Informal waste collector among discarded plastic bags. Photo credit National Geographic
Scientists know that plastics - and the petrochemicals in them, have climate change impacts. But we don’t know how much of a temperature rise they may cause.  With increasing plastic production, use, and waste generation, these climate impacts will also increase. Even many “bio” and compostable plastics affect the climate, but it is unclear to what extent. In addition, a number of climate impacts from plastics are not included in any greenhouse gas emissions inventories, climate models, or scenarios, including those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Therefore, the goal of The Plastics & Climate Project is to estimate the extent to which plastics and their associated petrochemicals contribute to global average temperature rise. The Project will pinpoint the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled in order to achieve this goal, and develop a research agenda to fill in the data gaps. The Project will disseminate the findings to the scientific community, policymakers, advocates, and the public, and generate support for the necessary subsequent research and inclusion of climate-relevant plastic impacts in relevant accounting. An advisory board composed of science and policy experts will provide input at key points throughout the Project, and enable communication and coordination among other people and institutions working on complementary issues.