Climate Emergency Facts

Climate emergency facts.

Climate Emergency Facts

The science of climate change is well established:

  • Climate change is real and human activities are the main cause. (IPCC)
  • The concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to the average global temperature on Earth. (IPCC)
  • The concentration has been rising steadily, and mean global temperatures along with it, since the time of the Industrial Revolution. (IPCC)
  • The most abundant greenhouse gas, accounting for about two-thirds of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), is largely the product of burning fossil fuels. (IPCC)
  • Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is responsible for more than 25 per cent of the warming we are experiencing today. It is a powerful pollutant with a global warming potential over 80 times greater than CO2 during the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. (Methane Emissions fact sheet, UNEP)

What are the effects and impacts of climate change?

Impacts of a 1.1-degree increase are here today in the increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events from heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires. (IPCC)

  • The global average temperature in 2019 was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period, according to WMO.
  • 2019 concluded a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases produced by human activities. (WMO)
  • 30 per cent of the world’s population is exposed to deadly heat waves more than 20 days a year. (Cooling and Climate Change fact sheet, UNEP)
  • Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are the highest on record. (WMO)
  • 2019 was the second hottest year on record. (WMO)
  • In 2019, total greenhouse gas emissions, including land-use change, reached a new high of 59.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e). (EGR, 2020)
  • Based on today’s insufficient global commitments to reduce climate polluting emissions, a rebound in greenhouse gases from a return to high-carbon societies after the pandemic may push 2030 emissions even higher – up to 60 GtCO2e. (EGR, 2020)

What do we need to do to limit global warming and act on the climate emergency?

  • To prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year from this year to 2030. (EGR, 2019)
  • 10 years ago, if countries had acted on this science, governments would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year. Every year we fail to act, the level of difficulty and cost to reduce emissions goes up. (EGR, 2019)
  • Deep reductions in methane will be necessary to help limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, according to IPCC. Over 75 per cent of methane emissions could be mitigated with technology that exists today – and up to 40 per cent at no net cost according to the International Energy Agency. (Methane Emissions fact sheet, UNEP)
  • Conserving and restoring natural spaces, both on land and in the water, is essential for limiting carbon emissions providing one-third of the mitigation effort needed in the next decade. (Nature for Climate Action fact sheet, UNEP)
  • Since over half of global GDP has a high or moderately high dependency on nature, investing in nature-based solutions will not only limit global warming but also result in about 4 trillion dollars in revenue for businesses and over 100 million new jobs each year by 2030. (Nature for Climate Action fact sheet, UNEP)
  • For governments, a green COVID-19 recovery could cut 25 per cent off 2030 emissions, putting the world on track to a 2°C pathway. (EGR, 2020)
  • Nations agreed to a legally binding commitment in Paris to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels but also offered national pledges to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is known as the Paris Agreement. The initial pledges of 2015 are insufficient to meet the target, and governments are expected to review and increase these pledges as a key objective this year, 2021.  
  • The updated Paris Agreement commitments will be reviewed at the climate change conference known as COP 26 in Glasgow, UK in November 2021. This conference will be the most important intergovernmental meeting on the climate crisis since the Paris agreement was passed in 2015.
  • The success or otherwise of this conference will have stark consequences for the world. If countries cannot agree on sufficient pledges, in another 5 years, the emissions reduction necessary will leap to a near-impossible 15.5% every year. The unlikelihood of achieving this far steeper rate of decarbonization means the world faces a global temperature increase that will rise above 1.5°C. Every fraction of additional warming above 1.5°C will bring worsening impacts, threatening lives, food sources, livelihoods and economies worldwide.
  • Countries are not on track to fulfill the promises they have made. 
  • Increased commitments can take many forms but overall they must serve to shift countries and economies onto a path of decarbonization, setting targets for net-zero carbon, and timelines of how to reach that target, most typically through a rapid acceleration of energy sourced from renewables and rapid deceleration of fossil fuel dependency. 

Climate Emergency Facts

The term "climate emergency" reflects an urgent global recognition of the significant threats posed by climate change to ecosystems, human well-being, and the welfare of other species on the planet. Here are several key facts about this critical issue:

1. Acceleration of Global Temperatures
According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the past seven years have been the warmest on record globally. This trend highlights the ongoing rise in global surface temperatures, with 2016 and 2020 tied as the warmest years recorded.

2. Increase in Extreme Weather Events
Research indicates a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These include hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, floods, and heatwaves, as the global climate system adjusts to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases. For instance, the European Academies' Science Advisory Council reported in 2021 that Europe had experienced an increase in extreme weather events, impacting agriculture, infrastructure, and human lives.

3. Rising Sea Levels
Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate, primarily due to the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as thermal expansion of seawater as it warms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that global sea levels could rise by up to 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, threatening coastal communities worldwide.

4. Loss of Biodiversity
The rapid changes in climate are significantly affecting biodiversity. Species are experiencing habitat loss, altered food web dynamics, and other stressors leading to declines or extinction. This loss of biodiversity not only affects the natural world but also has profound implications for human societies that rely on these ecosystems for food, water, and resources.

5. Economic Impact
The impacts of climate change carry significant economic risks. According to the United Nations, without drastic actions, climate change could cost the global economy $2 trillion in lost productivity by the end of this century due to labor productivity impacts alone. This does not consider costs related to damage restoration, healthcare increases, and losses in agricultural productivity.

6. Social and Health Consequences
Climate change poses serious risks to global public health, including an increase in heat-related illnesses, vector-borne diseases, and nutritional deficits due to food supply disruptions. Additionally, climate change acts as a social threat multiplier, exacerbating poverty and displacement, especially in vulnerable communities.

7. Policy Responses
In response to these challenges, many countries and organizations have declared a climate emergency. The 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark international treaty, has been essential in this regard, setting out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

The climate emergency poses significant threats and challenges, but it also offers an opportunity to undertake transformative actions to mitigate and adapt to these changes. International cooperation and immediate, comprehensive actions are essential to address this pressing global issue effectively. Addressing climate change not only helps protect the environment but also enhances global health, security, and economic stability.

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