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  • 12.11.14

Here’s What Will Happen This Century If We Don’t Do Anything About Climate Change

Basically, a lot of death, both human and otherwise.

In case you haven’t had a chance to read through the UN’s huge recent report on climate change–over 2,000 pages long, and based on 9,200 peer-reviewed studies–a new interactive site called Global Weirding helps summarize how the planet may change over the rest of the century.

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“The IPCC report is the most important report on climate change ever made–but it’s also very, very inaccessible,” says Tiina Ruohonen from CICERO, a Norway-based research institute whose scientists contributed to the original UN report.

“We wanted to communicate the IPCC results in an easier, more interactive and fun way, so more people could understand,” she says. “The idea is that you could get something out of it even if you browse it for a minute, or you can spend a whole day or an evening.”

As you scroll through a timeline on the Global Weirding site, you can watch a spinning world shift. Some of the changes are already happening. As the ocean rapidly heats up, marine life is migrating. We’re facing an increase of weird new problems like waves of jellyfish shutting down nuclear power plants. Heat waves and extreme weather are already more common.

The site lets you look at different scenarios. If you choose to do nothing, you can watch as the world continues on its path to an apocalyptic nightmare by 2100, when we’ll face mass extinctions, a dramatic increase in wildfires, dead fish, and limited fresh water to drink.

Even by 2030, crop yields will drop in many places, including North America. By 2040, more species will face extinction, and both flooding and drought will increase. Wine production in Europe will decrease in the 2050s. Malnutrition and disease will increase in places like Africa. Most coral reefs will disappear.

By 2060, more New Yorkers will be dying in extreme coastal storms. Invasive species will spread in Europe, while lack of snow starts to affect the Alps. Coastal communities in New Zealand and Australia will begin to flood from rising seas by the 2080s. By 2090, average temperatures in Africa could be as much as six degrees hotter.

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Of course, it doesn’t have to be quite that bad. The site also shows scenarios where we do a better job of mitigating climate change; you can play with sliders that adjust things like global energy use and renewable energy production, and then watch as that changes the result.

Even if you’re not up on the latest climate science, the site makes it easy to understand. “Basically, we wanted to do something different, fun and easy to use with the IPCC data, and bring the worlds of design, data visualization, and digital culture a little closer to science communication and the sometimes sterile world of peer-reviewed science,” says Ruohonen. “The hope is that everybody scrolling through can get something out of the site.”

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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