Saturday October 20, 2018

Plastics Contribute to Global Warming, Scientists Say

A graphic video of doctors pulling a plastic straw out of the bloody nose of a large sea turtle has prompted some U.S. cities and companies to phase out the straws

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Add plastics to the list of causes for global warming.
Add plastics to the list of causes for global warming. (Img: Flickr)
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Scientists writing in the journal PLOS One said Wednesday that plastics emit the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene when they are exposed to sunlight and degrade.

The researchers carried out tests on such common plastic products as water bottles, shopping bags and food containers.

“Plastic represents a source of climate-relevant trace gases that is expected to increase as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment,” said senior researcher David Karl of the University of Hawaii.

Methane gas, both man-made and naturally occurring, is said to be a major cause of climate change.

plastics
A man collects plastic and other recyclable material from the shores of the Arabian Sea, littered with plastic bags and other garbage, in Mumbai, India, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

The manufacturing and use of plastics have come under scrutiny in recent years after environmentalists discovered a massive island of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean — threatening sea life and the food supply.

Plastic drinking straws are the latest target of activists, who say they are used once and discarded because most cannot be recycled.

Also Read: Prenatal Exposure to Plastic Chemical may Reduce Cognitive Skills

A graphic video of doctors pulling a plastic straw out of the bloody nose of a large sea turtle has prompted some U.S. cities and companies to phase out the straws. (VOA)

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Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Individuals and civic groups have a big role to play in pushing governments to tackle climate threats.

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Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

Last-ditch efforts to hold climate change to the most ambitious target set by governments will likely require using every available technique rather than picking and choosing the most attractive ones, climate scientists said on Monday.

Dramatically reducing the use of coal, planting huge swaths of land with carbon-absorbing forest or powering most transport with electricity are no longer sufficient to bring about the swift transition needed, they said, with warming expected to pass the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) mark in as little as 12 years.

“We can make choices about how much of each option to choose, but the idea you can leave anything out is impossible,” said Jim Skea, who jointly led a major scientific report analyzing the feasibility of holding global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, requested by governments, was issued ahead of a U.N. conference in December in Poland that will consider how to increase country ambitions to cut emissions and manage climate risks better.

Current government commitments to curb climate change under the Paris pact, even if fully met, would still leave the world on track for about 3 degrees of warming, scientists said.

Climate change
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C. VOA

To have a chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees goal, climate-changing emissions would have to plunge 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, the report said.

As that would be an “unprecedented” rate of decline, it is more likely the world will overshoot the target, then try to return to it by sucking carbon from the air, scientists said.

Such “carbon removal” might happen by developing better technology to take out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – now an extremely expensive process – or by planting many more forests that could be harvested and burned for energy, with emissions pumped into underground storage.

“We have not identified any pathways that get to 1.5 degrees Celsius without some kind of carbon dioxide removal,” Skea said.

But turning over much more land for energy production “could have implications for food security, ecosystems and biodiversity,” the British scientist warned, as competition for land grows.

Climate change
Traffic moves as smoke emits from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. VOA

All on board

Swiftly reducing emissions – even with carbon removal – will also require unprecedented levels of international cooperation, a particular challenge as some national governments, like that in the United States, look increasingly inward.

Making the needed emissions changes “is within the scope of what humans can achieve”, said Hans-Otto Portner, a German climate scientist and IPCC report co-chair.

But success “depends on political leadership,” he added.

Henri Waisman, a senior researcher at Paris-based think tank IDDRI and one of 91 report authors, said the report’s aim was to set out the types of transformation required as clearly as possible to inform discussions at U.N. climate talks and beyond.

Delaying action on climate change “is something that is explicitly contradicted in the report,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Climate change
Climate Change Fuels California Fires. Flickr

If governments fail to ramp up their ambition to reduce heat-trapping emissions over the next two years, they will have consciously abandoned the 1.5 degree goal, he added.

Action in cities – which consume more than two-thirds of energy globally and account for about three-quarters of carbon emissions – are pivotal to meeting the target, said report author William Solecki, a professor at Hunter College-City University of New York.

That’s particularly true because most population growth in coming years “is going to be in urban areas – a lot of it particularly in small and medium-sized cities … in the global south,” he said.

Those cities will need more support to develop cleanly, prevent disasters and adapt to climate shifts, he added.

Climate change
The connection between Antarctic Volcanic Eruptions and abrupt Climate Change. Pixabay

The scientists said the report was intended to guide more than just governments, however, and that action by everyone – including individuals and businesses – would be required to hold the line on climate change.

“There’s a lot we can do individually or within our communities,” said Debora Ley, a report author who works on adaptation and renewable energy in Latin America.

Also Read: UN IPCC Will Meet To Consider On A Global Warming Impact Report

Personal changes might include everything from eating less meat to using energy-efficient appliances and reducing air travel, said Patricia Pinho, a Brazilian climate scientist and report author.

Individuals and civic groups have a big role to play in pushing governments to tackle climate threats, and are stepping up pressure as recognition of the danger grows, she said.

“We have to live our lives in a way that makes a difference. “Our life on this planet, our kids are at risk,” she said. (VOA)