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Watch Our Planet’s Impending Climate Disaster Unfold From Space

This four-minute video lays out what will happen to the planet if we continue on our present course. Which is a bummer, but at least it looks beautiful.

In case you didn’t get a chance to page through the latest IPCC report on climate change–a mind-bogglingly detailed review of scientific studies that crashed my computer when I tried to open it–this video can help catch you up on the future of our planet.

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The facts are grim. By 2050, if humans keep doing what we’re doing now, the global temperature will rise more than two degrees Celsius above what it’s been for most of human history. By 2100, it might even climb four degrees. The IPCC report, and this video, confirm what we’ve been hearing everywhere: Arctic sea ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising, storms are getting crazier, and we don’t even know the extent of everything else that will change.

Globaia, the organization that put together this data visualization along with other scientists, says that it was created as a call to action for policymakers. “If we are convinced of the seriousness of the situation, then political actions and technological fixes will result,” says Felix Pharand-Deschenes, who founded the Canadian nonprofit and animated the video. “But we have to change our minds first. This is the reason why we try to translate our terrestrial presence and impacts into images–along with the physical limits of our collective actions.”


There’s still hope, Pharand-Deschenes says. If we can summon up what he calls a “war effort,” and work together the way World War II-era citizens did, we could still manage to shift social systems–everything from transportation and energy to how we grow our food–enough to stay below a two degree rise. That, of course, is a big ask.

See more photos of Earth from above in Globaia’s series on the impact humanity has had on the Earth.

Some scientists say that even two degrees is more than Earth’s creatures can actually handle. But most agree that we need to act immediately to prepare for the future, and that one of the things standing in the way of action is the fact that the problem seems so abstract. Videos like this can help. So can visualizations that make things more personal, like the amazing What I Love website, which asks what someone cares about (New York City, pie, basketball, whatever) and explains what impact climate change will have on it.

The IPCC reports that we only have 125 billion tons of CO2 left to burn before reaching the tipping point, and at current rates, that could happen in just over two decades. Will we have a fully renewable-powered, zero-carbon world by then?

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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