Our planet is warming. Here’s what’s at stake if we don’t act now.

Our climate is changing around us faster than predicted. From more frequent and extreme storms to unprecedented heatwaves, we’re feeling the impacts of human-caused global warming.

But we still have time to change course. We can avoid more dire impacts of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5° C (2.7° F) according to a recent report by the United Nations.

The world is already 1.1° C (1.9° F) hotter than it was between 1850 and 1900, the pre-industrial era. And while there’s no question that limiting warming to 1.5° C will be difficult, there’s also no question that we have the technology needed to do it—and that every tenth of a degree matters.

In 2015, 196 countries signed on to a single, sweeping plan that aims to keep global warming to well below 2° C (3.6° F)—or even 1.5° C. The unprecedented Paris Agreement builds on decades of gradual work by the international community to combat climate change and adapt to its impacts. World leaders must work together to eliminate the release of heat-trapping carbon by 2050. To do this, they will need to strengthen their commitments to cut emissions over time.

But climate change is not a problem that governments can solve alone; we need collaboration across regional governments, businesses, and communities as well. We also need to help wildlife and people cope with a rapidly warming planet.

Here’s what’s at stake if we don't limit warming:


Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise by 2100


1.5 feet


1.8 feet

Rising sea levels could impact 1 billion people by the year 2050


Coral Bleaching

Coral reefs at risk of severe degradation by 2100




Virtually all

Changes in water temperature causes algae to leave coral reefs, turning them white and making them vulnerable to disease and death—a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.


Ice-Free Arctic

Ice-free Arctic summers


At least one a century


At least one a decade

Arctic sea ice recedes every summer, but still covers millions of square miles of ocean today. But the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth and ice-free summers could become a reality.


Heat Waves

People exposed to extreme heat waves every 5 years


1 billion


2.7 billion

Heat waves will become more frequent and severe around the world, affecting hundreds of millions—or even billions—of people if we don’t act.



Increase in flood risk





Global warming increases the risk of more frequent—and heavier—rainfall, snowfall, and other precipitation. And as that risk increases, so too does the risk of flooding.


Wildlife Habitat

Plants and animals at risk of losing more than half of their habitats


6% of insects

8% of plants

4% of vertebrates*


18% of insects

16% of plants

8% of vertebrates

As the earth continues to warm, crucial habitats may no longer be hospitable for certain animals or plants. This puts a variety of species at risk, depending on whether they can adapt or move.

*Animals with a backbone

icon of a polar bear from the side

We know the solutions.


The average US citizen emits 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, most of which come from transportation, electricity generation, and the food system. (This is 10 times the emissions from the average person in India, for example.) It’s important for our communities, cities, states, and country to tackle the climate crisis. Here are a few ways they can take action:



It’s critical for our leaders to support a just transition to power new homes and buildings with 100% clean energy. Consider getting solar panels or checking if your utilities offer renewable energy options (most do). In addition, consider shifting your home off of gas, switching to alternatives such as heat pumps for heating and cooling.


By electrifying cars and trucks, expanding public transportation, and building bicycle and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, we can slash greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening public health. You can reduce the fossil fuel impact of your daily commute by riding your bike, taking public transportation, or driving an electric car.


Agriculture is a large driver of greenhouse gas emissions. If possible, buy locally grown food to minimize the impact on the climate while supporting local farmers. And when disposing of food, composting is kindest to the climate.


Animations by Hannah P. Mode.