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Visualized: Historical Trends in Global Monthly Surface Temperatures (1851-2020)

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Global Temperature Graph (1851-2020)

Global Temperature Graph (1851-2020)

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

Since 1880, the Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.07°C (0.13°F) every decade. That number alone may seem negligible, but over time, it adds up.

In addition, the rate of temperature change has grown significantly more dramatic over time—more than doubling to 0.18°C (0.32°F) since 1981. As a result of this global warming process, environmental crises have become the most prominent risks of our time.

In this global temperature graph, climate data scientist Neil R. Kaye breaks down how monthly average temperatures have changed over nearly 170 years. Temperature values have been benchmarked against pre-industrial averages (1850–1900).

What is Causing Global Warming?

The data visualization can be thought of in two halves, each reflecting significant trigger points in global warming trends:

  • 1851-1935
    Overlaps with the Second Industrial Revolution
    Low-High range in global temperature increase: -0.4°C to +0.6°C
  • 1936-2020
    Overlaps with the Third Industrial Revolution
    Low-High range in global temperature increase: +0.6°C to +1.5°C and up

The global temperature graph makes it clear that for several years now, average surface temperatures have consistently surpassed 1.5°C above their pre-industrial values. Let’s dig into these time periods a bit more closely to uncover more context around this phenomenon.

Industrial Revolutions and Advances, 1851–1935

An obvious, early anomaly on the visual worth exploring occurs between 1877–1878. During this time, the world experienced numerous unprecedented climate events, from a strong El Niño to widespread droughts. The resulting Great Famine caused the deaths of between 19–50 million people, even surpassing some of the deadliest pandemics in history.

In the first five rows of the global temperature graph, several economies progressed into the Second Industrial Revolution (~1870–1914), followed by World War I (1914-1918). Overall, there was a focus on steel production and mass-produced consumer goods over these 80+ years.

Although these technological advances brought immense improvements, they came at the cost of burning fossil fuels—releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It would take several more decades before scientists realized the full extent of their accumulation in the atmosphere, and their resulting relation to global warming.

The Modern World In the Red Zone, 1936–2020

The second half of the global temperature graph is marked by World War II (1939-1945) and its aftermath. As the dust settled, nations began to build themselves back up, and things really kicked into hyperdrive with the Third Industrial Revolution.

As globalization and trade progressed following the 1950s, people and goods began moving around more than ever before. In addition, population growth peaked at 2.1% per year between 1965 and 1970. Industrialization patterns began to intensify further to meet the demands of a rising global population and our modern world.

The Importance of Historical Temperature Trends

The history of human development is intricately linked with global warming. While part of the rise in Earth’s surface temperature can be attributed to natural patterns of climate change, these historical trends shed some light on how much human activities are behind the rapid increase in global average temperatures in the last 85 years.

The following video from Reddit user bgregory98, which leverages an extensive data set published in Nature Geoscience provides a more dramatic demonstration. It looks at the escalation of global temperatures over two thousand years. In this expansive time frame, eight of the top ten hottest years on record have occurred in the last decade alone.

Global warming and climate change are some of the most pressing megatrends shaping our future. However, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and the reduction of global carbon emissions highlighted as a key item at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Summit 2021, promising steps are being taken.

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Visualizing The World’s Failure to Halt Deforestation

Global deforestation in 2022 rose by 4%, reaching 6.6 million hectares.

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Map Showing How the World Failed to Reduce Deforestation in Certain Regions Around the Globe, Primarily in Tropical Regions.

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The following content is sponsored by Carbon Streaming

Visualizing The World’s Failure to Halt Deforestation

Global deforestation in 2022 rose by 4%, reaching 6.6 million hectares. This number is 21% higher than the 2022 target needed to end deforestation by 2030.

In this map, our sponsor Carbon Streaming examines the failure to reduce deforestation in certain regions around the globe, based on data from the Forest Declaration Assessment.  

Most Deforestation Occurs in Tropical Regions

In 2022, deforestation alone accounted for around 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  

Nearly 96% of global deforestation took place in tropical regions in 2022. The loss of tropical primary forests reached 4.1 million hectares, 33% higher than the needed trajectory to halt primary forest loss by the end of the decade:

RegionDeforestation 2022, in thousand hectares (kha)Target for 2022* (kha)Deviation from target
Tropical Africa820.0650.0+26%
Tropical Asia1,930.01,900.0 +1%
Tropical Latin America and the Caribbean3,530.02,620.0+35%
Europe1.31.0+26%
Non-tropical Africa0.9 1.2 -22%
Non-tropical Asia18.320.9 -13%
Non-tropical Latin America and the Caribbean118.972.3 +64%
North America126.8 134.6-6%
Global6,560.0 5,510.0 +21%

Note: Based on original analysis for the Forest Declaration Assessment report using data from Hansen et al. 2013, updated through 2022. Only tree cover loss that is deemed permanent (Curtis et al., 2018) or that occurs within humid tropical primary forests is considered here. * Annual targets based on linear trajectory from a 2018-20 average baseline to 2030 target of zero deforestation.

Non-tropical forests in Africa and Asia, as well as forests in North America, suffered deforestation below the target for 2022.

Meanwhile, public and private finance for forests remains far below estimated needs for meeting global goals to halt and reverse deforestation.

More Funding for Forest   

Funding for forests averages $2.2 billion annually, representing less than 1% of the estimated requirements for achieving global forest goals by 2050.

Carbon credits can help mobilize the private sector capital needed to protect and restore forests by providing funds where it is urgently needed. Companies can purchase carbon credits to support critical mitigation efforts outside of their value chains, including nature-based solutions that may not receive funding otherwise.

Carbon Streaming has a portfolio of high-integrity carbon credit projects spanning 12 countries, including projects protecting forests such as the Cerrado Biome project and Rimba Raya project.

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You can make an impact by purchasing carbon credits from Carbon Streaming.

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