It’s no secret that climate change is one of the major global challenges of our time, adding considerable stress to the environment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are significant.
A recent UN report has painted a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought. Even if nations stick to the Paris agreement and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the planet is still in huge danger. Further to this, we now have less time to act than previously thought. If governments don’t take significant action over the next ten years, we could be faced with severe food shortages, increased forest fires and large scale coral reef die-offs by 2040 – a period well within the lifetime of many of you reading this. Not to mention more serious issues that have not yet been considered, including potential migration of tens of millions of people that could increase risk of wars.
Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years. But of course, the majority of such change comes down to governments and may be politically impossible. For example, the UN report says that heavy taxes on carbon dioxide emissions — perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. This is a drastic contrast to the $7 per ton suggested by the Trump administration. President Trump has flat out dismissed the science of climate change, has promised to increase coal consumption and vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement. As United States is one of the world’s largest economies, this is disastrous.
What is the correlation between plastic pollution and climate change?
Imagine a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles. One circle represents “plastic pollution” and the other “climate change.” Where they intersect, you could write the words “fossil fuels” (i.e. coal, oil and natural gas). With the exception of the tiny amount of plant-based plastic, most plastics are made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. These fossil fuels release toxic emissions and contribute to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Human activities have caused warming of about 1.8 degrees since the 1850s, the beginning of large-scale industrial coal burning. If the current pattern of increasing climate continues, we are in serious trouble.