Climate change represents one of the biggest threats to our planet and humanity. Here are a few facts:
○ 2017 Total annual CO2 emissions: 35 billion tonnes
○ 1750 -2011: Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) +40%
○ 1750 -2011: Atmospheric nitrous oxide (N20): +20%
○ 1750 -2011: Atmospheric methane (CH₄): +150%
○ High global warming potential gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6 )
○ 1880 – 2012 Average temperature increase: 0.85°C ↑
○ 1901 – 2010 Average sea level rise: 19 cm ↑
○ Since 1979 Arctic’s sea ice retreat: 1.07 million km²/decade
Here we already see some of the problems when talking about climate change. For example, what does the monumental amount of 35 billion tons CO2 actually mean? How can it be broken down to an individual carbon footprint? How could it be visualized? What does it mean for us here and now? Who is responsible? Why do we hear so much about CO2, but less about SF6 or HFCs? In short: it is an abstract topic, complex, and it might feel temporally and spatially distant.
Therefore, the way humanity interacts with its natural environment is not only an issue of CO2 emissions; it is also a problem of imagination, i.e. of how it is envisioned, dreamed, thought and felt about. And this is where the arts, particularly the visual arts, offer promising solutions.
Sources: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC); Global Carbon Project (GCP); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); United Nations (UN); World Resources Institute (WRI))