Sunday, December 5, 2021

New Zealand scientists investigate the impact of microplastics on climate change

New Zealand scientists have discovered that microplastics have a direct impact on global warming. On Wednesday, they published the first study linking airborne plastic fragments and fibers to climate change. They also found that microplastics, which are widely found on land, rivers, and oceans, are unhealthy.

This is the first study to investigate the effect of airborne microplastics on climate. Plastic fragments and fibers are blown away by the wind. Microplastics are formed by the deterioration of carpets, clothing and paint, as well as tires and larger plastics, which degrade over time.

Researchers from New Zealand have found that their impact on climate change is small so far. But if the global average concentration of microplastics rises to levels already seen in some cities, the impact “will be significant,” they say.

Laura Revell, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said airborne particles do affect the environment.

“They scatter solar radiation or sunlight well back into space, which has little cooling effect on the Earth’s climate, and they also absorb infrared radiation emitted by the Earth quite well, which means they also contribute to the greenhouse effect,” she said. “But in general, it is precisely this interaction with sunlight that manifests itself. Thus, in general, they have very, very little cooling effect on the Earth’s climate. “

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Revell said laboratory tests have shown microplastics can damage lung tissue. Aquatic organisms such as zooplankton can also mistake plastic for food, which can affect the ocean’s carbon cycle, where carbon is naturally recycled by the environment.

“I don’t want anyone to understand that this is really good in terms of climate change, and that they are offsetting the effects of warming greenhouse gases, because, to begin with, the effect is very small these days and besides, there are others. devastating effects on humans and other ecosystems ”.

According to researchers, to date, 5 billion tons of plastic waste have accumulated in landfills and in the natural environment in the world. They warned that this amount could double over the next 30 years if current trends in plastic production and waste disposal continue.

The study is the result of a collaboration between the University of Canterbury New Zealand and the University of Wellington Victoria.

Published in a leading scientific journal. Nature

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