This Interactive Map Shows How Global Warming Is Changing Our World

With world leaders gathered for climate talks in Paris, this tool is helping users understand how the negotiations could impact our planet.
Smoke billows from smokestacks and a coal-fired generator at a steel factory in the industrial province of Hebei, China, on Nov. 19. (Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Dec 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

With just seven days until the close of the Paris climate talks, the clock is ticking on negotiators tasked with drafting a plan to slow global warming. Scientists warn that if something drastic isn’t done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Earth could see a devastating transformation as a result, with water from melting ice caps flooding major cities around the world, for instance, or devastating crop losses.

But understanding climate change in all its complexities isn’t an easy task. So for those of us who aren’t familiar with biomass and ocean acidification, a newly released series of interactive maps is making it simple to learn more about the effects of global warming on our planet.

Created by Esri, a Redlands, California, company that develops geographic information technology systems, the “Atlas for a Changing Planet” allows users to visualize how weather and ecosystems function, the effect that human activity has on them, and which countries are doing the best and worst jobs at curbing climate change.

“Understanding how the earth’s systems interact and transform is an essential first step in measuring the threat of climate change and making informed decisions to reduce it,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri’s president, in a press release.

As climate negotiators debate how to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius and track greenhouse gas emission cuts as they try to hammer out a deal that could change the way we go about our everyday lives, this is a good time to familiarize yourself with the lesser-known issues related to climate change. The clickable, zoomable tool breaks down some of the more complex climate-related issues by illustrating and explaining in plain terms their cause and effect on our planet. From the density of carbon stored in living plants to sea level rise to population growth, the series has a map for each individual factor correlated to climate change in order to help users better understand how our climate is shaped and the measures we can use to prevent further harm from coming to it.

According to NASA scientists, the current warming trend is progressing at a rate that’s “unprecedented” in more than 1,000 years, with sea levels rising by almost seven inches in the past century and record high temperatures increasing by the day. The vast majority of scientists say the trend is caused by human activity, and that increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions caused from burning gasoline and using unsustainable electricity sources are causing Earth to continue to warm as a result. If we fail to implement alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, Earth as we know it could be facing an unmanageable global warming crisis in the next century.

By offering users a present and future look at what increasing greenhouse gas emissions could mean for our planet, the maps are challenging viewers to think critically about their role in climate change, as it could have detrimental impacts on younger generations in the years to come.