1. It's Warming.

Right now, annual global average temperature is about 1° Celsius (1.9°F) hotter than pre-industrial levels.

0° C
+1° C
← Hotter
Global Temperature Index, 1880-2016 (NASA)

The world’s scientists confirmed in the 2018 IPCC report that at the current rate, the world could cross 1.5˚C hotter as soon as 2030. That’s only a decade from now, well within the lifespan of most people alive today.

1.5˚C might not sound like a big increase in temperature, but it’s the difference between life and death for thousands of people.

Earth has always had natural cycles of warming and cooling, but not like we’re seeing now. The top five hottest years on record are 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2014.

And rising temperatures doesn’t only mean it’s getting hotter. The Earth’s climate is complex — even a small increase in average global temperature means big changes, with lots of dangerous side effects.

The last cooler-than-average month was in October 1965. (Climate Central)

2. It’s Us.

Human beings are causing climate change, largely by burning fossil fuels.

Rising temperatures correlate almost exactly with the release of greenhouse gases.

Before the 18th century, when humans in the industrial west began to burn coal, oil and gas, our atmosphere typically contained about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Those are the conditions “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

Now, as the use of fossil fuels spreads through the world, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is skyrocketing — we’re now well over 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere.

At the same time, the rapid growth in demand for animal-based agriculture by wealthier countries has seen other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide rapidly rise. The contribution of agriculture causes about 15% of global emissions. Burning fossil fuels remains by far the biggest single contributor to the problem: in 2017, close to 70% of annual emissions came from fossil fuel use and other industrial processes. This is compounded by the fact that carbon dioxide stays active in the atmosphere much longer than methane and other greenhouse gasses.

Fossil fuel companies are taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere. In 2019, CO2 concentrations crossed 415 ppm in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 2.5 million years.

Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the most important step we can take to prevent further climate change.

CO2 levels throughout history — note the sharp spike at the end. (source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

3. We’re Sure.

An overwhelming 97% of scientists agree that climate change is being caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. There is no meaningful debate about the basic science of climate change.

Scientists march at the 2014 People's Climate March in New York City.

Scientists at the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City.

1981 Exxon internal memo acknowledging the role of CO2 in causing climate change.

The finding that more CO2 in the atmosphere will warm the climate dates back to the 1890s. Attacks on the credibility of climate science are perpetuated by vested interests, including the fossil fuel industry, which continues to pump money into creating uncertainty about our understanding of climate change. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the top 5 oil majors alone have spent a combined $1 billion on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying.

The oil company Exxon knew about climate change’s impact in the 1970s, and found out that action would impact their bottom line. As a result, they joined an industry-wide attack on the truth, creating a false debate that prevented action for decades. Now we know that Exxon, and other companies like Shell, have been taking actions to protect their infrastructure from climate change for decades — while fighting action to protect the rest of us.

It’s also important to listen to indigenous, traditional and local knowledge. In many places of the world elders and community leaders are sharing their understandings of how ecosystems are changing.

If we pay attention to what scientists and frontline communities are telling us, instead of fossil fuel industry deceptions, the message is clear: Humans are causing the rapid onset of climate change, which is already bringing costly impacts across the world. The best way to stop it is by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and accelerating a just transition to 100% renewable energy.

4. It’s Bad.

Screenshot of climate impacts map on climatesignals.com

Global map of climate impacts from climatesignals.org

1˚C of warming has already resulted in devastating impacts across the planet.

Global grain yields have declined by 10% from heatwaves and floods connected to climate change, unleashing hunger and displacement. Over 1 million people living near coasts have been forced from their homes due to rising seas and stronger storms, and millions more are expected to flee in the coming years.

The IPCC states the difference between 1.5˚C and 2˚C of global temperature rise could mean well over 10 million more migrants from sea-level rise.

Climate change science leaves no room for doubt. The 2018 IPCC report has confirmed what we’ve known for decades: increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events is a result of climate change.

Our People’s Dossier on 1.5˚C has more on why we need to stay under 1.5˚C.

5. We Can Fix It.

The basic facts of climate crisis are grim: the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground for us to stay below 1.5°C* of warming and fossil fuel companies aren’t going to do that without a fight.

Here’s the good news:

  1. We know exactly what we have to do — keep fossil fuels in the ground and quickly transition to 100% renewable energy. The science says it’s still possible to stay under 1.5˚C – but we’ll need to halve emissions by 2030, and increase the share of solar, wind and hydro energy dramatically in that time.
  2. Renewable energy is getting cheaper and more popular every day. As renewables grow and provide more clean, free energy to replace fossil fuels, we’ve seen emissions decrease in many countries.
  3. We’re not alone — the worldwide movement to stop the climate crisis and resist the fossil fuel industry is growing stronger every day.
*Even if we do manage to keep most of fossil fuels in the ground, a world that’s 1.5°C warmer is going to be a much different, scarier place. We’re only at +1°C now, and we’re already seeing more storms, flooding, heatwaves, drought, and island nations at risk of going underwater.
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Further Reading

Increased Air Mass Temperature

Decreased Arctic Sea Ice

California Change in Evapotranspiration

California Decreased Snowpack

Increased Drying of Soils

Change in Evapotranspiration

Increased Extreme Heat and Heat Waves

Glacier and Ice Sheet Melt

Global Warming

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

California Increased Temperatures

Increased Land Surface Temperature

Increased Permafrost Thaw

Increased Sea Surface Temperature

Season Creep

Decreased Snow and Ice Cover

Increased Atmospheric Moisture

Increased Extreme Precipitation

Increased Northern Hemisphere Mid-Latitude Precipitation

Change in Runoff

Increased Atmospheric Blocking

California Decreased Precipitation

Increased Frequency of Extreme El Niños

Hadley Cell Expansion

Decreased North Atlantic Surface Temperature

Change in Northern Hemisphere Circulation

Increased Ocean Acidification

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge

Change in Southern Hemisphere Circulation

Change in Surface Ozone

Decreased Surface Wind Speed

Weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

California Decreased Soil Moisture

Increased Drought Risk

California Increased Drought PDSI

Change in Atlantic Cyclone Steering

Increased Frequency Intense Atlantic Hurricanes

Increased Frequency Intense Cyclones

Increased Frequency Intense NW Pacific Typhoons

Increased Frequency Intense SW Pacific Cyclones

Increased Frequency Intense Tropical Pacific Hurricanes

Increased Frequency North Indian Cyclones

California Increased Wildfire Risk

Increased Wildfire Risk

Increased Coastal Flooding

Increased Flooding Risk

Rising Sea Levels

Increased Storm Surge

Thermal Expansion of the Ocean

Increased Blizzard Risk

Increased Coral Bleaching

Decreased Habitat Availability and Species Die-Off

Increased Parasite, Bacteria and Virus Populations

Increased Pine Beetle Outbreaks

Change in Species Range

Increased Humidity and Heat Stress

Increased Infectious Gastrointestinal Disease Risk

Increased Respiratory Disease Risk

Increased Vector Borne Disease Risk

Increased Risk Wind Damage

Increased Storm Intensity

Increased Tornado Risk

Monthly global average temperature relative to pre-industrial average

The last cooler-than-average month was in October 1965. (Climate Central)

CO2 levels throughout history — note the sharp spike at the end. (source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)