9 Reasons Why a Meeting in Paris Next Month May Be Our Last Chance to Save the Planet

Why the Paris climate talks are more important this year than ever, in nine (pretty) easy-to-read images.

Another year, another round of climate talks. We keep hearing that this year is different. That it’s more important. That there’s a big deal to be had. Sure, current international commitments on greenhouse gas emissions are set to run out by 2020, and many scientists are suggesting that we’ve reached a climate change tipping point, but why the urgency? Why do the talks in Paris this year really matter?

Because it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and hotter…

Witness six decades of warming in 14 seconds. The ten warmest years in the 133-year record have all occurred since 1998. It has been a full 39 years since the world experienced a year of cooler-than-average temperatures.

(For a deeper dive, you can play around with the temperature data on this incredible interactive map by Halftone.)

...and hotter.

Credit: Climate Central

Through September, 2015 has been the hottest year on record globally, and it’s increasingly likely that the year will end as the hottest year ever in the 133 years we’ve been measuring global temps.

And we’re already feeling the effects.

Credit: NOAA

That map is a look at just one calendar year. The next year, in the U.S. alone, there were eight separate billion dollar disasters caused by warming-fueled extreme weather. And a report published earlier this week by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, revealed a clear tie between man made climate change and the severity and likelihood of many of 2014’s most costly and deadly weather events.

Because human activity has already locked in enough sea level rise to submerge hundreds of U.S. cities.

If we do nothing, sea levels will rise enough to submerge the majority of homes in as many as 1,500 American cities and towns by the end of the century. But according to Climate Centreal research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if world leaders commit now to extreme carbon cuts, more than half of those cities and towns could be spared.

Because the science is settled.

Credit: James Powell

Though cynics and deniers will try, as they do every year, to get in the way of a deal with talk of scientific uncertainty, they are full of it.

Because every year we wait, it gets more expensive to do something about it.

Credit: Council of Economic Advisers

Okay, so the government charts aren’t the prettiest, and certainly not the easiest to understand. But what this is telling you is, basically, the longer we wait to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the more expensive it will be to do so. The most tragic thing about this graph is that the actual targets used are super weak. (We measure climate pollution in the parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere. A “safe” range – to preserve a climate at all similar to that in which all human civilization developed – would be under 350 parts per million. They’re looking at the 500-700 parts per million range. Not good.) So if we wait five years, it’s going to be twice as expensive to meet a target that doesn’t even prevent some truly disastrous climate impacts.

Because nations are getting closer to hitting emissions targets we can live with.

Though they still have a long way to go. Climate scientists suggest that to preserve a reasonably stable and safe global climate, global temperature rise has to be limited to under two degrees Celcius. (That two degree target roughly translates to the 350 parts per million of pollution in the atmosphere mentioned above.) With the current batch of emissions reductions pledges, we’re nowhere close to making that goal. And with every year that passes without an international agreement, emissions continue to rise and that two degree goal becomes less and less accessible.

Because we’re running out of our carbon budget.

Credit: World Resources Institute

What’s a carbon budget? The amount of carbon dioxide we can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting our global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. (Check out the whole WRI graphic here to better understand the carbon budget. Still confused? This Information Is Beautiful dataviz could help.) The concept has come of age and last year for the first time the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a vast coalition of hundreds of the world’s best climate scientists – calculated a global “carbon budget.” They found that at current rates, we’ll burn through the carbon budget in three short decades

Because we’re getting dangerously close to a world that has no international limits on carbon pollution at all.

Credit: The Climate Group

The only international agreement on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2020, and if we fail in Paris, there won't be anything to replace it. These agreements are years in the making, and if world leaders swing and miss in December, there’s no way the diplomatic process would regroup in time to get something done by 2020. (It’s taken us six years to get to where we are – with another chance at a meaningful agreement – after the big flop in Copenhagen.)

So when climate advocates and world leaders say that Paris is a big deal because the UNFCCC has determined Paris to be a big deal, that’s actually kind of true.

The science and economics and human impacts of climate change only get worse and worse and worse with every passing year. The urgency for a global climate deal is long overdue, and world leaders finally seem ready to get it done.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less