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This Stunning Graphic Shows Earth’s Temperature Over 22,000 Years

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Climate change is a touchy subject, and it’s something that we only approach with the utmost deliberation and care.

However, as simple or as light-hearted as it appears at first glance, today’s infographic actually provides an invaluable amount of context on a subject that is often mired in the ugly details of mathematical models, multipliers, and policy implications.

Earth’s Temperature Over 22,000 Years

Today’s infographic from XKCD shows the Earth’s temperature since the last ice age glaciation, which was 22,000 years ago. It was around this time that there were vast ice sheets covering North America, northern Europe, and Asia.

Earth's Temperature Over 22,000 Years

This infographic does two things very well.

First, it gives us an idea of temperature changes over time in a relatable fashion, but it also gives us a sense of time scale.

Temperature Changes in Context

Temperatures were cold at the end of the last glaciation, which was around 20,000 BCE – about 4°C cooler than they were during the modern era. Boston and New York would have been covered in thick ice at that time.

Fast-forward half of the span of the infographic, and temperatures have increased to near modern levels (the average between 1961-1990) in about 11,000 years. This would have been around 9,000 BCE, which is around the time the very first humans started farming way back in today’s Middle East region.

From there, temperatures continue to increase for another 4,000 years, peaking around the time that the wheel was invented. This was around 5,000 BCE, which is still considered to be the end of the Stone Age. This is an era still well before the Ancient Egyptians rose to prominence.

The Earth cools again. By the time of the birth of Jesus, temperatures are close again to to those in the modern era. It continues to cool until Shakespearian times, which were in the middle of what is called the “Little Ice Age”.

Finally, after the Industrial Revolution, temperatures spike at a rate not seen before. In the short span of just a century or so, temperatures are back at their previous peak that occurred when the wheel was invented – roughly 7,000 years ago.

Sources used: Shakun et al (2012), Marcott et al (2013), Annan and Hargreaves (2013), HadCRUT4, IPCC,

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Environment

Visualizing the Scale of Plastic Bottle Waste Against Major Landmarks

Today’s stunning visualization depicts the incredible scale of plastic bottle waste accumulated globally in each hour, day, month, year, and decade.

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One Decade of Plastic Waste

Visualizing the Scale of Plastic Bottle Waste

By the time you’re finished reading this sentence, tens of thousands of plastic bottles will have been sold around the world.

The ubiquitous plastic bottle has proven to be a versatile and cost-effective vessel for everything from water to household cleaning products. Despite this undeniable utility, it’s becoming harder to ignore the sheer volume of waste created by the world’s 7.5 billion people.

Today’s data visualization from Simon Scarr and Marco Hernandez at Reuters Graphics puts into perspective the immense scale of plastic bottle waste by comparing it to recognizable global landmarks, and even the entirety of Manhattan.

Plastic Wasted in One Hour

One Hour of Plastic Bottles

Original image from REUTERS/Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez.

Every hour, close to 55 million bottles are discarded worldwide. When accumulated, the pile would be higher than the Brazilian Art Deco statue, Christ the Redeemer.

Towering over Rio de Janeiro at 125 feet (38 meters) and with arms outstretched to 98ft (30m), the statue still pales in comparison next to the combined plastic bottle waste over this time period.

Plastic Bottle Waste: Daily and Monthly

One Day of Plastic Bottles

Original image from REUTERS/Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez.

In the span of a day, over 1.3 billion bottles are discarded. If you were to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower (which has a total height of 1,063ft or 324m), you’d reach the tip of this pile about halfway up.

Fast forward this by a month, however, and it’s a different story. The Eiffel Tower seems like a figurine next to a heap of approximately 40 billion tossed plastic bottles.

plastic bottle waste one month

Original image from REUTERS/Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez.

Scaling this up, data from Euromonitor International reveals that over 481 billion plastic bottles are now wasted annually.

Accumulated, this would dwarf even Dubai’s famous Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure at an impressive 2,722ft (830m).

A Decade of Plastic

According to Reuters, nearly 4 trillion bottles were sold in the past ten years, each contributing to a 7,874ft high pile of plastic (2.4km).

plastic bottles decade

Original image from REUTERS/Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez.

If all plastic bottle waste were piled up in this manner, New Yorkers would see a translucent mountain every time they looked out their window rising to over half the elevation of the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains, which is 14,440ft (4.4km) high.

The Global Flow of Plastic Waste Since 1950

Plastic bottles are just the tip of the iceberg for single-use plastics. Other examples include plastic bags, food packaging, coffee cup lids, and straws. As plastic use continues to flourish, even our best attempts at managing waste are falling short.

In fact, only an abysmal 6% of all plastic produced since 1950 has been recycled, with the majority ending up in landfills as litter, or getting incinerated.

Global Plastic Consumption Flow

Original image from REUTERS/Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez.

Our plastic use is on an unsustainable trajectory, but countries are taking specific actions to curb use. Canada and the European Union (EU) will ban certain single-use plastics by 2021—and they are among 60 other nations enacting similar policies.

Corporations are also taking steps to reduce impact. A good example of this is Unilever, which made a commitment to make all its packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

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Automotive

Palladium: The Secret Weapon in Fighting Pollution

The world is in critical need of palladium. It’s a crucial metal in reducing emissions from gas-powered vehicles, and our secret weapon for cleaner air.

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Despite the growing hype around electric vehicles, conventional gas-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road well into the future.

As a result, exhaust systems will continue to be a critical tool in reducing harmful air pollution.

The Power of Palladium

Today’s infographic comes to us from North American Palladium, and it demonstrates the unique properties of the precious metal, and how it’s used in catalytic converters around the world.

In fact, palladium enables car manufacturers to meet stricter emission standards, making it a secret weapon for fighting pollution going forward.

Palladium: The Secret Weapon in Fighting Pollution

The world is in critical need of palladium today.

It’s the crucial metal in reducing harmful emissions from gas powered vehicles—as environmental standards tighten, cars are using more and more palladium, straining global supplies.

What is Palladium?

Palladium is one of six platinum group metals which share similar chemical, physical, and structural features. Palladium has many uses, but the majority of global consumption comes from the autocatalyst industry.

In 2018, total gross demand for the metal was 10,121 million ounces (Moz), of which 8,655 Moz went to autocatalysts. These were the leading regions by demand:

  • North America: 2,041 Moz
  • Europe: 1,883 Moz
  • China: 2,117 Moz
  • Japan: 859 Moz
  • Rest of the World: 1,755 Moz

Catalytic Converters: Palladium vs. Platinum

The combustion of gasoline creates three primary pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Catalytic converters work to alter these poisonous and often dangerous chemicals into safer compounds.

In order to control emissions, countries around the world have come up with strict emissions standards that auto manufacturers must meet, but these are far from the reality of how much pollutants are emitted by drivers every day.

Since no one drives in a straight line or in perfect conditions, stricter emissions testing is coming into effect. Known as Real Driving Emissions (RDE), these tests reveal that palladium performs much better than platinum in a typical driving situation.

In addition, the revelation of the Volkswagen emission scandal (known as Dieselgate) further undermines platinum use in vehicles. As a result, diesel engines are being phased out in favor of gas-powered vehicles that use palladium.

Where does Palladium Come From?

If the world is using all this palladium, where is it coming from?

Approximately, 90% of the world’s palladium production comes as a byproduct of mining other metals, with the remaining 10% coming from primary production.

In 2018, there was a total of 6.88 million ounces of mine supply primarily coming from Russia and South Africa. Conflicts in these jurisdictions present significant risks to the global supply chain. There are few North American jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Montana, which present an opportunity for more stable primary production of palladium.

Long Road to Extinction

The current price of palladium is driven by fundamental supply and demand issues, not investor speculation. Between 2012 and 2018, an accumulated deficit of five million ounces has placed pressures on readily available supplies of above-ground palladium.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to dominate the roads well into the future. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it will not be until 2040 that ICE vehicles will dip below 50% of new car sales market, in favor of plug-in and hybrid vehicles. Stricter emissions standards will further bolster palladium demand.

The world needs stable and steady supplies of palladium today, and well into the future.

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