The Plastic Forecast

Plastic production and pollution is devastating our planet, and is set to triple by 2060. The Plastic Forecast, a project of The Minderoo Foundation, combines research on atmospheric plastic with daily weather forecasts to estimate the daily ‘plastic fall’ in an easy-to-understand weather report in an interactive microsite.

Oil and gas production is one of the largest emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a significant contributor of air pollution emissions. While research on methane emissions from oil and gas production has grown rapidly, there is comparatively limited information on the distribution of impacts of this sector on air quality and associated health impacts. Understanding the contribution of air quality and health impacts of oil and gas can be useful for designing mitigation strategies. In this study, researchers assess air quality and human health impacts associated with ozone, fine particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide from the oil and gas sector in the US in 2016, and compare this impact with that of the associated methane emissions.

The study finds air pollution in 2016 from the oil and gas sector in the US resulted in 410,000 asthma exacerbations, 2,200 new cases of childhood asthma and 7,500 excess deaths, with $77 billion in total health impacts. NO2 was the highest contributor to health impacts (37%) followed by ozone (35%), and then PM2.5 (28%). When monetized, these air quality health impacts of oil and gas production exceeded estimated climate impact costs from methane leakage by a factor of 3. These impacts add to the total life cycle impacts of oil and gas, and represent potential additional health benefits of strategies that reduce consumption of oil and gas. Policies to reduce oil and gas production emissions will lead to additional and significant health benefits from co-pollutant reductions that are not currently quantified or monetized.

Wool and synthetic fibers are responsible for serious harms to the planet, particularly the climate and biodiversity, yet they continue to be widely used in the fashion industry. While virgin synthetics are commonly recognized as an unsustainable material due to their fossil fuel origin, wool is often posited as the natural, eco-friendly alternative. However, wool is not a fiber simply provided by nature — it’s a scaled product of modern industrial, chemical, ecological and genetic intervention that’s a significant contributor to the climate crisis, land degradation, water use, pollution and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, many wool fibers are blended with synthetics, compromising their capacity to biodegrade. Wool can also be dyed and processed with chemicals that render the fiber non-biodegradable and create toxic pollution, but brands are not transparent with information relating to wool processing.

Although the connection between synthetics and microfiber pollution is well established, many companies rely on recycled synthetics — which have some benefits over virgin, but still shed microfibers — as their core sustainable materials sourcing strategy. Wool and wool blend garments continue to be promoted as responsible and sustainable, while investment in genuine solutions and more future-proofed materials is lagging. 

The Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice analyzed the Fall 2022 online catalogs of 13 top brands for the materials used in their knitwear and the information provided on the sustainability of those materials.

Scientists show that the most commonly used plastics produce two climate-warming greenhouse gases, methane and ethylene, when exposed to ambient solar radiation. Polyethylene, which is the most produced and discarded synthetic polymer globally, is the most prolific emitter of both gases. Plastic is known to release a variety of chemicals during degradation, which has a negative impact on living beings and ecosystems.

Toxic Free Future investigates widespread vinyl chloride pollution caused by PVC production following the February 3, 2023, Ohio train derailment—a devastating incident that is a painful reminder of the inherent dangers of making, transporting, using, and disposing of vinyl chloride and other chemicals in plastics—especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

This investigation reveals that the production of PVC plastic releases hundreds of thousands of pounds of carcinogenic vinyl chloride into the air every year in the U.S. Vinyl chloride factories produce billions of pounds of vinyl chloride to make PVC plastics often in low-income communities and communities of color. We also found that vinyl chloride and PVC factories report transferring millions of pounds of hazardous chlorinated waste to incinerators, cement kilns, and landfills in the south-central U.S. Incinerators, cement kilns, and landfills are well-known sources of dioxin pollution. Vinyl chloride and PVC factories also transferred dioxins to incinerators and landfills.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report for the Sixth Assessment Report was finalized in March 2023 during the Panel’s 58th Session on Climate Change, in Interlaken, Switzerland. The report brings in to sharp focus the losses and damages we are already experiencing and will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. It shows that taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world. According to scientists, there are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now.