Here are ten key facts to help you understand the scope of climate change on our planet today.
1. 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the severity of climate change is driven by human impact.
That’s the consensus opinion. Individual research agrees, with a 2014 study indicating an 99 percent certainty that the planet’s warming from the Industrial era to now is not a natural fluctuation of climate, but a result of man-made emissions.
2. Even in the best case scenario for global warming, in which 70 percent of emissions are cut, climate change will still cause drought, polar melting, and extreme weather.
That’s according to the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose more recent report outlined four possible scenarios for what the world’s climate will be like by 2100.
3. Fossil fuel power is the number one greenhouse-gas trapping activity accelerating global warming.
The second is industrial processes, followed by logging, agriculture, and transportation.
4. Greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by the average U.S. household total 48 tons per year, almost five times the global average.
The chart below shows the different factors that contribute to the average U.S. household’s footprint:
5. Climate change may lead to food scarcity.
A leaked draft of an IPCC document reveals that each decade crop yields will likely decrease by 2 percent, which, considering the earth’s growing population, is a great threat to the global food supply.
This means radical solutions may be in order to tackle hunger.
6. More extreme weather and rising sea levels are all but inevitable.
Sea levels are estimated to rise 2.5 to 6.5 feet by 2100. The major cities, indicated on the map below, would be threatened by even a slight rise of 1.6 feet, which could occur as soon as 2060 according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
Already, climate change has contributed to more frequent heat waves, heavier rainfall and flooding, stronger hurricanes, and more extreme droughts.
7. Sustainable energy is on the rise, but oil, coal, and gas still dominate the energy industry.
Wind, solar, hydro, and biomass show great potential for cleaner energy sources, but are not without their caveats.
8. Obama has flexed his executive muscles in regards to climate change by setting up “climate hubs” and proposing several initiatives to cut emissions.
The hubs, depicted below, will prepare Americans to respond to climate-related disasters. Obama’s other initiatives, which aim to cut greenhouse gases, could put America on track to reduce its emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, if successful.
But in spite of White House rhetoric, the U.S. may not be pulling their weight: so far, fossil fuel subsidies have actually grown by 45% during Obama’s presidency.
Other world leaders have adopted similar measures. On a city level, Copenhagen, Singapore, San Francisco, and Vancouver are shining examples of thriving green cities.
9. The IPCC estimates only a 15-year window for the planet to bend the greenhouse emissions curve downward before the price of fixing becomes overwhelming.
10. According to White House economists, it’s more costly to delay further climate action than to pursue it.
While many fear the costs of climate policy, and not without reason, economists find that inaction is far costlier. Damages could reduce GDP by .9 percent worldwide, which equates to a $150 billion annual loss to the U.S. Another report agrees that global efforts to tackling climate change — including increased sustainable energy, zero-emission building, reinvigoration of cropland, and carbon taxation — won’t break the bank; rather, they will contribute to economic growth in countries of all income levels due to new technologies and job creation.
Got all that? Test your knowledge below with our climate quiz.