Final Abstract: Trash Burning and Related Contributions to Global Climate Change

Global climate change (GCC) is the observed rise of the Earth’s average temperature and its related consequences. As early as the 1800s, scientist began to examine the possible effects of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that collect in the Earth’s atmosphere. Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician, first proposed that Earth’s atmosphere modeled a glass greenhouse and traps energy in the form of heat, providing an insulation layer. GCC is the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from human use on global climate. Today, GCC is one of the most discussed issues. With an enormous increase in greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, the rising average temperature change has been heavily documented with the first data supporting GCC in 1950.


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Source: Häder (2018) 


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Source: NASA

One of the lesser known contributors to GCC is trash burning. In recent years, the open burning of waste has been analyzed to determine its effects on air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2014 study, it was found that CO2 emissions from trash burning was equal to 5% of total human-caused 2010 emissions. More shockingly, open trash burning accounts for 29% of human-caused atmospheric particulate matter with diameters less than 2.5 um (PM2.5). Trash burning also contributes 10% of mercury emissions per the United Nations. A surprising 41% of all trash is burned. Even though some trash burning is used as an energy source, the high temperatures need to incinerate trash still contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. GCC is a planetary crisis.

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Source:  Hodzic (2012)

The increase in the average global temperature is leading significant ocean, iceberg, agriculture, and ecosystem changes, and it is predicted that the damage due to GCC is likely to increase over time. The dependence on one-use plastics and their contribution to large trash quantities are directly influencing the decision to burn 41% of trash. To eliminate the harmful effects caused by trash burning, it will be necessary to move away from one use plastic to minimize the trash produced and subsequently burned.

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Source:  Wiedinmyer (2014)


Works Cited

  • Hodzic, A. et al. (2012) Impact of trash burning on air quality in Mexico City. Environ. Sci. Technol 46: 4950-5957.
  • Wiedinmyer, C. et al. (2014) Global emissions of trace gases, particulate matter, and hazardous air pollutants from open burning of domestic waste. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48: 9523-9530.
  • Meehan, C.R. et al. (2018) Global climate change in U.S. high school curricula: portrayals of the causes, consequences, and potential responses. Science Education 102: 498-528.
  • Häder, D.P. et al. (2018) The impacts of climate change on marine phytoplankton. Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries and Aquaculture: Global Analysis, 2(1): 897-924.
  • Global climate change: Vital signs of the planet NASA. Retrieved from
  • Staff (2017) Climate change history. Retrieved from