Hidden Fossil Fuels: Plastic Production Drives Climate Change

Source: NRDC


A new study by the U.S. federal government found that global plastic production is a major driver of climate change. The study, which was conducted by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, estimates that by 2050 plastic production could account for between 21% to 31% of the global carbon emission budget required to limit global temperature increase to just 1.5 degrees Celsius. Currently, the industry is responsible for four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the airline industry, or about 600 coal-fired power plants.

While this is not the first analysis to highlight the connection between plastics and the climate, the stark statistics should be a wake-up call. Reducing plastic production is critical to combatting climate change. 

Many people don’t realize that that 99% of all plastics are made from fossil fuels, and plastics contribute to climate change throughout their life cycle. Greenhouse gas emissions are associated with everything from fossil fuel extraction, to plastic manufacturing, to the disposal of plastic waste. A 2021 analysis by Beyond Plastics found that the U.S. plastics industry will be a bigger contributor to climate change than coal-fired power in the nation by 2030. 

Read more: Hidden Fossil Fuels: Plastic Production Drives Climate Change