly.
This year, emissions from plastics will equal the pollution output of nearly 200 coal-fired power plants with a 500-megawatt capacity, the report finds. The authors estimate that emissions from plastic will reach the equivalent of nearly 300 coal plants in 2030 and over 600 in 2050. They speculate that their predictions underestimate the situation, “due to limitations in the availability and accuracy of certain data.”
The report also warns that expanding current plastic production will make it “impossible” for the world to meet the Paris Climate Accord’s goal of preventing global warming from exceeding 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages. United Nations scientists predict that warming beyond that point would result in catastrophic climate change…. see more