5 climate change facts to scare you into action this Halloween
October 21, 2021
It’s Halloween, which means costumes, candy, and scary movies. Fear turns to fun on October 31 because Halloween lets us seek scary thrills that can’t hurt us. And when we feel like the threats are closing in on us, we just turn off the TV or turn on the lights. But there is one terror that we can’t escape, no matter the time of year.
We’re talking climate change. Here are five of the scariest, most bone-chilling facts about climate change to get you in the mood for terror this season (and hopefully also scare you and your fellow trick-or-treaters into action to address it).
1. Within the next 2 decades, global temperatures are likely to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius
In its highly-anticipated Sixth Report this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that a certain amount of global warming is locked in and is irreversible. This means that within the next two decades, global temperatures are likely to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In its 2018 special report, the IPCC warned that we only have until 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Yet little has changed since then to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s terrifying.
In 2019, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry reached a high of 36.44 billion metric tons. In 2020, emissions fell by 5.8 percent due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis. Despite last year’s reverse trend, however, 2021 emissions are expected to again grow by nearly 5 percent, to 33 billion tons.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022.”
2. The last 7 years have been the warmest on record
2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to NASA. Notably, 2020’s temperature level was hit without it being an El Niño year, as it was in 2016.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important — the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”
Are you scared for our future, yet?
3. More than 1 million species are at risk of extinction by climate change
Imagine dressing up as a frog for Halloween and having to explain to younger generations what it was and why it’s gone. Almost half of all amphibians are at risk of extinction due to climate change — so this could be a reality if we don’t act soon.
Extinction is a natural phenomenon, claiming about five species per year. But some experts suggest we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction — one that is caused mostly by human activity.
Scientists estimate dozens of species of plants and animals currently go extinct each day — nearly 1,000 times the natural rate. By mid-century, as many as 30 to 50 percent of the total species found on Earth will have disappeared.
Allowing this to continue is “a crime equivalent to tossing books from the Library of Alexandria thoughtlessly into a fire, erasing the shared inheritance of all mankind,” according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science in a review from 2009.
Species diversity is crucial for ecosystem resilience, and without it, ecological communities will not have the strength to withstand change — especially not the change we’re throwing at them.
4. Climate change is already happening, and it’s detrimental to human life, too
The impacts to human health are much scarier than any clown movie.
Rising temperatures — coupled with a growing number of people in cities and an increasing population of elderly — have increased heat-related deaths, according to a 2018 study in The Lancet.
The report concluded that the lack of adaptive capacities and effort toward reducing emissions threatens human lives and the national health systems people rely on, by pushing services to their limit and disrupting core infrastructure. Vulnerable communities are already being hit first and worst.
But hyperthermia is not the only risk climate change brings to human life. Higher temperatures worsen air quality, negatively affect crop production, increase the spread of infectious diseases, and threaten freshwater deposits.
A warming world also increases the intensity of natural disasters.
While instances of wildfires have decreased over the years, according to the WMO, the burn area and intensity of fires have increased. Wildfires are currently ripping through California — claiming more than 2,000,000 acres of land in 2021 alone.
Hurricanes are reaching new extremes, too. The frequency of high intensity hurricanes — ranked as categories 4 and 5 — has increased over the last 30 years. It has become immensely more difficult to escape these storms unscathed, and it will only get harder in the future.
Have you noticed that the Halloween season doesn’t feel the same either? If we can’t wear a full costume without sweating then something is wrong, right?
That’s because climate change is shifting the seasons. Falls, winters, and springs are growing shorter, while summer extends into the supposedly cooler months. North American winters are losing snow and ice as a result — making prime ski destinations, well, not prime.
This not only makes dressing up in a full-body werewolf costume uncomfortable but also disrupts the natural interactions between species, their habitats, and their migration patterns. BOO.
5. Many leaders still aren’t taking it seriously
The world has been aware of climate change at least since the IPCC formed in 1988. Scientists and the public rallied around environmental policy, but many global governments had a different idea.
They were going to ignore it.
Countries contributing the most to global emissions have the best chance of curbing climate change, but leaders are doing little to address it.
Although it has been five years since the Paris Agreement entered into force, none of the world’s major economies are on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
To outline steps to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change, parties submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years. While July 31 was the deadline to submit updated NDCs, many countries didn’t actually increase their climate pledges, and others missed the deadline entirely.
Climate literacy is among the climate goals that have missed the mark. Climate literacy (as supported by an integrated K-12 curricula) is needed to prepare youth with an understanding of the climate crisis and skills to create solutions, yet not one country has thoroughly addressed it within its NDC.
Everyone may die at the end of horror movies, but we don’t have to
We’re not in a Hollywood studio, helplessly in the hands of sadistic screenwriters. We can actively choose to change the ending of our story — and for that we should feel hopeful.
Younger generations are taking matters into their own hands and striking for the climate. They’re skipping school completely to plead for an end to inaction toward climate change and demanding world leaders to undertake environmental reforms.
The next UN Conference of Parties (COP26) will be held this November. In this international meeting of heads of state and governments and stakeholders, countries will have an opportunity to heighten their ambition on climate change.
“We have to make 2020 to 2030 a critical decade of real decisions and real actions… The urgency of what we need to do cannot be overstated,” said John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, this past Earth Day.
After decades of inaction on climate change, we don’t have any more time to spare before it’s too late. Join the movement and add your voice to this urgent call for change.
This Halloween we must face our fears. The human-made monster that is climate change won’t go anywhere if you just close your eyes or turn off the TV. Action and advocacy are the only way to flip the script — and not wind up like your favorite victim at the end of the horror film.