11 terrifying facts about climate change in 2015 (Wired UK)


Global leaders are in Paris for the long-awaited United Nations conference on climate change. The event is one of the largest diplomatic conferences ever organised, and it brings together 150 leaders from around the world for what some are calling the ‘last chance’ for the environment.

The main focus of the discussions is to figure out how warming can be restricted to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is the somewhat arbitrary threshold for averting the worst impacts of climate change, agreed upon by many researchers and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Unfortunately, climate change is already here — and it’s only going to get worse. The IPCC says its effects are already widespread and consequential, and temperatures have already risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius. Some of the severe effects of climate change have already started to take hold. 

As a guide to some of the issues at stake, WIRED has compiled a selection of climate change facts that underpin the discussions.

Temperatures are breaking records around the world

Change in global surface temperatures from 1884 to 2014

Nasa Scientific Visualization Studio

The 21st century has seen the most temperature records broken in recorded history. Last year was the hottest year on record since 1850, and 2015 is set to outstrip 2014. Since the 1950s every continent has warmed substantially, with hot days becoming far more common than cold ones. Nasa’s latest visualisations, above, make that reality stark.

There is no scientific debate about the reality of climate change

Ninety-seven percent of researchers believe global warming is happening, and 82 percent agree that it is strongly linked to human behaviour. 

Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting, fast

25 years of change on the Panmah and Choktoi glaciers

F Paul/ESA

Arctic sea ice coverage has shrunk every decade since 1979 by 3.5 to 4.1 percent. Glaciers have also been in retreat almost everywhere in the world — including major mountain ranges like the Alps, Himalayas and Rockies. 

Sea levels rose 19cm between 1900 and 2000

The sea around the island of Kiribati rises by half an inch a year. Its population is under pressure to relocate

Jonas Gratzer/Getty

We’ve all heard it many times before, but the global sea level rose twice as much in the last decade than it did in the whole of the 20th century. Since 1901 in total, the IPCC estimates it rose 19cm. On top of that, sea level rise since 1850 has been larger than the rate in the last two millennia. 

The current rate of change is 3.24mm a year — if we continue at that speed for the rest of the century we’ll be looking at a 32.4cm rise. 

Climate change will displace 250 million people by 2050

The UNHCR has warned that climate change could cause the displacement of 250m people across the world by 2050. It estimates that an additional 6m will have to flee their homes each year if global warming continues at the same rate. Tens of millions of people already have to vacate their homes every year due to natural disasters — which are on the rise. In 2012 alone over 32m were displaced.

We consumed all of Earth’s 2015 resources by August

Global Footprint Network

Earth Overshoot Day is an annual event when humanity’s consumption outstrips Earth’s production of resources. This annual event is getting earlier and earlier in the year. In 2000 it landed in October. In 2015, it was August 13. If we carry on consuming at this speed, by 2030 Earth Overshoot Day could occur on June 28 — meaning that humanity would need to Earths to sustain itself. 

The world’s superpowers — including China, the US, the UK, Germany and Japan — already use more than double the amount of resources they produce. 

Coral bleaching will kill 2 percent of reefs in 2015

XL Catlin Seaview Survey

The world’s third mass coral bleaching is underway and is expected to affect 38 percent of reefs in 2015. Researchers monitoring the phenomenon — a result of global warming and the current El Niño — predict it will kill off 2 percent of the Earth’s reefs.

The ocean is 26 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution

The pH of ocean surface water has decreased by 0.1, which makes them 26 percent more acidic now than at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The waters are more acidic now that at any other point in the last 300,000 years. 

Global flooding could triple by 2030

The number of people exposed to flooding each year is at risk of tripling from 21 million to 54 million by 2030, according to a study from the World Resources Institute. This would result in the economic costs of flooding increasing from £65 billion to around £340 billion. 

More greenhouse gases are in our atmosphere than any time in human history

Changing C02 levels in the atmosphere from 2002 to 2014


Atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases are at their highest ever — after a surge in 2013 that was twice as large as the average increase in carbon levels. Between 1990 and 2014 there was a 36 percent increase in warming due to greenhouse gases, according to the World Meteorological Organization

Earth could warm by 6 degrees this century

The Earth’s average temperature will continue to rise so long as we continue to produce greenhouse gases. The estimates for how much temperatures will increase by 2100 range from 2 degrees Celsius to as much as 6 degrees Celsius. 

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4 December 2015 | 5:16 pm – Source: wired.co.uk


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