Climate Change: How Plastic Waste Is Affecting The Oceans

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image from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/1/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

Sceptics continue to argue that global warming is political propaganda, but with all the overwhelming evidence how can we still stray so far away from the truth?

In 2019, the world suffered more than enough catastrophes attributed to climate change. The Amazon Rainforest was up in flames for over a month and the Australian Gondwana Forest Fires began. This year has not started in the best way either. With a recorded 41.9 C maximum temperature, Australia experienced its hottest temperatures in history. This has heavily been blamed on the ongoing forest fires. European scientists also went ahead to declare that 2019 was the second hottest year in world history.

It is said that most of the causes of climate change are from human activity. It seems as though we don’t love our planet enough to care for it now and for the generations to come. Deforestation, pollution and burning fossil fuels are among the things we are doing that are destroying our earth. But perhaps the most ignored cause of climate change is littering the oceans.

The earth’s surface area covered by water is 70.8%.  This automatically means that water pollution has a significant impact on the environment and consequently on climate change.

Nearly half of all the pollution that takes place in the ocean comes from activities on land. Oil spills, garbage dump, plastic dump and airborne pollutants are the main forms of ocean pollution. All these would not take place if human beings just took the issue with a little more seriousness. The most annoying though has to be garbage and plastic waste. Because oil spills can be blamed on mishandling or a mistake, but taking plastic bottles and dumping them in the ocean is unforgivable.

Plastic Pollution is one of the single biggest causes of climate change. Essentially, plastic is made of materials like ethylene and propylene that are derived from Fossil Fuels which eventually (when exposed to sunlight) increase the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. But when these plastics are dumped in the ocean, the results are devastating to the environment.

You see, the oceans provide one of the largest carbon sinks for harmful greenhouse gases. This takes place in two ways. One, through photosynthesis in plankton and algae. As we well know photosynthesis is a plant process that uses sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. These plankton and algae are food to many marine animals and their absence will lead to the death of marine life. The entire life cycle that includes the coral reef, sea animals and water plants is at risk if the plankton and algae are killed.

Secondly, the oceans absorb carbon dioxide by diffusion into the atmosphere. This complex process is caused by a difference between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and the ocean. A detected difference in pressure causes carbon dioxide to be exchanged. The carbon dioxide moves from the air to the water when the atmospheric pressure of carbon dioxide is higher. The carbon dioxide is dissolved in the ocean because it is soluble.

carbon cycle image from https://www.iaea.org/topics/oceans-and-climate-change/the-ocean-carbon-cycle

You may be wondering where the plastic comes in. When we dump our plastic bottles and paper bags into the ocean, the plastic chokes the marine animals and plants. These marine animals and plants play a significant role in the life cycle and in absorbing carbon emissions which again human beings have in so many ways increased. It is a ripple effect.

So the next time you think of throwing your plastic bottle, paper bag or sweet wrapper in the ocean or water sources, remember this. Think of the fish that will die because of you. The coral reef that is going to be destroyed.  And worst of all, the planet that will eventually be destroyed because of human activity that could be avoided.

Find out  How Climate Change Will Affect The Future Of Africa. Here are Six Ways To Adapt To Climate Change

Featured image from National Geographic

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