Climate change is a global threat which is already affecting all parts of the world. There are widespread ecological and socio-economic effects due to rising ocean temperatures,  sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events.

Plastic is among the most significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector. When plastic is incinerated, it releases carbon dioxide and methane.  Untreated plastic is eventually released into the environment and continues to affect the climate as it degrades. Plastic waste is causing floods by clogging drains, causing respiratory issues when burned, shortening animal lifespans when consumed, and contaminating water bodies when dumped into canals and oceans.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) projects that plastic production and use will grow 3.8 percent per year through 2030. Plastic production and incineration could emit 2.8 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2050, releasing as much emissions as 615 five-hundred-megawatt coal plants. Globally, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the production of ethylene are projected to increase by 34% between 2015 and 2030. Ethylene is highly used in the production of fabricated plastics, antifreeze, making fibers; polyethylene for plastics, alcohol, mustard gas, and other organics.

Share of Plastics use by Region, 2019

Region

Percentage

OECD

  OECD America

    United States

18%

    Canada

2%

    Other OECD America

3%

  OECD Europe

    OECD EU

14%

    OECD Non-EU

5%

  OECD Pacific

    OECD Asia

4%

    OECD Oceania

1%

Non-OECD

  Other America

    Latin America

5%

  Eurasia

    Other EU

1%

    Other Eurasia

5%

  Middle East &   Africa

    Middle East & North Africa

5%

    Other Africa

4%

  Other Asia

    Other non-OECD Asia

8%

  China

20%

  India

6%

Source: OECD

Plastics can decompose into small pieces called microplastics by biodegradation or exposure to the sun, heat, or water. These microplastics are distributed all over the world, even to the ocean's depths. Toxic chemicals can bind to microplastics and create poison pills that aquatic animals eat. Plastics also harm animals through entanglement and ingestion at all levels of the food chain.

Microscopic plants (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton) play an important role in biological carbon pumps that capture carbon on the surface of the sea and transport it into the deep sea to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere. Around the world, these plankton are being contaminated with micro-plastic. Lab experiments shows that plastic pollution can reduce phytoplankton's ability to fix carbon through photosynthesis. They also shows that plastic pollution can reduce metabolic rates, reproductive success and the survival of zooplankton that transport carbon into the deep ocean.