The Repercussions of a Changing Climate, in 5 Devastating Charts

If news about the written part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report didn’t alarm you, these five graphic depictions of warming’s impacts will.

Flames rise near homes during the Blue Ridge Fire on Oct. 27, 2020 in Chino Hills, California. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

Flames rise near homes during the Blue Ridge Fire on Oct. 27, 2020 in Chino Hills, California. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

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The Sixth Assessment Report released earlier this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is chock full of information on how our climate has changed because of human activity and warnings about the challenging future as our planet warms. 

Much of this information is conveyed through graphics, which consolidate thousands of pages of information into digestible nuggets of information. IPCC Senior Science Officer Melissa Gomis helped lead the design process of these visualizations, supporting designers to create graphics that are understandable to the average reader. She said graphics can have more of an impact than simple text and are highly shareable in our digital world.

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“In the context of climate change, they really help visualize what is happening over different dimensions (may it be time or space),” she said, “what is not perceivable out of raw data or out of your window.”

She and a team of authors, designers and cognitive experts collaborated to narrow down report findings into single sentences that could be explained with graphics. 

Here are some graphics Gomis’s selected from the report that summarize its key findings. 

Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 200 years

Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes

Human activities affect all the major climate system components, with some responding over decades and others over centuries

How much will sea level rise in the next few decades?

Projected changes in extremes are larger in frequency and intensity with each additional increment of global warming