The term “global warming” has fallen out of favor, with the all-encompassing “climate change” taking its place. But the planet is getting hotter–just this month, flights were grounded in the Southwestern United States because it was too hot to take off. Now, a graphic from the New York Times shows just how hot the planet might get over the course of the century.
The animated map shows a planet that will be slowly but surely scorched. Created with new data from the Climate Impact Lab, it estimates the number of days that will have temperatures of 95 degrees or higher if countries take moderate action on climate change.
Historical data from 1986 to 2005 shows parts of Saharan Africa being some of the few places on the planet experiencing more than 200 days of 95+ degree heat per year. But the map illustrates how that kind of heat will spread in the years between 2020 to 2059. As the graphic slowly moves from 1986 to the projections for 2099, the swelling magenta color threatens to turn every day into the worst day of summer–without the fun of going to the beach. By the end of the century, a large amount of South America, Australia, North America, Southeast Asia, and southern Europe as well as Africa may also be suffering from upwards of 200 days of this extreme heat every year.
What could such extreme temperatures mean? Electricity use for air conditioning and cooling would likely shoot through the roof, creating more demand for energy–necessary in order to stop heat-related deaths. Even today, thousands of people die in heat waves in places where air conditioning is less common, and it’s frightening to imagine how many lives this projected extreme heat could claim globally. According to one study, extreme heat could cause crop yields to drop dramatically. It could cause widespread famine, disrupt global air travel and the economy, among many other possible outcomes.
Hopefully this scenario won’t come to pass, though it is based on predictions that take into account the Paris Agreement, in which most of the world’s countries (now excepting the U.S. along with Syria and Nicaragua) have pledged to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to keep temperatures rising at a lower rate. It’s another reminder of just what’s at stake in the fight against climate change.