This time-lapse map makes it clear that our planet is rapidly getting warmer. Nine of the Earth’s warmest years since 1880 have occurred after 2000. (The 10th warmest year? 1998.) Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who released this analysis, warn that record-breaking temperatures could occur over the next two to three years.
The increase in temperatures is largely driven by higher concentrations of greenhouse gases that trap heat, such as carbon dioxide. Everyday activities — such as using electricity, heat and transportation — contribute to carbon emissions. Landfills, oil leaks and livestock release methane, another harmful greenhouse gas. Human activity accounts for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases over the last 150 years.
These effects are just the tip of the (melting) iceberg
We’re not just talking about a future of hot days. If humans don’t reverse these trends, the harm will be felt across the globe. Some regions could experience droughts, while other areas may be flooded due to rising sea levels and more severe storms. Crop production might fall, and diseases could spread.
President Obama recently called for a strong global response to the growing threat of climate change. In his remarks, he also announced a new set of tools to harness the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States to help vulnerable populations around the world strengthen their climate resilience.
You can do your part to combat climate change
Be aware of your everyday behavior. Turn off electronics not being used, compost food scraps and consider other small modifications to your lifestyle that can add up to a big impact.
Calculate your ecological footprint with this quiz from the Center for a Sustainable Economy.
Become a climate ambassador. If you’re a student, encourage peers in your school or community to get involved in energy-saving activities.
- Use fuel-efficient modes of transport and support renewable energy programs.