Glasgow will host in November 2021 – United Nations COP26 Conference on Climate Change.
The contribution of the oceans to climate change has long been almost neglected. The Planetary Ocean is considered the “thermostat” of the planet, constantly changing energy, humidity, gases and heat with the atmosphere. Due to ocean currents, this heat is redistributed around the globe, which reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator: it is a true climate regulator.
But how do we protect the oceans?
We are currently living in an Age of Plastic with over 4.9 billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s and with over 200 million tons of plastic waste that has finally reached the waters of the world’s seas and oceans.
Plastic proves to be a deadly legacy for our seas and oceans.
It is known that the ocean together with the forests are the two “lungs of the planet”, the only producers of the oxygen so necessary for life. The ocean is the largest life support system on the planet and accounts for more than 70% of the planet’s surface.
Finally, this COP 26 Conference will discuss one of the most important issues today: the assault of plastic waste on marine biodiversity and human life, and considers “Plastic, an important factor in the phenomenon of global warming.”
Recent research shows that microplastics, as a final result of the degradation of the huge amount of existing plastic waste, substantially change the component of seawater, reaching over 12,000 plastic microparticles per liter of seawater. Under these conditions, marine biodiversity is particularly affected, so 1,400 species are subject to plastic pollution and over 1.5 million marine animals are killed annually.
One of the worst dangers is that phytoplankton, the basis of marine trophic systems, which live on the surface of the water, provide more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe, is seriously affected, soaking with microplastics, deregulating its metabolism and reducing the amount of oxygen produced.
With phytoplankton sick with microplastics and sparse forests, we will wake up in the near future to have less oxygen and breathe like the Himalayas.
In May 2021, the UN sounded the alarm in a report that concluded that the impact of plastic production on the global climate this year will be equivalent to the production of 5,000 GW in fossil fuel power plants. This means that the efforts established by the Paris Agreement – COP 25 and the ambitious “Green Deal” of the European Union are less significant than the efforts to stop this “Plastic Tide” specific to the current Plastic Age.
What can be done? What measures could be taken?
The most effective measures taken globally are the following:
- Stopping the production and use of disposable plastics;
- Stopping the expansion and construction of new infrastructures for the production of petrochemical products and plastic products;
- Creating “Zero Waste” communities – no waste;
- The real transition to a “Circular Economy” in which each product can be capitalized after the period of use.
There are also important measures that depend on the fulfillment of the 4 measures above:
- Identification of plastic pollution sources;
- Cleaning beaches and rivers;
- Monitoring of river basins;
False solutions have appeared without significant impact such as:
- Biodegradable plastic;
- Plastic consuming organisms;
- Incineration of plastic waste;
These solutions are false because studies over the past 40 years have shown that these solutions do not solve the problem of total, non-toxic degradability of plastic, ie its transformation into water and carbon dioxide.
On the occasion of this event, it is for the first time when the issue of blocking the “Plastic Waste Assault” on the environment, especially on our oceans and seas and its connection with Climate Change, is discussed worldwide.
The number one priority of society and decision makers (institutions and political leaders) must be to protect and conserve our vulnerable Blue Planets.
Let’s hope that clear measures will be proposed against this massive pollution with still unforeseen consequences.
Author: Muntoiu Alexandru – ECOM Team Romania