Our Impact on Climate Change and Land Use in 5 Charts
As the world population approaches the eight billion mark, it’s becoming clear that we’re impacting the planet in unprecedented ways.
Humans have made such dramatic changes to Earth’s systems, from climate to geology, that many are suggesting we’ve entered into a new epoch – the Anthropocene.
To better understand the challenges of this era of wide-sweeping human impact on the planet, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a massive report covering land use and climate change.
According to the IPCC, the situation is looking more dire by the year. Below are a few of the key insights buried within the 1,400+ pages of the massive report.
Shifting Global Land Use
The scale of land use and loss of biodiversity are unprecedented in human history.
According to the report, roughly two-thirds of the world’s ice-free land is now devoted to human uses. Ecosystems, both forested and unforested, only account for about 16% of land today. Part of the reason for this dwindling supply of natural habitat is the rapid increase of agricultural activity around the world.
Since the dawn of the 20th century, global land use has shifted dramatically:
Not only has land use changed, but so has farming itself. In many parts of the world, increased yields will primarily come from existing agricultural land. For example, wheat yields are projected to increase 11% by the year 2026, despite the growing area only increasing by 1.8%. Rice production exhibits a similar trend, with 93% of the projected increase expected to come from increased yields rather than from area expansion. In some cases, intensive farming practices can degrade soil more than 100x faster than the time it takes for new soil to form, leaving fertilizers to pick up the slack.
One of the most dramatic changes highlighted in the report is the nearly eight-fold increase in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers since the early 1960s. These types of fertilizers are having serious downstream effects on aquatic ecosystems, in some cases creating “dead zones” such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to the negative impacts outlined above, the simple act of feeding ourselves also accounts for one-third of our global greenhouse gas footprint.
Things are Heating Up
The past half-decade is likely to become the warmest five-year stretch in recorded history, underscoring the rapid pace of climate change. On a global scale, even a small increase in temperature can have a big impact on climate and our ecosystems.
For example, air can hold approximately 7% more moisture for every 1ºC increase, leading to an uptick in extreme rainfall events. These events can trigger landslides, increase the rate of soil erosion, and damage crops – just one example of how climate change can cause a chain reaction.
For the billions of people who live in “drylands”, climate change is serving up a completely different scenario:
“Heatwaves are projected to increase in frequency, intensity and duration in most parts of the world and drought frequency and intensity is projected to increase in some regions that are already drought prone.”
— IPCC report on Climate Change and Land, 2019
This is particularly worrisome as 90% of people in these arid or semiarid regions live in developing economies that are still very reliant on agriculture.
In addition to water scarcity, the IPCC has identified a number of other categories, including soil erosion and permafrost degradation. In all seven categories, our current global temperature puts us firmly in the moderate to high risk zone. These risks predict events with widespread societal impact, such as regional “food shocks” and millions of additional people exposed to wildfires.
This IPCC report makes one thing clear. In addition to tackling emissions in our cities and transportation networks, we’ll need to substantially change the way we use our land and rethink our entire agricultural system if we’re serious about mitigating the impact of climate change.
Visualizing the Global Coffee Trade by Country
Which countries export, and import, the most coffee? This visual highlights the global coffee trade by export flows in 2019.
Visualizing the Global Coffee Trade by Country
From drip coffees to decadent lattes, every cup of coffee begins its journey from the humble coffee bean. A massive global coffee trade moves these beans from farms in one country to cafes in another.
In this piece, Airi Ryu uses data from Chatham House’s resourcetrade.earth to track the global trade of unroasted and non-decaffeinated coffee beans in 2019, highlighting the world’s top coffee exporters and importers.
The Biggest Exporters in the Global Coffee Trade
Close to 84% of the world’s coffee bean exports come from just 10 countries.
All these countries are found in the “Bean Belt” between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn where coffee grows best. These top coffee-producing nations include Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia.
Here are the top coffee exporting nations in 2019:
|Rank||Country||Coffee Exports (Tonnes)||Share of Total|
|n/a||🌍 Others (re-export)||0.40M||5.2%|
The South American nations of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru export nearly 42% of the global coffee beans. Brazil exported over 2.2 million tonnes in 2019 alone, more than a quarter of the global coffee trade.
Across the Pacific, Vietnam and Indonesia together exported 23.4% of the world’s coffee beans in 2019. Other major exporters include the Central American nations of Honduras and Guatemala, which combined for 8.7% of global coffee bean exports, and the African nations Uganda and Ethiopia with 6.7% combined.
Biggest Coffee Bean Importers, By Country
On the other side of the global coffee trade are nations with high demand for coffee dominating import shares. Many of these importing nations also re-export coffee beans to other parts of the world under their own local brands.
Here are the top coffee importing nations in 2019:
|Rank||Country||Coffee Imports (Tonnes)||Share of Total|
|9||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||0.18M||2.4%|
|10||🇷🇺 Russian Federation||0.18M||2.4%|
The U.S. is the largest importer of coffee beans in the world, bringing in 1.5 million tonnes of unroasted coffee beans in 2019, equivalent to 19.3% of all exports that year. While Brazil and Colombia are its biggest sources of coffee, beans imported from Asia and Central America also thrive thanks to a strong specialty coffee culture.
Europe is also a massive destination for coffee bean exports. Germany led the way with 14.2% of global coffee imports, while Italy accounted for 8.3%.
A brewing coffee culture in Japan has made the country a major player in the global coffee trade. In 2019, Japan was the fourth-largest coffee bean importer in the world and far and away the leading importer in Asia.
As the desire for coffee continues to permeate throughout the world, and as climate change puts a strain on coffee production (and vice versa), the flows of coffee beans are sure to change in the coming decades.
Markets6 days ago
Charted: The Industries Where Asian Companies are the Strongest
Retail2 weeks ago
Ranked: Average Black Friday Discounts for Major Retailers
Brands1 week ago
Ranked: Fast Food Brands with the Most U.S. Locations
Markets1 week ago
Visualizing 30 Years of Imports from U.S. Trading Partners
Markets1 week ago
Ranked: The Biggest Retailers in the U.S. by Revenue
Globalization1 week ago
The Top 50 Largest Importers in the World
Maps1 week ago
Mapped: Which Countries Recognize Israel or Palestine, or Both?
Misc1 week ago
Ranked: America’s Best Universities