NEWS
24/12/2019 13:19 GMT | Updated 30/12/2019 12:18 GMT

24 Numbers That Explain The State Of Planet Earth In 2019

From new climate science to wildfires, plastic waste and biodiversity, here's a snapshot of our world right now.

NASA via ASSOCIATED PRESS
NASA satellite photo of weather conditions as bushfires burn in New South Wales, Australia, in November 2019.

This past year has been overwhelming, to say the least, as we’ve endured an endless stream of rapid-fire information about the state of our planet. From climate accountability lawsuits to microplastics pollution, it can be easy to forget what happened yesterday, let alone six months ago. 

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time to take stock of where we are. A slew of reports on everything from biodiversity loss to plastic waste has emphasised what’s at stake. Meanwhile, ever-intensifying impacts of flooding and wildfires around the world continue to show us what a warming world will look like.

The destruction is staring us straight in the eyes and it’s impossible to look away; 2019 has made us acutely aware of the scale of the challenge ahead if society is going to seriously tackle everything from rising temperatures to species decline.

This doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any progress, though. Renewables are making up greater shares of our energy production as coal continues to decline. Meanwhile, jobs continue to grow in low-carbon sectors like electric vehicles and energy efficiency.

We have collected some of the significant stats of the past year, those which present a snapshot about the state of our planet right now. Here’s a look back at 2019 by the numbers.

Impacts

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images
Smoke billows from the burning trunk of a tree in the Amazon on August 24, 2019. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013.

99%: The chance that 2019 winds up in the top five hottest years ever recorded. According to NOAA data, this year will be either the third or second hottest year in human history.

0.95C: How much warmer July was compared to the 20th-century average temperature for that month, making it the hottest July ever recorded in human history.

11.3bn tonnes: Amount of ice that melted off Greenland’s ice sheet in one single day in August. That’s enough to cover all of Florida in nearly five inches of water. 

5: Number of new islands discovered in the Russian Arctic due to melting glaciers.

259,816 acres: Amount of land burned so far due to wildfires in California this year. 

10,000 square kilometers: Amount of land in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest cleared due to deforestation between January and August of this year. 

1,000: Number of people who died, at the most conservative estimate, due to devastating flooding in April in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai, the worst disaster to hit the region in 20 years. 

1m: Number of land and marine species that could become extinct due to human actions, unless “transformative change” is made across local, national, and global levels, according to a report released by the UN in May. 

99.8: Percentage of endangered species in the United States that will find it difficult to adapt to a warming world.

Consumption

AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File
A plastic recycling company worker sorts out plastic bottles in Tokyo. 

3.1m: Drop in the number of cars sold globally this year, the steepest decline since the 2008 recession.

42%: Portion of all passenger vehicles sold around the world this year that were fuel-guzzling, emissions-heavy SUVs.

65,000 tonnes: Amount of plastic waste sent by the United States as of May this year (the most recent data available) to 58 different countries.

11.6bn: Number of microplastics released by one plastic tea bag when steeping in water brewed at near boiling temperature.

7 months: Time it took for the world to reach “Earth Overshoot Day” representing the moment each year at which humanity starts to consume natural resources faster than the earth can replenish them. This was the earliest that we’ve ever reached this threshold.

Energy

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP via Getty Images
Workers install a wind turbine in Leury, northern France.

11m: Number of people employed around the world by the renewables sector – from manufacturing and trading to installation – in 2018, according to the latest figures released this summer. 

50%: Amount by which renewable energy is expected to increase over the next five years.

38.9: Share of electricity provided by renewables in the UK in the third quarter of 2019 (the most recent figures available), surpassing the amount provided by coal (38.8%) for the first time ever.

3%: Expected drop in coal usage around the world in 2019 according to analysis by Carbon Brief ― a record low use of the dirty fossil fuel.

2021: Date by which the European Investment Bank will no longer fund fossil fuel projects according to a November announcement.

Action

AP Photo/Kevin Wolf
Young climate activists rally the crowd at the end of the Climate Strike protest on Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington D.C. 

6m: Number of people across 4,500 locations in 150 countries that went on strike for the climate in September. 

164: Number of environmentalists killed for their work in 2018 according to a report released in July 2019.

11,000: Number of scientists from 153 countries who declared a climate emergency in November warning that “untold human suffering” is “unavoidable” without drastic action.

28: Number of countries where there are ongoing climate action lawsuits against governments and companies. The United States has the most with 1,023 cases.

50%: Amount by which global emissions must drop in the next decade in order to preserve a stable climate. As the executive director of the UN Environment Program, Inger Andersen, said, more action is needed: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7% each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.” 

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