Last week was jammed packed with news of a political nature: a turn in the tide of the horrific war in Ukraine (dare we hope), the announcement of a new prime minister of the UK (the 4th in 6 years), the death of Britain’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, the succession of the new monarch, King Charles III, a new Conservative opposition leader in Canada, and continuing revelations and tussling about the huge numbers of classified documents recovered at Mar a Lago, to name but a few. But there were other stories in the news of a somewhat non-political nature, at least on the face of it; those have to do with the increasingly devastating results of inaction on curbing man-made climate change.
#1 among those climate-related news items is the utter devastation from flooding in Pakistan. Complete and utter devastation. With considerable validity, that country is decrying the relative lack of help from the world’s wealthiest countries, the very countries whose past 100 years of industrialization have caused these extreme climatic events and also the very countries whose carbon-emitting industrialization has made them the wealthy countries they are. There have been many other climate-related stories in the news this past week, including savage wildfires in California, more flooding and wildfires, and unprecedented heat waves that are challenging power grids in many places. When we have a humidex reading of 34C (93F) in mid-September way up here in eastern Canada, north of Maine, you know things have changed!
Although not a map in the strict sense of the word, the unique timeline below, brought to us by XKCD.COM, illustrates the story of changes in the world’s climate since 20,000 BCE. As it says in its header, when people say the climate has changed before, these are the kinds of changes they’re talking about. This simple and effective – and very long but fun – timeline is done in cartoon style, is easy to follow, and tells the tale of the extent of the havoc that we “wealthy” folks have managed to inflict on our planet in 100 short years out of the past 22,000. [This work by xkcd.com, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License, which means you’re free to copy and share their material, but not to sell them. Thanks to Viqar for pointing me in its direction.]
Some of these interactive maps might help fill in some details. Besides, they’re fun to explore, even if scary.
First let’s look at the expected rise in sea level around the world depending on how much global warming increases. Currently we sit at a little more than 1 degree C since 1880, but 2/3 of that increase has occurred since 1975! This interactive map at coastal.climatecentral.org allows you to set a temperature change interval to show what current land masses will be under water at that increase. You can zoom in on any part of the world you want. The maps I have captured are set at what things will look like at 2C and at 4C. You can click on the full world map to access the interactive map and play with it. Zoom in and out, roam around the world. I’ve included screen shots of what southern Florida might look like and what my own hometown of Fredericton might look like with those changes. Not a pretty picture!
Another fascinating (and unsettling) interactive map site is provided by carbonmap.org. Most of them are displayed as cartograms, those multifaceted maps that show country size according to their contribution to the variable being presented. Remember these from previous Map Mondays?!
This interactive map allows you to choose two variables at a time to present. One variable is the topic chosen, which in the first example is People At Risk. A second variable can be set by changing the option in the drop box to the right, which in the first example is set to GDP per person. Let’s take a look at the story these maps tell. As is the case with Pakistan at the moment (and food insecurity across much of Africa as droughts and even higher temperatures continue), the parts of the world where there are far more people and yet far less contribution to carbon emissions bear the brunt of the outcomes of climate change.
Cartogram of whose most at risk from Climate Change, shaded according to GDP/country
Cartogram of what countries produce the most emissions, shaded according to population growth
Cartogram of consumption use by country, shaded according to CO2 use (imports and exports)
This final interactive map at interactive-atlas.ipcc.ch also has a number of dropdown boxes you can play with to see different maps with somewhat different variables and values being used. I’m sure some of you will enjoy giving it a trial run. The maps I have selected show the change in ground level temperatures across the world when we hit an increase in global warming of 2C and of 4C. They aren’t pretty. And you will notice that the far north is the worst affected by far. Not only does that virtually wipe out the ability for people and most animals to live as they have done at those latitudes, it is also the reason that the poles and the Greenland Ice Sheet are melting, our sea levels are rising, and our ocean currents are changing and causing havoc with our weather due to warming seas.
Oh, what we have wrought on our planet through our innovation, first being used in blissful ignorance and then, sadly, with willful blindness and/or just plain greed. Unintended consequences? Yes, at first. But we have no excuse for our collective inaction.