A New Kind of Climate Change Graphic

Urgency. Not panic, but a healthy sense of urgency. That’s what we need.

Remember a couple of posts back when I talked about the linkages between food waste and climate change? I wrote in that post that everything we can do to reverse climate change, we should do. I also wrote that I was going to say that a lot more often.

So here is why I’m going to make this idea a common refrain – we need a sense of urgency when it comes to climate change. Just below, I’ve linked to a graphic that I hope will add to that sense of urgency. I noticed this graphic bouncing around the internet recently, so you might have already seen it. Regardless, I urge you to click on the link below and watch it a few times.

Before clicking though, let me orient you a bit. Most graphics we see showing global temperature changes are oriented on an X/Y graph with global temperatures shown on the vertical axis and time demonstrated on the horizontal axis (like NASA’s graph at this link).

Another way of depicting such temperature changes, however, is on a circular graph. In this case, the closer a data point is to the center, the colder the temperature, and the further away from the center, the warmer the temperature. If you have those data points pop up chronologically and connect them by lines, you end up with a spiral showing temperature change over time.

If that spiral overlaps itself (effectively creating lots of circles on top of each other), then temperatures are roughly staying the same over time. If the spiral circles inward, becoming tighter and tighter, that indicates that temperatures are cooling over time. Contrarily, if the spiral moves away from the center, it indicates temperatures warming over time.

What we want, if we are concerned about a changing climate doing things like threatening food security, bleaching our coral reefs, or spreading infectious diseases, is for the spiral to not move outward.

So take a look here.

Gulp. Not good.

Credit goes to climate scientist Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading in England for crafting this graphic. Click on this link to read a bit more from Ed about it.

Urgency. Not panic, but a healthy sense of urgency. That’s what we need. Climate change is reversible, and we don’t yet have to concede that adaptation to climate change is our only hope. That said, we can’t wait for the next generation to figure it out for us. Let’s get to work and keep the spiral from crossing that 2 degree line.