The Ecological Impact of Plastic Pollution in a Warming Environment

Chowdhury, G.W., Koldewey, H.J., Niloy, N.H., Sarker, S. (2022). The ecological impact of plastic pollution in a warming environment. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences.


Assessing three interlinked issues, plastic pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss separately can overlook potential interactions that may lead to positive or negative impacts on global ecosystem processes. Recent studies suggest that threatened species and ecosystems are vulnerable to both plastic pollution and climate change stressors. Here we consider the connectivity and state of knowledge between these three environmental issues with a focus on the Global South. Nine out of top ten Long-Term Climate Risk Index (CRI) (2000–2019) ranked countries are located within the Global South, yet research is focused in the Global North. A literature search for the top ten Long-Term Climate Risk Index (CRI) (2000–2019) ranked countries matched a total of 2416 (3.3% of global publications) search results on climate change, with 56 (4% of the global publications) on plastic pollution, and seven (7.7% of the global publications) on both climate change and plastic pollution. There is a strong correlation between the Global South and high biodiversity hotspots, high food insecurity and low environmental performance. Using Bangladesh as a case study, we show the erosion rates and sea level rise scenarios that will increase ocean-bound plastic pollution and impact high biodiversity areas. Poverty alleviation and promoting renewable energy and green practices can significantly reduce the stress on the environment. We recommend that these connected planetary threats can be best addressed through a holistic and collaborative approach to research, a focus on the Global South, and an ambitious policy agenda.

DOI: 10.1042/ETLS20220016