Renewable Sources of Energy

solar panel in field

Renewable energy can be defined as energy that is replenished at a higher rate than it is used. Fossil fuels do not qualify as renewable energy sources under this definition because they are used more quickly than they are naturally replenished. Sunlight, wind, geothermal and hydropower energies, though, are renewable. Sunlight, wind, geothermal hydropower sources are virtually inexhaustible; we will never deplete the global supply. Furthermore, these four energies have fewer related greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels.

Solar Energy Renewable

Sunlight is perhaps the most abundant source of energy available on Earth. Sunlight can be cheaply acquired and has extremely low emissions outputs. Capturing solar energy is accomplished with solar panels. When sunlight impinges on a solar panel, the photovoltaic silicon cells convert light energy into usable electricity. Solar panels’ energy generation process is itself 100% greenhouse gas emissions free. Manufacturing solar panels are however associated with some carbon dioxide emissions; according to a study in Nature, solar panels produce emissions as low as 20g CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour over their lifetime.

The main disadvantage to solar power: it’s not consistently available at all times, in all places. Sunlight energy varies depending on the time of day, season and year, and geographic location. On the other hand, if installed in the right place and stored properly, the electric energy from solar panels can provide energy to people living in remote areas, without the need for larger energy networks. Therefore, purchasing solar panels could save your household money on its monthly energy bill!

Wind Energy Renewable

Wind energy comes from turbines. The force created by the motion of air turns the turbine’s blades around a rotor, which spins a generator to create electricity. Simply put, the kinetic energy from the wind is collected by wind turbines, converted to electricity, and then stored for later use. The wind is an inexhaustible resource, it will never run out. Though, like sunlight, the wind is not equally available at all times and in all places. The ideal locations for wind turbine installation are windy areas, that have little wildlife, and are far away from populations of people, as wind turbines can be noisy.

Wind turbines are usually hundreds of feet tall and are often installed in groups, referred to as wind farms. Turbines work better in groups so that sufficient amounts of wind energy can be captured over a large distance. For the most part, greenhouse gas emissions from wind energy are quite low, especially relative to those of fossil fuel combustion. The emissions associated with wind energy are a result of manufacturing their parts and materials.

Hydropower Renewable

Hydropower facilities come in four different forms: impoundment, diversion, offshore (seawater), and pump and storage. In each case, the principal is the same, water is energy created by the movement of flowing water which pushes against the blades of a turbine to spin a turbine. Hydropower plants operate similarly to wind farms, in that they convert kinetic energy to electric energy.

Renewable Geothermal

Geothermal energy is heat continuously produced inside Earth. Most of this internal heat is brought on by the spontaneous process of unstable atomic nuclei transitioning into more stable versions of themselves; radioactive decay. The decay of radioactive elements results in a release of heat and happens perpetually in the Earth’s core, meaning that this energy can never be exhausted.

Earth’s internal energy heats up underground sources of water, which rises up to the surface as underwater hydrothermal vents geysers, steam vents and hot springs. This energy too, can be made to turn a turbine generator and generate electricity.

Renewable Biomass

Biomass is an organic source of energy, that is, it’s the material of or from living organisms. Common biomass materials include agriculture feedstocks, grasses, wood, algae, animal manure, and human sewage. Organic material is consistently available and can, in theory, be used indefinitely. The energy contained in biomass comes partly from the carbohydrates that photosynthetic plants have synthesized using sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. The carbohydrates from plants and animals can be transformed into usable energy when burned (direct combustion) or converted.

Biomass technically qualifies as renewable source of energy, but when burned, biomass emits carbon dioxide at rates comparable to fossil fuels for the same amount of generated energy. Unlike burning fossil fuel burning, which releases the carbon stored in underground for millions of years or more, the combustion of biomass releases carbon that’s been stored in living organisms, i.e plants, animals and organic wastes. The carbon dioxide from burned biomass is not moved back into the biosphere as quickly as it is expelled, meaning that biomass combustion is not a carbon neutral means of energy production.

renewable biomass wood chips and bamboo


The acronym RCP stands for ‘Representative Concentration Pathway’. RCPs are scenarios that describe how Earth’s climate could potentially change in the future up to the year 2100. Each scenario estimates alternative trajectories for future greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting atmospheric concentration of those gases. Once the concentrations from differing emissions scenarios are calculated, climate modelers can then estimate the effect this will have on near-surface air and water temperatures.

Radiative Forcing

The RCP scenarios’ names correspond with their radiative forcing target level for 2100. For example, in a scenario named “RCP 2.6”, the future radiative balance would be changed by 2.6 W/m2, causing Earth to warm to restore this balance. Radiative forcing is the effect that various components of the atmosphere (i.e greenhouse gases and air pollutants, solar irradiance) have on the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation. In other words, the radiative forcing estimates refer to changes in atmospheric heat caused by greenhouse gases and other forcing agents.

Future of Climate Change

There are numerous factors to account for when assessing future climate change. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is perhaps the most significant among these factors because the atmosphere’s temperature responds to the total concentration of greenhouse gases. Therefore, RCP projections assume that temperature is linearly related to the cumulative total of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

By calculating the changes in the atmosphere’s components, predictions can be made about the temperature changes that would result. Other factors that must be considered for reliable future climate change assessments include developments in adaptation technologies, changes in land use, future energy production, population growth, and economic growth.

Some scenarios are optimistic, in that they predict future emissions to be much lower than they are today. The worst-case scenarios, on the other hand, are pathways that have the highest estimated future greenhouse gas concentrations; and therefore the highest temperature predictions.

RCP 2.6 is an example of a more optimistic scenario. RCP 2.6 assumes that humanity implements a variety of technologies and strategies for curbing emissions while also making ambitious emissions reductions across sectors by 2100. RCP 2.6 refers to the concentration of greenhouse gases that cause global warming at an average of 2.6 W/m2 (watts per square meter). RCP 2.6 results in the least amount of global warming of all the RCPs.

RCP 8.5, the so-called “business as usual scenario”, has the highest global mean temperature increases of all pathway scenarios. RCP8.5 is a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario that is likely to be the outcome if humanity makes few or no concerted efforts to decrease emissions, resulting in a warming average of 8.5 watts per square meter globally. Projected changes in climate under RCP 8.5 will be more severe than under RCP 2.6.

There are four main RCPs that extend to the end of the century (2100). RCP 4.5 and RCP 6 are intermediate scenarios between 2.6 (lowest) and 8.5 (highest). The RCP estimates are far from exact, as there are far too many societal and climatological uncertainties to factor into assessments. In reality, future greenhouse gas emissions can fall anywhere on the spectrum between RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5, or perhaps outside the boundaries of these projections entirely. Also, no one can be sure exactly how sensitive Earth’s climate might be to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and other forcing agents.

Inherent uncertainties aside, these limited sets of scenarios allow for a common language and way of thinking about future changes in climate for policymakers and climate modeling teams.

China’s Record Heatwave, Worst Drought In Six Decades

Chinese mountains with red sun on horizon

In the summer of 2022, parts of China were hit by record-breaking heat waves which reportedly impacted shipping, water irrigation, and hydropower generation. Factory operations in some plants, including Tesla, Foxconn, and Toyota were temporarily suspended due to the power supply shortage.

Is the Yangtze River Drying Up?

There is a shortage of hydropower generated by Yangtze dams because the river water that rotates turbines has partially dried up. Consequently, multiple regions of China, including Sichuan and Hubei, have experienced severe power cuts. The Yangtze river (also known as the “Changjiang” in Chinese) may have dropped to half its average water levels. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the Yangtze is the world’s third longest river and it extends for 3,900 miles, running through 10 provinces, including Sichuan, Tibet, and Shanghai. Sichuan in particular is highly reliant on hydroelectric dams for power, which makes it among the most impacted.

Under normal conditions, the Yangtze river provides drinking water for hundreds of millions of people. This summer, however, the river has reached historically low water levels due to increased water evaporation caused by record high temperatures. Infrequent rain is also contributing to the decrease in hydropower production, as rainfall increases the amount of water available for hydropower turbines.

2022 China Heat Wave

The 80 million residents in the Sichuan province observed temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) amid a 70-day heat wave this summer of 2022. In August, the temperature in Chongqing in Sichuan province reportedly hit 45°C (113°F), among the highest temperatures recorded in China. While portions of river reservoirs that would normally be used to generate electricity were drying up, power demands continued to rise as homes and businesses relied on air conditioning to cool off.

China not only witnessed its lowest levels of rainfall in 61 years but also felt what is arguably its most severe heatwave ever recorded in terms of duration and intensity. Widespread drought driven by extreme heat has made governments more concerned with crop protection and water conservation. Local authorities were ordered to cut water supplies were cut for agriculture and industrial uses.

On August 13th at 9:30 a.m., the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) activated level four emergency responses, which requires meteorological departments in the affected region to release timely and accurate updates on the extreme weather.

If nothing else, China’s extreme weather during this summer should raise public awareness of climate change’s effects.

The Arctic Has Warmed Nearly Four Times Faster Than the Globe Since 1979

Artic land ice and snow

On August 11, 2022, a study was published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment on Arctic amplification (AA), the relatively higher rate of warming in the Arctic compared to all other parts of the globe. AA, also known as polar amplification, is thought to be due to feedback from reduced cold-season ice and snow cover.

In other words, ice loss in the Arctic causes the region to have greater temperature change averages than the rest of the planet. Though this fact has been well established in previous literature, authors of “The Arctic Has Warmed Nearly Four Times Faster Than the Globe Since 1979” declare that AA is presently happening at higher ratios than what’s been reported in the past.

According to authors Mika Rantanen, Alexey Karpechko, Antti Lipponen, Kalle Nordling, Otto Hyvärinen, Kimmo Ruosteenoja, Timo Vihma, and Ari Laaksonen, warming ratios from previous studies are based on possibly outdated estimates that do not include the most recent observations. If true, previous studies will have likely underestimated present-day Arctic heating rates.

Mika Rantanen and colleagues used several observational datasets for the Arctic region to more accurately quantify the current magnitude of AA. They included four climate models in their calculations: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature version 4 (GISTEMP), the Berkeley Earth temperature dataset (BEST), the Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit version (HadCRUT5) and ERA5 reanalysis.

Arctic Circle

Rantanen’s team claims that “the period of interest and the area of the Arctic can be defined in multiple ways”. To put it another way, AA estimates will vary according to the timeframe studied and the definition of what qualifies as the geographic area of the Arctic. Rantanen’s team primarily defined the Arctic using the Arctic Circle as the southern boundary (66.5–90N, the area located above 66.5 degrees latitude) and focus on warming trends for the last 43 years.

During the last 43 years, more accurate satellite remote sensing data and observations on atmospheric variables and sea ice concentration have become available. This period is crucial for AA calculations, as 1979–2021 is thought to be a period of relatively strong Arctic warming.

Their results are evidence that major portions of the Arctic Ocean warmed nearly four times faster than the globe from the years 1979–2021, whereas previous studies report the Arctic warming at nearly twice, or about twice as quickly as the global average. AA was most severe in Novaya Zemlya sea areas, which warmed up to seven times as fast as the global average.

Ice Melt

There are multiple reasons for accelerated Arctic heating. Human-caused global warming is likely an integral cause of recent heating trends. On top of that, ice loss within the Arctic Circle plays a role. Ice that was once frozen for all or most of the year, is increasingly shrinking. Sea ice loss reinforces global warming because melting ice gives way to a darker ocean. Brightly colored snow and ice surfaces reflect sunlight back into space at a higher rate than the surfaces of darkly colored seawater, which are more efficient at absorbing sunlight and heat energy.


Climate Change Is Costly

Climate change is already underway and is predicted to worsen. Human industrial activities, most notably those that involve the use of fossil fuels, are partly responsible for the accumulation of excess greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. The resultant increased rate of warming promotes droughts, wildfires, sea level rise, and other hazardous outcomes for people, crops, wildlife, and infrastructure.

The impacts of climate change could cost $1.9 trillion per year (in today’s dollars) by 2100 according to Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton of the Global Development and Environment Institute and Stockholm Environment Institute-US Center. Their analysis is based on just four symptoms of global warming: hurricane damages, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs. They go on to state that immediate greenhouse emissions reductions are necessary to prevent most of global warming’s damages.

Other problems associated with climate change like declining biodiversity and decreased agriculture production will likely lower economic output in countries that rely on agriculture for total productivity. Jobs in agriculture, fishing, logging, and aquaculture require specific climate conditions and predictable weather patterns so that food, medicine, and material demands for human populations can be met.

About Climate Change Essay

Day-to-day, weather varies depending on factors like region, elevation, temperature, precipitation, wind flow and time of year. But in the background of daily weather variations, changes that happen over decades or longer can be observed in weather records. These long-term changes describe climate rather than weather. Long-term warming trends recorded since the industrial age have been linked to human activities, like agriculture and energy production.

So called, ‘human-induced climate change’, or anthropogenic climate change has 5 distinct effects: 1) increased surface temperatures, 2) rising sea levels, 3) melting ice sheets, 4) declining biodiversity, and 5) decreased agriculture production.

What Are the Effects of Rising Temperatures?

Rising surface, ocean, and atmospheric temperatures, also known as global warming, is perhaps the most influential symptom of climate change. As average daily temperatures gradually increase, there may be more incidents of heatwaves and droughts. Global warming also adds to the likelihood of wildfire occurrences. Evapotranspiration-the combination of water evaporation, soil moisture evaporation, and plant transpiration-rids soils and vegetation of their moisture. Dried-out plant matter acts as kindling during wildfires and enables the spread of flames.

Excess heat may also be hazardous to human health. People who are exposed to extreme heat can experience a range of conditions, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes.

Why Is Sea Level Rise a Problem?

Sea level rise is related to the melting of land-ice and thermal expansion in seawater caused by heating oceans. The most affected communities are those along coasts. Coastal systems are more sensitive to rising seas because of their low elevation and proximity to large bodies of water. Erosion from intense wave action and flooding threatens coastal infrastructure more than that of high-elevation and inland territories. On top of that, coasts are highly vulnerable to extreme storms such as tropical cyclones. Coastal storms, including hurricanes and tropical storms, generate powerful ocean waves and harsh winds that indiscriminately damage property and claim lives.

How Can Melting Ice Sheets Affect the Environment?

Ice sheets are permanent masses of ice that cover vast amounts of land in Greenland and Antarctica. Under the influence of global warming, ice sheets melt more quickly. Water from melting land ice inevitably flows into seas and contributes to rising sea levels. In return, increasing amounts of melting sea ice loss reinforce global warming. This is because brightly colored snow and ice surfaces reflect sunlight back into space at a higher rate than the surfaces of darkly colored sea water, which are more efficient at absorbing sunlight and heat energy. As ice sheets melt, Greenland and Antarctica will continue to heat up, and vice versa.

Permafrost (layers of subsurface soil, gravel, and sand that stay frozen year-round) stores plant material and keep them from decomposing as long as they remain frozen. Thawing these icy structures will allow the natural breakdown of plant materials to take place. When organic materials decompose, an array of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere and intensify global heating.

Biodiversity Loss Effects

A report published in 2021 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) drew a connection between climate change and biodiversity loss. According to the report, long-term climatological shifts have the potential to adversely alter a wide range of ecosystems.

For example, ocean acidification, which is driven by warming sea temperatures, can be harmful to species that form shells and skeletons from calcium and carbonate. When large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide are absorbed by seawater, the water’s pH is reduced and the amount of carbonate ions decreases. Ocean acidification can make shells and skeletons grow more slowly or dissolve more quickly, leaving species like scallops, corals, sea urchins, and clams more prone to impaired health.

How Does Climate Change Affect Agriculture?

The physical effects of climate change could be influencing agriculture production in a myriad of ways because crops depend on suitable environmental conditions to grow. Crop growth can be disturbed by abiotic stress like shifts in air temperature or lack of water. A 2017 study titled, “Temperature Increase Reduces Global Yields of Major Crops in Four Independent Estimates“, compiled results from four analytical methods (global grid-based models, local point-based models, statistical regressions, and field-warming experiments). They discovered that “without CO2 fertilization, effective adaptation, and genetic improvement, each degree-Celsius increase in global mean temperature would, on average, reduce global yields…”. For certain plant species, exposure to hotter temperatures could lower yields and make food security threats more pronounced in the future.

Global temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade (since 1880) and some of this trend is attributable to human activity.

Is SB 1383 Mandatory?

Californian flag and American flag
Californian and American Flags

Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383) is California’s short-lived climate pollutant reduction law. The bill was enacted September 2019 to lower emissions of short-lived pollutants such as methane by 40%, relative to 2013 levels, no later than 2030. To achieve this objective, Californian food generators are being required to reduce their organic waste contributions.

California Landfill Methane Rule

SB 1383 limits the amount of organic decomposing material in landfills so that California’s total greenhouse gas emissions will decrease. Decomposing organic wastes, including foods, wood or paper discharge so-called “landfill gases” (LFG). LFGs are a combination of several greenhouse gases that are produced as organic wastes rot and break down.

In a sense, Senate Bill 1383 addresses food security and regional emissions reductions all at once. A fraction of food that would normally be disposed of in landfills or composts, must now be made available for human consumption. Some Californian households and businesses will have to initiate food recovery programs and or strengthen existing food recovery strategies.

Who Does SB 1383 Apply To?

SB 1383 requires specific food businesses to donate the maximum possible amount of edible food to food recovery organizations and for recycling. The law assumes two tiers for different kinds of edible food generators. “Tier One” includes supermarkets, grocery stores, food service providers and wholesale food vendors.

Restaurants, hotels, health facilities, certain education agencies and large venues and events are all considered “Tier Two”. Both tiers of food generators must donate as much food as they possibly can to food recovery organizations. Organizations and services that participate in SB 1383 are obligated to maintain records of the food being donated and the frequency of donations.

Who Passed SB 1383?

Edmund Brown Jr passed SB 1383 September 2016. Brown received his law degree from Yale and served as Governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and 2011 to 2019. By signing the bill into law, he established official methane emissions reduction targets that apply to most food generators across in the state.

Senate Bill 1383 California

Senate Bill 1383 went into effect January 1, 2022. By regulating organic waste disposal, California is expected to decrease its total greenhouse gas output while feeding hungry citizens at the same time. Organics may be recycled by composting and mulching. Some organic materials are converted into biogas, a renewable energy source, through a process known as aerobic digestion.

Plastic Pollution in the Arctic

ice in the Arctic ocean
Ice in the Arctic ocean

A study, “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic” reports that Arctic wildlife regularly ingest, become entangled in, or be smothered by plastic debris. Arctic species such as sculpin (Triglops nybelini), the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), and belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) have been found with plastic inside them. Plastic ingestion may even affect marine invertebrates like zooplankton in the eastern Canadian Arctic and the Fram Strait (a sea channel between Greenland and Svalbard).

Plastics from agriculture, landfills, dumping, industry, household products, fisheries, offshore industry, and other such sources are routinely carried to and within the Arctic by atmospheric and aquatic circulation systems. Transported plastics from local and distant sources are therefore highly distributed. The United Nations estimates that approximately 150 million tons of plastic debris may be scattered across the Arctic. Plastics are found on Arctic shores, in varying levels of the water column, in sea ice, and inside the bodies of marine biota.

Plastic Pollution

Circulation systems, including wind, ocean currents, and freshwater river flows, move plastic pollution through Arctic ecosystems, especially as they break down and fragment into smaller constituent pieces. The physical effects of global warming, then, influence the distribution of plastics and microplastics in the Arctic by increasing the frequency and or intensity of extreme weather events, like flooding and windstorms. Sea level rise or higher poleward wind speeds from global warming have the potential to transport greater levels of plastic debris to Arctic ecosystems.

The Environmental Impact of GMOs

An article made available in Science Direct, 2022, unpacks the potential benefits that genetically modified crops have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Authors of the document, Emma Kovak, DanBlaustein-Rejto and Matin Qaim, claim that “genetically modified (GM) crops can help reduce agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition to possible decreases in production emissions, GM yield gains also mitigate land-use change and related emissions”.

How Do GMOs Affect The Environment?

GM (genetically modified) crops are agriculture plants that have had stretches of DNA added, effectively modified or turned off within their genome to achieve desired traits. GM crops are commonly designed to be more resistant to insects and tolerant to herbicides. Modified crops can therefore lower the need for chemical pesticides, which are greenhouse gas contributors. Also, yield increases from GM crop use may prevent greenhouse gas emissions from the conversion of natural land (land that is uncultivated) to cropland. Land conversions promote greenhouse gas emissions through tilling and forest clearing.

GMO Climate Change Strategy

The article contrives a hypothetical scenario in which the European Union (EU) lifts its “quasi-ban” against widespread GM crop use. Authors of the article assume that yield increases from genetically modified crop adoption in the EU would offer benefits similar to those observed in other industrialized, temperate-zone countries that use modified crops. They further assume that enhanced crop production in the EU will bring about proportional decrease in agriculture production elsewhere. The latter of these assumptions is built on the belief that land will be spared (remain uncultivated) because the EU will be producing more crops domestically, consequently shrinking land conversion demands in outside territories.

Avoided emissions estimates from increased yield are intentionally underestimated in the article. Although authors state that “…higher GM crop adoption in the EU would likely also lead to higher [technology] adoption elsewhere”, their avoided emissions estimates do not account for the implementation of technology related to genetically modified crop use.

Avoided emissions estimates also do not account for the implementation of novel modified crops and traits. In other words, estimates are strictly based on well known genetically modified crops (soybean, cotton, canola, maize, and sugar beet) and the traits that they are designed with.

GMOs Reduce Carbon Emissions

Even though estimates are based on already-existing technology for modified crop application as well as already-existing modified plants and traits, it may be fair to assume that new technologies and new crops and traits would emerge from increased modified crop adoption in the European Union. Authors of the article assert that the EU can and should “increase agricultural productivity through embracing new crop technologies, thus contributing to global environmental benefits”.

GMO Benefits

Adopting genetically modified crops in places like Europe, which has higher wheat crop loss levels-caused by insects and pathogens-that the global average, may result in improved crop growth by making vegetation more resilient to environmental stressors, such as disease, insects and herbicide application. Increased vegetation is expected to lead to enhanced soil fertility and improve carbon absorption in soils and biomass. By boosting crop yields in areas that have not broadly accepted genetically modified vegetation, tilling and forest clearing-related emissions can be mitigated.

Climate Change and Plastic

plastic bottle in water

An article titled, “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution”, describes the interactive relationship between climate change and marine plastic pollution. The article’s authors claim that climate change and marine plastic pollution are linked in three ways: a) the production of plastic relies on fossil fuel extraction and is thus a greenhouse gas contributor b) climate and weather influence the distribution and spread of plastic pollution across environments c) marine ecosystems and species are vulnerable to plastic pollution and climate change.

Does Plastic Cause Climate Change?

The rise in plastic demand is likely due to its reputation as an inexpensive and lightweight material that has a wide range of uses. Plastic is used for packaging, electronics, toys, utensils, safety gear, and infrastructure. Even so, plastic drives greenhouse gas emissions throughout multiple stages of its so-called “lifecycle”, from extraction and refining to transportation, incineration, and recycling.

From production to end-of-life, plastic materials release potent greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, and ethylene. Greenhouse gases from plastic materials must therefore contribute to ocean heating and climate change. As common plastics degrade, they fragment into microplastics and smaller constituents parts that can be toxic to humans and marine organisms and also intensify ocean warming. Bio-based plastics, plastics made from biomass, are no exception. While bio-based plastics do produce fewer greenhouse gases than conventional plastics, they still release heat-trapping molecules during their lifecycles.

How Does Plastic Move Around the World?

The movement of plastics between environments is influenced by climate conditions. Plastics are circulated by the flow of water and wind. Extreme weather, like floods and windy storms, can move plastics from one system to another. For example, flooding riverine systems can transport plastics into the ocean, while tropical storms from oceans can push plastics onto terrestrial surfaces. Releasing plastic into the ocean or onto landfills is not the end of that plastic’s life cycle. Plastic and microplastics continue to impact the ecosystems long after they have been disposed of by humans.

How Does Plastic Affect Marine Ecosystems?

Ingesting plastic can lower the survival odds of certain marine organisms. In some cases, marine animals become entangled by plastic products or have their feeding and breathing pathways obstructed. On top of that, plastic potentially facilitates species migrations because plastic debris attracts encrusting organisms and microbial communities. Therefore both climate change and plastic pollution can contribute to species movement between ocean regions. Increased species mobility can bring about invasive species risks.

Climate change is altering the distribution of many species by subjecting them to novel thermal conditions. When marine habitats heat up, the species within those habitats are usually forced to move to new regions to find more suitable temperatures. Heating oceans also contribute to hypoxic zone and coral bleaching.

The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution

Authors of the review, “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution”, reason that climate change and plastic pollution are interactive. Plastic production is heavily dependent on fossil fuel use and plastics continue to release greenhouse gases as they degrade in oceans, both of which drive ocean heating and climate change. Inversely, plastic dispersal across environments is influenced by climate factors, including wind, ocean currents, freshwater river flows, and storms.