Microplastic pollution as an environmental risk exacerbating the greenhouse effect and climate change: a review

Kui Li, Linsen Du, Chanyuan Qin, Nanthi Bolan, Hailong Wang, Hua Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics are polymer-based materials with carbon as their main framework. During degradation, they release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Additionally, environmental microplastics can enter plant tissues, triggering oxidative stress in plant cells, adversely affecting photosynthesis, metabolism, gene expression, and other growth parameters. This reduction in plant efficiency in sequestering and utilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide indirectly impacts global carbon cycling, exacerbating the global greenhouse effect. Furthermore, environmental microplastics significantly alter soil structure and the composition of microbial communities, affecting the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, thus indirectly promoting greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing research suggests a mutual reinforcement between microplastic pollution and global climate warming, where microplastic pollution exacerbates global climate warming, and the rise in global average temperature leads to the resuspension of microplastics in sediments, intensifying microplastic pollution in the environment. This article primarily focuses on the impacts of environmental microplastic pollution on different ecosystems and the relationship between microplastic pollution and global climate warming. It summarizes the effects of microplastic pollution on greenhouse gas emissions in marine, terrestrial, and atmospheric ecosystems, as well as the mechanisms by which microplastics and climate change affect ecosystem services. By delving into the intricate connection between microplastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, this paper aims to raise awareness of the climate change caused by microplastic pollution and calls for further research on the impacts of microplastics on ecosystems and global climate change, with the ultimate goal of protecting ecosystems and human health. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalCarbon Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


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