30 facts and figures for 30 years of UNFCCC
May 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which established an international treaty to combat human-induced climate change.
In light of its upcoming Conference of the Parties, an annual meeting of agency member states to assess progress and agree new global regulations, which this year is in its 27th edition (COP27), we examine how the planet has changed since the establishment of the UNFCCC. With that, here are 30 facts and figures about climate change over the past 30 years and the next 30 years to give some insight into how things are going and what we can expect in the future – showing the many things that COP27 will try to do help solve.
1. Humans have emitted as much carbon dioxide since 1990 as in all of history before that time.
2. There has been a relative increase of nearly 53% in global greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2019.
3. The global monthly average of carbon dioxide has increased from 355.39 ppm in 1991 to 414.71 ppm in 2021, which represents an increase of almost 17% in 30 years. Parts per million (ppm) is the unit commonly used to measure the concentrations of pollutants in our air and water – so for every million molecules of gas, 414.71 are carbon dioxide.
4. The number of deaths per year with outdoor air pollution as a risk factor nearly doubled between 1990 and 2019.
5. Since 1992, global mean sea level has risen by 10.1 cm.
6. Sea level rise over the past 30 years is about 10 times greater than it would be if only the natural flow of water between land and ocean were measured.
seven. The rate of sea level rise is accelerating, from 2.5 millimeters per year in the early 1990s to 3.9 over the past decade.
8. The global average PH level of the ocean has increased from 8.11 in 1990 to 8.05 in 2020, representing a 12.9% increase in ocean acidity, which may affect the ability calcifying marine organisms to form shells and skeletons, with other ripple effects.
9. Between 1992 and 2020, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost 4,890 gigatonnes of ice, contributing 13.6 millimeters to global sea level rise.
ten. Between 1992 and 2020, the Antarctic ice sheet lost 2,670 gigatonnes of ice, contributing about 7.4 millimeters to global sea level rise.
11. The rate of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has increased by more than 250% in three decades, from 105 gigatonnes per year between 1992 and 1996 to 372 gigatonnes between 2016 and 2020.
12. Over the past 25 years, monitored glaciers in Europe have lost between 9 meters (in Scandinavia) and 30 meters (in the Alps) of ice.
13. The thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has shrunk by more than 30% over the past 30 years.
14. “Once-a-decade” heavy precipitation events – single-day events that occur once every 10 years on average in a climate free of human influence – are projected to be 1.7 times more frequent in 30 years if emissions remain at their current level, that means they will occur on average every 5.8 years.
15. It is predicted that more than 5 billion people will have insufficient water supplies by 2050.
16. “Once-a-decade” drought events – which have occurred once every 10 years on average in dry regions in a climate without human influence – are expected to be 2.4 times more frequent in 30 years if emissions remain at their current high level, meaning drought events that occur every 4.2 years.
17. “Once-a-decade” heat waves – which have occurred once every 10 years on average in a climate without human influence – are expected to be 5.6 times more frequent in 30 years’ time if emissions remain at their current high levels , which means that they would then always arrive approximately 1.8 years.
18. Since 1990, an estimated 420 million hectares of forest have been lost due to conversion to other land uses.
19. The rate of deforestation has decreased over the past 30 years.
20. The area of naturally regenerating forest has decreased by 301 million hectares between 1990 and 2020.
21. Forest area in protected areas increased by 191 million hectares between 1990 and 2020.
22. In 1991, it was estimated that 15 percent of the total land area was either already degraded or in the process of degradation; in 2022, the UN has classified up to 40 percent as degraded.
23. More than 90% of the land surface of the planet could be degraded by 2050.
24. Global land and ocean temperature anomalies have continued to climb over the past 30 years, relative to the 20th century average.
25. Emissions related exclusively to solid waste – mainly waste in open landfills and landfills without gas collection systems – are expected to increase to 2.38 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent per year by 2050 if no improvement is not made.
26. Global waste is expected to reach 3.40 billion tons over the next three decades, compared to 2.01 billion tons of solid waste per year currently.
27. Daily waste generation per capita in high-income countries is expected to increase by 19% by 2030.
28. Daily waste generation per capita in low- and middle-income countries is expected to increase by 40% or more by 2050.
29. The total amount of waste generated in low-income countries is expected to more than triple by 2050.
30. It is estimated that 1.2 billion people could be displaced by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters.
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