IMPACT

28 Numbers Explain The State Of Planet Earth In 2019

From new climate science to wildfires, plastic waste and biodiversity, here's a snapshot of our world right now.
NASA satellite photo of weather conditions as bushfires burn in New South Wales, Australia, in November 2019.
NASA satellite photo of weather conditions as bushfires burn in New South Wales, Australia, in November 2019.

This past year has been overwhelming, to say the least, as we’ve endured an endless stream of rapid-fire information about the state of our planet. From climate accountability lawsuits to microplastics pollution, it can be easy to forget what happened yesterday, let alone six months ago. 

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time to take stock of where we are. A slew of reports on everything from biodiversity loss to plastic waste has emphasized what’s at stake. Meanwhile, ever-intensifying impacts of flooding and wildfires around the world continue to show us what a warming world will look like.

The destruction is staring us straight in the eyes and it’s impossible to look away; 2019 has made us acutely aware of the scale of the challenge ahead if society is going to seriously tackle everything from rising temperatures to species decline.

This doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any progress though. Renewables are making up greater shares of our energy production as coal continues to decline. Meanwhile, jobs continue to grow in low-carbon sectors like electric vehicles and energy efficiency.

We have collected some of the significant stats of the past year, those which present a snapshot about the state of our planet right now. Here’s a look back at 2019 by the numbers.

Impacts

Smoke billows from the burning trunk of a tree in the Amazon on Aug. 24, 2019. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have
Smoke billows from the burning trunk of a tree in the Amazon on Aug. 24, 2019. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013.

99%: The chance that 2019 winds up in the top five hottest years ever recorded. According to NOAA data, this year will be either the third or second hottest year in human history.

1.71 degrees Fahrenheit: How much warmer July was compared to the 20th-century average temperature for that month, making it the hottest July ever recorded in human history.

12.5 billion tons: Amount of ice that melted off Greenland’s ice sheet in one single day in August. That’s enough to cover all of Florida in nearly five inches of water. 

5: Number of new islands discovered in the Russian Arctic due to melting glaciers.

259,816 acres: Amount of land burned so far due to wildfires in California this year. 

10,000 square kilometers: Amount of land in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest cleared due to deforestation between January and August of this year. 

1,000: Number of people who died, at the most conservative estimate, due to devastating flooding in April in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai, the worst disaster to hit the region in 20 years. 

1 million: Number of land and marine species that could go extinct due to human actions, unless “transformative change” is made across local, national, and global levels, according to a report released by the U.N. in May. 

99.8: Percentage of endangered species in the United States that will find it difficult to adapt to a warming world.

Economy

The contents of grain silos that burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County, Iowa, March 29, 2019. The damage from f
The contents of grain silos that burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County, Iowa, March 29, 2019. The damage from flooding in the state is predicted to cost more than $2 billion.

10: Number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters the U.S. experienced from January to September. 

$1.3 trillion: Value of the United States’ green economy. According to an analysis released in October by University College London, about 4% of the workforce in the United States (9.5 million people) work in low-carbon sectors such as electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and green finance. 

3%: Share of the global economy that could take a hit due to climate change per new analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Consumption

A plastic recycling company worker sorts out plastic bottles in Tokyo. 
A plastic recycling company worker sorts out plastic bottles in Tokyo. 

3.1 million: Drop in the number of cars sold globally this year, the steepest decline since the 2008 recession. In the U.S., 2019 saw an estimated a 2% drop in sales.

42%: Portion of all passenger vehicles sold around the world this year that were gas-guzzling, emissions-heavy SUVs.

7%: Amount that business jet sales are expected to increase over the next year.

143 million pounds: Weight of all the plastic waste sent by the United States as of May this year (the most recent data available) to 58 different countries.

11.6 billion: Number of microplastics released by one plastic tea bag when steeping in water brewed at near boiling temperature.

7 months: Time it took for the world to reach “Earth Overshoot Day” representing the moment each year at which humanity starts to consume natural resources faster than the earth can replenish them. This was the earliest that we’ve ever reached this threshold.

Energy

Workers install a wind turbine in Leury, northern France.
Workers install a wind turbine in Leury, northern France.

11 million: Number of people employed around the world by the renewables sector ― from manufacturing and trading to installation ― in 2018, according to the latest figures released this summer. 

50%: Amount by which renewable energy is expected to increase over the next five years.

23%: Share of power provided by renewables in the United States in April, surpassing the amount provided by coal (20%) for the first time ever. 

3%: Expected drop in coal usage around the world in 2019 according to analysis by Carbon Brief ― a record low use of the dirty fossil fuel.

2021: Date by which the European Investment Bank will no longer fund fossil fuel projects according to a November announcement.

Action

Young climate activists rally the crowd at the end of the Climate Strike protest on Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington D.C. 
Young climate activists rally the crowd at the end of the Climate Strike protest on Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington D.C. 

6 million: Number of people across 4,500 locations in 150 countries that went on strike for the climate in September. 

164: Number of environmentalists killed for their work in 2018 according to a report released in July 2019.

11,000: Number of scientists from 153 countries who declared a climate emergency in November warning that “untold human suffering” is “unavoidable” without drastic action.

28: Number of countries where there are ongoing climate action lawsuits against governments and companies. The United States has the most with 1,023 cases. 

50%: Amount by which global emissions must drop in the next decade in order to preserve a stable climate. As the executive director of the UN Environment Program, Inger Andersen, said, more action is needed: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions— over 7% each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.” 

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