Insight: The hard truths of climate change – by the numbers

The hard truths of climate change – by the numbers

Bruno Rodriguez is only 18, but he has seen enough in his time on Earth to know that he must to do something for the planet. Inspired by the student climate strikes in Europe, he founded Youth for Climate Argentina in his home country.

Whatever they decide, nations will have to reckon with some difficult numbers that will ultimately determine whether the world can avoid the rapidly approaching climate meltdown. Nature documents the scale of the challenge in an infographic that explores energy use, carbon dioxide pollution and issues of climate justice. At a time when countries have pledged to curb greenhouse gases sharply, the data show that annual emissions spiked by 2.1% in 2018 — owing in part to increased demand for coal in places such as China and India.



Questions about the political — and even technological — feasibility of meeting the Paris thresholds have not deterred the new generation of activists, many of whom are inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. They have drawn attention to issues of moral responsibility and social justice, by focusing on evidence that climate disruptions will most harm the people who have contributed least to the problem.

Figueres says the youth activists are absolutely correct and totally justified in their anger. The question is whether righteous anger can push society to make immensely difficult and urgent decisions. “This transformation needs to happen in the next ten years,” she says, “and it has to involve everyone.”

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