Monday, November 30, 2015

Six graphics that explain climate change

With the Paris COP21 climate conference underway, the ever-reliable BBC has produced a webpage containing "six graphics that explain climate change".
The first one in particular is a great animated graphic that shows the monthly temperatures each year since 1880 gradually superimposing over each other. You can watch, over a period of about 30 seconds, as the temperature graphs stack up, with the older ones at the (colder) bottom of the graph, only reaching the 20th Century average mark by about the 1940s. As the 20th Century progresses, all the temperature lines are above the average mark, increasingly so, until in the 21st Century all the lines are right at the (hotter) top of the graph. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years were recorded in the 21st Century (i.e. the last 15 years), with 2015 on course to set another all-time record. It's a very graphic graphic.
Other graphics on the page show: the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentration since 1960; the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice since 1980; the projected temperature change throughout the world by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions peak between 2010-2020 and then decline substantially, compared to if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st Century; the greenhouse contributions of the world’s top ten greenhouse gas emitters (China, USA, EU, India, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, DR Congo and Indonesia); and, finally, the average global warming by the end of the century if we do nothing, if we follow current policies, and if countries follow through on their Paris pledges.
The last of these shows that, even if all countries that have made specific pledges for the Paris conference act on these pledges, there will be a rise of 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The generally accepted rule-of-thumb is that a 2°C global temperature increase will lead to substantial and dangerous climate impacts, hitting the world's poor in particular. So, we (all) need to act on these pledges, and then we need to tighten the screw still further down the road.
And, just for good measure, here is a link to the BBC's ultra-simplified 1-minute video on why 2 degrees actually matters.

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