Responsible for heating up the Earth and leading to climate change, the effects of global warming are now being felt worldwide. While many countries have been working together to reduce their impact upon the environment, rising temperatures have been attributed to an increasing use of non-biodegradable plastics. How plastic affects global warming is a question that must be addressed if we are to effectively combat this huge threat to the planet.
It is no secret that plastic is a major contributor to climate change. The production and burning of petroleum and chemistry products to produce the plastic used to make household goods, toys, and packaging releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping additional heat and driving up global temperatures. The Earth absorbs much less radiation when covered in plastic as opposed to vegetation, leading to a phenomenon known as the albedo effect. This occurs as the plastic prevents solar radiation from reflecting off the surface, trapping more heat and contributing to global warming.
The oceans are a particularly worrying source of plastic pollution, as discarded plastic from coastlines and fishing vessels accumulates in the open ocean and contributes to the development of ‘garbage patches’. These regions contain particularly high concentrations of plastic, which is incredibly dangerous for the plant and animal life living there. The lifeless plastic can also be mistaken for food by numerous species, resulting in death. This further exemplifies the great danger that plastic poses to the planet’s environment.
These are not the only damaging effects of plastic on nature – it also causes an imbalance in the nitrogen cycle due to agriculture lack of natural matter and increased drip irrigation, leading to eutrophication and an increase in the acidity of water in the ocean. These changes damage the natural habitats of aquatic life, leading to a decrease in biodiversity and an imbalance in the local ecosystem.
Despite the dire consequences of plastic pollution, there is some encouragement to be taken in the increasing global awareness regarding plastics and their influence on the environment. As more and more people reject single-use plastics, many companies and governments have started phasing out the use of these materials and are encouraging the use of more sustainable materials, such as paper and canvas. Furthermore, numerous organizations have been set up with the express purpose of cleaning up the ocean and reducing plastic waste. It is inspiring to see individuals and corporations making an effort to limit their environmental impact, and we must make sure that this commitment to reduce plastics continues indefinitely.
Although much progress has been made in terms of battling plastic pollution, we still have a long way to go in tackling our plastic problem. We must take steps to limit our plastic consumption and ensure that our contribution to the global warming crisis is being minimized. By making wise and sustainable choices, we can ensure that the future of humanity, and of the planet, remains secure.