The charts you need to understand the climate emergency10/27/2021
By Laura Chung
Climate chartsCredit:Mary-Anne Lea Supplied
Climate change didn’t occur overnight. But with the COP26 conference in Glasgow imminent, here are 10 graphs which explain the crisis gripping the planet.
The world is getting hotter
Last year tied with 2016 as the hottest on record, with global average temperatures increasing by more than 1.2 degrees since the late 19th century.
Seventeen of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, with Australia experiencing its highest annual mean temperature in 2019 and its warmest spring on record in 2020.
“Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important — the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken,” NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt said earlier this year.
Arctic sea ice is decreasing
Sea ice cover and thickness have declined significantly in the Artic Ocean since satellite measurements began in 1979.
The ice cover has fluctuated on the Antarctica continent, but the melt from Greenland and Antarctica has contributed about 1.4 cm of global sea level rise from 2003 to 2019.
And sea levels are increasing
Global mean sea levels have risen by about 25 centimetres since 1880, with half of this rise occurring since 1970.
Sea level rise rates across Australia vary, but the largest increase has been to the north and south-east. This poses a serious threat for coastal communities that will experience storm surges and coastal erosion. If global temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees many of the islands will become uninhabitable.
Oil, coal and gas are still the main sources of energy globally
The US, India and Russia contributed the largest declines in energy consumption, while China saw the largest increase in energy consumption – about 2.1 per cent.
While oil was the most popular energy source, renewable energy (including biofuels, but excluding hydro) rose by 9.7 per cent.
Australia is still reliant on coal
Coal remains the biggest source of CO2 emissions in Australia, with oil second. Only the United States has a higher carbon pollution than Australia for energy use, with both tallying about 15 tonnes per person of carbon-dioxide a year.
But the energy mix is shifting
Wind and solar farms have been popping up across the country in the last few years, as Australia’s clean energy transition is tipped to accelerate to the point that most homes will have solar panels paired with batteries by 2030.
The world is trying to slow its emissions
The latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found if the world makes immediate drastic cuts to emissions, and reaches net zero or carbon neutrality before 2050, we can still stabilise the climate and see it slowly start to cool by the end of the century.
And use more renewables
China was by far the largest contributor to renewables growth in 2020, followed by the US, Japan, the UK, India and Germany.
Saudi Arabia is one of the worst, with only 0.1 per cent of its primary energy coming from renewables. The country has announced plans to become a hydrogen pioneer and set targets to reach net zero by 2060.
And collectively hit a net zero target by 2050
More than 130 countries have set or are considering setting targets of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. Two countries have already achieved the net-zero targets: the heavily forested Bhutan, located between India and China, and Suriname in South America.
Sweden was the first country to enshrine its net-zero target into law in 2017 and since then, five countries have followed.
But that goal won’t mean much until a more ambitious 2030 target is achieved
At the Glasgow summit, states have been asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions target reductions. To keep them accountable, countries submit Nationally Determined Contributions, known as NDCs, to the United Nations every five years.
These contributions are plans which highlight a country’s climate action, including targets, policies and measures that a government aims to implement as their contribution to the global effort.
Commitments differ greatly across nations, making it difficult to compare progress. For example, Argentina’s most recent NDC says it will not exceed 359 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, while Canada says it will keep its emissions 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
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