3 Infographics Explain Our Climate Past and Future
The final installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report (AR5), set to be released this weekend, is the most comprehensive evaluation of climate change to date. Its findings are both alarming and clear: Climate change is already affecting communities and ecosystems across the planet, and without urgent action, it’s poised to worsen.
Indeed, the IPCC report paints a vivid picture of the current state of climate change, as well as where we’re headed if emissions don’t drop significantly. Here’s a look at three infographics that underscore the report’s findings:
The History of Carbon Emissions
Global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are now higher than at any point in history. Check out their changing history—in 2011, CO2 emissions were 150 times higher than they were in 1850.
The Global Carbon Budget
Installments of the most recent IPCC report, which were released over the past year, calculated the world’s “carbon budget.” This is the amount of carbon the world can release and still have a likely chance of limiting global average temperature rise to 2 degrees C, thus preventing some of the most disastrous impacts of climate change. We’ve already used up 52 percent on the budget and, if emissions continue unabated, we’ll burn through the rest in a mere 30 years.
The below infographic explains the implications of exceeding the carbon budget, and the steps needed to stay within it.
Our Emissions Future
The IPCC report also reveals the impacts associated with various emissions trajectories. For example, a high emissions scenario—which we’re tracking right now—would increase global temperatures by up to 4.8 degrees C, wreaking havoc on agricultural production, ecosystems, and many plant and animal species. A low emissions pathway—where global emissions peak by 2020 and then drop 66 percent below 2010 levels by 2050—can prevent the carbon budget from being exceeded.
It’s Not Too Late
These infographics provide a sobering look at the world’s emissions past, present, and future. But it’s important to remember that the IPCC report also finds that it’s still possible to rein in warming. By rapidly decarbonizing—moving away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner power systems and infrastructure—we can safeguard the future from catastrophic climate change.