Climate Change: The state of the Science

Published on Nov 19, 2013
Produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and Globaia and funded by the UN Foundation.

The data visualization summarises and visualizes several of the most significant statements in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) recent Fifth Assessment Report, (Working Group I summary for policymakers, the Physical Science Basis). In 2014, IPCC will publish summaries concerning societal impacts, mitigation and adaptation.

The statements and facts presented are derived from the IPCC summary for policymakers.

Our planet is vast. It is difficult to comprehend the scale. It is difficult too to comprehend the scale of humanity and the vast changes we've wrought in a lifetime. Population, production and consumption have grown exponentially. Roads, railways, airlines, shipping routes. The digital revolution. We've created a globally interconnected society. Evidence is mounting we've entered the Anthropocene.

Humanity is altering Earth's life support system. Carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating. Greenhouse gas levels are unprecedented in human history. The climate system is changing rapidly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assesses the risks and options for societies. Its latest report states it is extremely likely humans are the dominant cause of warming in the past 60 years. Without deep emissions cuts, it is likely Earth will cross the target of two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The target set by international policy. This could happen as early as 2050. If emissions keep rising at current rates, a four-degree rise by 2100 is as likely as not. This marks a vast transformation of our planet.

It is very likely heatwaves will occur more often and last longer. The Arctic will warm faster than the global average. It is likely sea ice will all but vanish in summer within decades if high emissions continue. It is very likely sea-level rise will accelerate. Cities and coastal areas are vulnerable. In general, wet regions are set to get wetter, dry regions drier. Monsoons are likely to become longer, their footprint likely to grow and downpours likely to intensify. The acidity of the ocean has increased 26% since the start of the industrial revolution. The full consequences of all these changes on the Earth system are unknown.

Humanity's carbon footprint is huge. Societies will need to adapt to climate change. The scale of change depends on decisions made now. Can we remain below two degrees? It is possible. But it is up to societies now to decide the future we want. For a likely chance of achieving the two-degree target, societies can emit another 250 billion tonnes of carbon. We burn about 10 billion tonnes of carbon a year. At current rates we will use this budget in about 25 years.
Download the IPCC Working Group I summary for policymakers (The Physical Science Basis) here:

Produced and directed by
Owen Gaffney and Félix Pharand-Deschênes

Félix Pharand-Deschênes

Owen Gaffney
International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme

Sarah Sherborne

GEOS-5 atmospheric model
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Suomi NPP VIIRS Nighttime Lights 2012
Earth Observation Group, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center
Landscan 2011tm High Resolution global Population Data Set
UT-Battelle, LLC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Blue Marble: Next Generation, Reto Stöckli
NASA Earth Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Annual temperature anomaly compared to 1860-1899 period
GFDL-CM3 (historical and RCP8.5 experiments) 1860-2100
Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5)
September sea ice concentration
GFDL-CM3 (historical and RCP8.5 experiments) 1860-2100
Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5)
Sea level rise flooded areas
Centers for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS)
Cyclones tracks
International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS)
Ocean acidification
Max Planck Institute Earth System Model, RCP 8.5

Continuo VII • Microcosmos • Mind over Matter

Commissioned by
International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
For the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I summary for policymakers (Fifth Assessment Report)

Funded by
United Nations Foundation

Anne-Marie Doucet, Louve & Isis, Myles Allen, Catherine Boire, Wendy Broadgate, David Huard, Tatiana Ilyina, Kalee Kreider, Naomi Lubick, Jochem Marotzke, Johannes Mengel, Tim Nuthall, Sybil Seitzinger, Sturle Hauge Simonsen, Karen Smyth, Simon Torok, Denise Young

This is a product for the WELCOME TO THE ANTHROPOCENE website