Nature and Biodiversity

Earth Day: We are almost certainly all eating plastics, says report, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Garbage is pictured at a polluted beach on the banks of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 16, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Top nature and climate news: Earth Day: We are almost certainly all eating plastics, and more. Image: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Earth Day: we are almost certainly all eating plastics; Climate crisis could leave global economy 17% poorer by 2050; Powerful El Niño weather event has finally ended.

1. Earth Day: We are almost certainly all eating plastics, says report

As Earth Day 2024 sees global governments and NGOs meet in Ottawa to continue negotiating terms of the UN Global Plastics Treaty, a new report from EARTHDAY.ORG on this year's theme of "Plastics vs. Planet" explores the challenges humans face reigning in the plastics industry.

How we eat drink and breathe microplastics.
We are increasingly consuming growing numbers of microplastic particles. Image: Statista

They have been found in bottled drinks, tap water, seafood and myriad other foodstuffs, with an estimated 78,000 to 211,000 particles consumed by the average person, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Babies are more at risk than adults, due to teething and their habit of interacting with plastic toys and other objects orally, which shed both microplastics and their additive chemicals, says the Earth Day report.

And microplastics are more prevalent in the air we breathe inside buildings rather than outside, studies have shown, leaving babies more exposed as they spend 90% of their lives inside on average.

“Our reliance on plastics could be the biggest gamble in the story of human health, in history. We are all ingesting and inhaling microplastics. They are everywhere. Are we just hoping they are safe, or is even the remotest possibility they might be toxic so terrifying, that we can’t contemplate it?” says Kathleen Rogers, President of EARTHDAY.ORG.


2. Climate crisis could wipe out almost a fifth of global GDP by 2050, says study

The annual climate change bill could reach $38 trillion by 2050. This figure is six times greater than the estimated $6 trillion cost of implementing measures to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures over the same timescale, new research says.

Backed by the German government, the study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) predicts that the impacts of climate change could wipe out almost a fifth of global GDP by mid-century, Reuters reports.

"The world population is poorer than it would be without climate change," said Dr. Leonie Wenz, study co-author of the study and Head of PIK's Complexity Science Department.

"It costs us much less to protect the climate than not to," she said.

Almost all countries would suffer, but poor developing nations would be hit hardest.

At current emissions rates average global temperatures will exceed 4°C, with an estimated global economic income loss of 60% by 2100, the report suggests.

More government spending is needed on measures to tackle emissions and on measures to adapt to the impact of the climate crisis.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

The powerful El Niño weather event has ended, with the Pacific Ocean cooling significantly, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, but scientists are uncertain about what happens next.


West Africa is enduring one of the worst heatwaves in living memory, with day and night-time temperatures exceeding 40°C in many places, driven by the climate crisis, a report by World Weather Attribution says.

Cambodian mangroves hold a staggering array of 700 different species of wildlife, including bats, birds, fish and insects, according to a new study of biodiversity in key threatened habitats, reports The Guardian.

A fourth global mass coral bleaching event has been triggered by recent record ocean heat, according to scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the ocean?

The United Nations and 13 the leaders of 13 countries have urged nations to quickly ratify the UN's "High Seas" treaty, to safeguard the oceans from the impact of overfishing and other harmful human activities.

The desert city of Dubai was hit by a record-breaking storm that saw a year's rainfall in a day, flooding roads and homes and bringing the busy Dubai International Airport to a standstill.

Scotland will abandon its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 and could scrap annual climate targets, the BBC reports. However, a separate net zero by 2045 target will remain in place.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Earth Day takes place on the 22 April each year. Discover what it is, why it is important, how you can participate and the aims of this year's "Plastics vs. Planet" theme.

Cost and sustainability concerns have made buying second-hand clothing something to shout about. Here are some of the innovations helping to slow down fast fashion and promote the circular economy for the clothes we wear.

The ocean floor stores vast amounts of carbon, but deep sea mining, bottom trawling fishing practices and other human activities compromise its storage capacity. Here's how.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
1. Earth Day: We are almost certainly all eating plastics, says report2. Climate crisis could wipe out almost a fifth of global GDP by 2050, says study3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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