Human activities affect the global climate. Since the pre-industrial times, CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 30%. Yes, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. With or without the existence of humans. But according to NASA, the current warming trends are of particular significance. Why? Because it’s extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century.
Changes in the global climate, bring many risks to the living being and the Earth’s environment. Ranging from changing patterns of diseases, temperature rise, extreme weather, rising sea levels, ice sheets shrinking, and many more.
There a lot of scientific studies that have been done. And yet, some or even a lot of us still don’t believe if climate change is a real deal, or even if it truly exists. How come we believe skeptics more than the scientists?
Of course, not everything is 100% true. We can’t travel back in time or to the future to know for sure. Right? So we predict what’s happening and would happen from the data and statistics available. And something that isn’t 100% true doesn’t mean it’s 100% wrong.
So, to learn better about the science and numbers behind what we face today, these are the facts on climate change issues that we should know.
1. World population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050
According to the UN 2019 report, the world population could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100 after reaching 9.7 billion in 2050. Currently, there are around 7.7 billion people on Earth. So it’s expected it will be increased by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years.
To feed the expected 9.7 billion people and meet the Paris Agreement, the journal Nature study says that the world will need to shift toward plant-based diets. And also adopting new farming technologies and reducing food waste.
2. 11% of the world’s population is currently vulnerable to climate change impacts
Climate change impacts would highly affect 11% of the world’s population. Impacts such as floods, sea-level rise, droughts, heatwaves, and extreme weather events.
3. 97% of climate scientists agreed human activities caused climate-warming trends over the past century
97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. It’s according to the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). And in addition to that, many leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued their public statements endorsing the position.
Carbon dioxide and Emissions
4. There’s more CO2 in the atmosphere than any time in human history
In 2014, NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory observed the first breached of monthly CO2 values threshold of 400 ppm. Then in May 2018, carbon dioxide peak value was 411.2 parts per million (ppm).
And in May 2019, carbon dioxide levels hit a record peak with 3.5 ppm increase at 414.7 ppm. This much CO2 contained in our atmosphere was never been happen before in 3 million years.
Every year, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing and its rate of increase is accelerating. And CO2 levels higher than 450 ppm are likely to lock in irreversible and catastrophic changes in Earth’s climate warned scientists.
5. Global carbon emissions have grown by 2% in 2018, the fastest for 7 years
According to BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy, global primary energy grow rapidly by 2.9% in 2018. It’s the fastest growth seen since 2010. And at the same time, carbon emissions from energy use grew by 2% with an increase in emissions by around 0.6 gigatonnes.
6. World’s nations should slash their CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement
According to the IPCC, one of the main targets of the Paris Agreement is for the world’s nations to slash their CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. And now, in reality, emissions trends are rising even under existing policies and environmental pledges.
Energy and Resources
7. 2019’s Earth Overshoot Day was July 29, and it’s getting earlier each year
Earth Overshoot Day is the date when humanity has exhausted the planet’s ecological resources more than it can renew in the whole year. It is a symbolic date hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network.
Every year, the calculated date is getting earlier and earlier. In 1979 it was October 29. In 1999 it was September 29. And in 2009 it was August 18. We already used up all the Earth’s regenerative resources by July 29 which means starting from July 30, we’ll consume more resources than our planet can regenerate in a year.
8. Fossil fuels account for 64% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions
Fossil fuel burning for transportation and energy is responsible for approximately 64% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries have a bigger percentage as they have increased livestock production efficiency and use more energy.
In the US, fossil fuel-based energy accounts for 80% of its total greenhouse gas emissions, compared to about 3% from animal agriculture.
9. Global coal consumption has increased by 2% and production has increased by 4.3% in 2018, the fastest for 5 years
Global coal consumption and production were highly influenced by Asian countries like India and China. When combined, they accounted for the vast majority of both gains, according to BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.
Consumption growth alone was led by India (36 mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent)) and China (16 mtoe). And production growth was led by China (82 mtoe) and Indonesia (51 mtoe).
10. Global natural gas consumption and production has increased by over 5% in 2018, the strongest for over 30 years
In either gas demand or output for over 30 years, it has increased by over 5%. US accounts for almost 40% of global demand growth and over 45% of the production increase.
In 2018, US gas production increased by 86 bcm (billion cubic meters of natural gas). Outside of the US, global gas demand growth concentrated relatively across China (43 bcm), Russia (23 bcm), and Iran (16 bcm). And together with the US, accounted for 80% of global growth.
11. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions
There is a cost behind everything that you buy. Not only the cost as in price tag but also the cost to the environment. Something you might not consider yet. Every shirt, dress, jeans, sneakers, and other pieces of garments has its similarity. They use resources.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans. Starting from the production of the cotton to transporting of the jeans to the store. And that equates to 33.4 kg of carbon equivalent of emission.
93 billion m3 of water is used every year by the fashion industry. It’s enough to fulfill the needs of 5 million people. Fashion industry usage of fabric dyeing and treatment contributes to 20% of global wastewater. And at this pace of production, garments industry greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50% by 2030.
Forest, Animal, and Agriculture
12. Deforestation accounts for 11% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions
Deforestation accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s comparable to the emissions from all of the cars and trucks on the earth combined.
As trees grow, they naturally capture and store carbon. When forest areas are affected by deforestation, the carbon is immediately released back into the atmosphere.
13. 12 million hectares of tropical forest were lost in 2018
The lost which nearly the size of England was the result of natural and human causes. Things such as wildfires, cattle production, and agricultural production like palm oil and soybeans. It would have held around 3 to 4 billion tonnes of carbon.
The world’s tropical forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, equivalent to 30 football pitches per minute. But the removal of tree cover and permanent deforestation is not the same thing.
14. 60% of the average wildlife populations have declined between 1970 and 2014
According to the Living Planet Report, the average size of vertebrate populations like reptiles, mammals, fish, and birds have declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014. It doesn’t mean that total animal populations have declined by 60%.
Climate change plays an increasing role in driving species extinction, according to a UN-backed international panel of scientists. The biggest driver of biodiversity loss is thought to be land and sea use, overexploitation of resources, and climate change.
15. Animal agriculture accounts for 13% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions, and less in developed countries
Meat consumption and animal agriculture is not the biggest causes of global warming. Yes, they are significant contributors, but far less than fossil fuel combustion.
According to World Resources Institute report, agricultural production represented 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. And ruminants contributed nearly half of global greenhouse emissions from agricultural production by 47%.
Coast, Sea, and Ocean
16. 0.7% of the world’s forests are coastal mangroves
Coastal mangroves account for just 0.7% of the world’s forests. And yet, they store up to 10 times of carbon per hectare as much as tropical forests.
17. 1 million hectares of coastal ecosystems area is destroyed every year
Nearly 1 million hectares of coastal ecosystems area larger than New York City is lost every year. It releases a great amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. It also removes important buffer for coastal communities from the impact of extreme weather.
18. Global sea levels are rising in an average of 3 mm per year, the fastest rate in 3,000 years
The two major causes of sea-level rise are the melting of ice sheets and glaciers and thermal expansion. Ice sheets and glaciers melting increases water flow. Meanwhile, thermal expansion expands warming water. Global sea levels would rise about 65 m if Antarctica and Greenland’s ice were to melt completely.
Some parts of city like Jakarta are sinking approximately 25 cm per year. In the Pacific for the last century, 8 islands were already swallowed by the sea. And it’s feared that low-lying nations like Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati could be wiped in the coming years.
19. 30% of surface ocean waters acidity has increased since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units. That’s equals to 30%. According to future predictions, the oceans will continue to absorb CO2, further increasing ocean acidity. It is the result of humans emitting CO2 into the atmosphere and hence absorbed into the oceans.
Weather and Temperature
20. More than 90% of natural disasters are related to weather
According to the WMO, more than 90% of the natural disasters are related to weather. Storms and flooding are the dominant ones and lead to the highest economic losses. Other than that, heatwaves were the deadliest meteorological hazard in the 2015-2019 period.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most damaging disasters on record. Hurricane Harvey alone costs more than $125 billion in losses. In March and April 2019 on the Indian Ocean, devastating and back-to-back tropical cyclones hit Mozambique.
21. 68% of extreme weather events in the last 20 years were influenced by humans
According to Carbon Brief‘s analysis, 68% of all studied extreme weather events in the last 20 years were made by human-caused climate change. It mapped 260 weather events covered by 234 individual scientific papers.
The majority of these events have been studied to be more likely or more severely affected by climate change. Heatwaves (95%), drought (65%), heavy rain and flooding (57%) are the most affected. Others includes wildfires, tropical cyclones, and extreme cold snaps.
22. 2016 was the warmest year on record
According to the NASA and NOAA data, 2016 was the warmest year on record. Since modern record-keeping began in 1880. Global temperature averages in 2016 were 0.99°C ( 1.78°F ) warmer than the mid-20th-century average.
Since 2001, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred. And 8 of the 12 months that make up 2016 were the warmest on record for those respective months.
23. 195 countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement
There are 195 nations already on board on the Paris Agreement. All of them agreed to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, and protect nature.
24. China is the world’s largest global CO2 emitting country
According to Global Carbon Project, 27% of global CO2 emissions in 2018 are from China. Although in ‘cumulative emissions’ is responsible for just 13% of global total emissions over time.
China is on track to reaches its emissions peak by 2030 says Climate Action Tracker (CAT). And that means it’s not consistent with keeping global warming below 2°C.
25. US is the world’s second-largest global CO2 emitting country
In 2018, 15% of global CO2 emissions are from the US, according to the Global Carbon Project. But in ‘cumulative emissions’ it leads by 25% of global total emissions over time. Even though generally its have been declining over the past decade. It because of the fallen of coal use that substituted by renewables and natural gas.
26. US oil production grew by 2.2 Mb/d, the largest ever annual increase by a single country
27. UK’s summers and winters keep getting warmer
The UK experienced the hottest summer since 2006 in 2018. On February 26, 2019, temperatures of 21.2°C were recorded in London’s Kew Gardens. And it was the warmest winter the UK has ever experienced. Milder winters can affects flowering plants, migratory birds, and hibernating mammals.
Conservation International. “Climate Change: 11 Facts You Need To Know.” →
NASA. “Climate Change: How Do We Know?” Global Climate Change Evidence. →
Weiss, S. 2019. “The 10 Facts that Prove We’re in a Climate Emergency.” Wired: Environment. June 19. →