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Fast Facts About Climate Change

The Science of Climate Change

  • Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and warm the planet. (Source: EPA)
  • The greenhouse effect is an increase in the average temperature of the Earth. Without greenhouse gases, the temperature on Earth would be too cold to support life. With too many greenhouse gases, it would heat up beyond survivable levels. (Source: NOAA Research)
  • Since 1958, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been measured from an observatory on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)
  • The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of April 2018, the concentration is 407 ppm. (Source: NASA Global Climate Change)
  • The amount of carbon dioxide is higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years. And the Earth's average temperature is increasing at a concerning rate. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that global temperatures are expected to be within the range of 0.5°F to 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F, in the 21st century. The IPCC is currently in its Sixth Assessment cycle. During this cycle the Panel will produce three Special Reports, a Methodology Report on national greenhouse gas inventories and the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). (Source: IPCC, EPA)

Contributing to Climate Change

  • The United States is the second largest contributor to CO2 in our atmosphere, though it is home to just 4.4 percent of the world’s population. If everyone in the world lived the way people do in the U.S., it would take four Earths to provide enough resources for everyone. (Source: World Atlas, U.S. Census Bureau, Popular Science)
  • The amount of carbon dioxide emitted per capita in the United States is 16.5 metric tons (almost 40 pounds per person). (Source: The World Bank)
  • Burning one gallon of gasoline puts 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Source: EIA)

Effects on People, Wildlife, and the Planet

  • Average sea level is expected to rise 1 to 6 feet before the end of this century. There are many variables that will determine the exact amount of sea level rise, such as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and Antarctic ice melt. (Source: NASA; Rob DeConto of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and David Pollard of Penn State University)
  • In 1910 Glacier National Park was home to more an estimated 150 glaciers. As of June 2017 that number is 26 and shrinking. This national park is expected to eventually lose all its glaciers. Glacier National Park is only one example of glacial melt occurring all around the world. (Source: NPS)
  • The current pace of global average temperature rise puts approximately half of all plants and animals at risk of extinction. (Source: WWF)
  • Rain forest destruction contributes to climate change. That's because trees store carbon dioxide as they grow. Clearing and burning forests releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Source: National Geographic, University of Colorado Boulder)
  • The world’s coral reefs are in the midst of a global mass die off. In the last 30 years, the world has lost half of its coral reefs. In 2015, about 12 percent of the world’s reefs were bleached, due to El Niño and climate change. Scientists are predicting nearly half of these reefs (more than 4,600 square miles or more than five percent of reefs) could disappear forever. The mass coral bleaching event that started in 2015 is just now coming to an end as of June 2018. (Source: NOAA, National Geographic)

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