Climate change and chemicals: what are the connections?
With the UN Climate Change Conference on this week, there has never been a better time to understand how the three planetary crises: climate change, biodiversity loss and chemical pollution are interconnected and reinforce each other.
There are at least four ways that climate change and chemical pollution are linked :
- Chemical pollution can make species already struggling due to climate change even more vulnerable;
- Climate change can increase the impacts of chemical pollution;
- Climate change is increasing the release of hazardous chemicals in the environment;
- The chemical industry is responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Studies conducted on polar bears provide a good example of how chemical pollution makes species already struggling to survive extreme changes to the climate even more vulnerable. The destruction of their habitat and the melting of sea ice means finding food is harder. This situation is made worse by harmful chemicals found in the environment entering their blood stream and disrupting their ability to produce fat and survive the climate induced disruption to their diet.
The melting of polar ice has a further connection to chemical pollution. Polar ice and high altitude glaciers store some of the most harmful chemical pollutants emitted in the past century. As the ice melts, their toxic load ends up in the ocean and in freshwater sources.
What these connections show is that ensuring hazardous, synthetic chemicals are removed from consumer products is one of the urgent actions needed to address the three interlinked planetary crises we are facing.
For more information on the interconnections between climate change and chemical pollution read our blog.