No need for horror movies or scary stories; the most haunting thing this Halloween is climate change.

It’s Halloween, which means costumes, candy, and scary movies. Fear turns to fun on October 31 because Halloween lets us seek scary thrills that can’t hurt us. When we feel like threats are closing in on us and things are getting truly scary, we just turn off the TV and turn on the lights. But there is one terror that we can’t escape, no matter the time of year.

We’re talking about climate change! Here are five of the scariest, most bone-chilling facts about climate change to get you in the mood for terror this season (and hopefully also scare you and your fellow trick-or-treaters into action to address it).

1. Within the next 2 decades, global temperatures are likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

In its highly-anticipated Sixth Report in 2021, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that a certain amount of global warming is locked in and is irreversible. They reported that from 2011–2020, the global temperature had already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius above 1850-1900 levels.

It is also predicted that within the decade, global temperatures are over 50% likely to rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels, the so-called “tipping point” of climate change. This degree of warming is predicted to increase the frequency of wildfires by a magnitude of 8.6, kill 70-90% of coral reefs, and raise our sea levels globally by .3 meters.

In its 2018 special report, the IPCC warned that we only have until 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Yet, little has changed since then to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s like the movie Don’t Look Up; we know what’s happening but we aren’t doing enough to change the outcome.

In 2019, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry reached a high of 36.44 billion metric tons. In 2020, emissions fell by 5.8 percent due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis. Despite that year’s reverse trend, however, 2022 emissions were back up to 36.8 billion metric tons and 2023 emissions are actually expected to increase by 3%.

“We need to change policy and approaches in light of the latest evidence about the state of the climate system. Time is no longer on our side,” said Professor Piers Forster, the director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures at the University of Leeds.

2. The last 7 years have been the warmest on record

NASA recently announced that the summer of 2023 was the hottest summer on record globally, surpassing the intense heat experienced in 2016.

“The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General about the record-breaking heat of 2023. “Climate breakdown has begun.”

And not only are our food systems breaking down, so are our bodies. With the rising heat comes rising humidity to levels that are dangerous to human survival.

Summer 2024 is already forecasted to be another record-breaking summer, one that would rival the disastrous 2023 summer in terms of heat, humidity, and hazardous weather events. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends,” said Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Director Gavin Schmidt. The current long-term trend is that each summer is getting hotter and hotter.

Are you scared for our future, yet? Well get ready, because it’s going to get even scarier.

3. Our extinction rate is currently 1,000 times the natural rate.

Imagine dressing up as a frog for Halloween and having to explain to younger generations what a frog was and why it’s gone. Almost half of all amphibians are at risk of extinction due to climate change – so this could be a reality if we don’t act soon.

Extinction is a natural phenomenon, claiming about five species per year. But some experts suggest we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction – one that is caused mostly by human activity.

According to a 2023 report, 48% of species are declining and on their way to extinction. It also revealed that 33% of species listed as non-threatened by the IUCN Red-List are actually decreasing. By mid-century, as many as 30 to 50 percent of the total species found on Earth will have disappeared because our extinction rate is currently 1,000 times the natural rate. In 2021, 23 species were declared extinct by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which tragically included the beloved Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

Allowing this to continue is “a crime equivalent to tossing books from the Library of Alexandria thoughtlessly into a fire, erasing the shared inheritance of all mankind,” according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science in a review from 2009.

Species diversity is crucial for ecosystem resilience, and without it, ecological communities will not have the strength to withstand change – especially not the change we’re throwing at them.

4. Climate change is already happening, and it’s detrimental to human life, too

The impacts to human health are much scarier than any child-eating clown movie.

Rising temperatures – coupled with a growing number of people in cities and the increasing population of elderly – have increased heat-related deaths, according to a 2023 study in Nature Communications.

A 2018 report concluded that the lack of adaptive capacities and effort toward reducing emissions threatens human lives and the national health systems people rely on, by pushing services to their limit and disrupting core infrastructure. Vulnerable communities are already being hit first and worst.

But hyperthermia is not the only risk climate change brings to human life. Higher temperatures worsen air quality, negatively affect crop production, increase the spread of infectious diseases, and threaten freshwater deposits.

A warming world also increases the intensity of natural disasters.

Instances of wildfires have increased over the years, according to the EPA, and the burn area and intensity of fires have increased.  In 2023, there were two major fire events in North America. In August, an intense wildfire destroyed Maui, Hawaii and claimed more than 100 lives. In Canada, from May continuing all the way into fall, forest fires have been raging. 44 million acres have been burned, affecting not just wildlife but also humans as the smoke chokes out cities in Canada and the northeast United States.

Hurricanes are reaching new extremes, too. The frequency of high intensity hurricanes – ranked as categories 4 and 5 – has increased over the last 30 years. It has become immensely more difficult to escape these storms unscathed, and it will only get harder in the future.

Have you noticed that the Halloween season doesn’t feel the same either? If we can’t wear a full costume without sweating then something is wrong, right?

That’s because climate change is shifting the seasons. Falls, winters, and springs are growing shorter, while summer extends into the supposedly cooler months. North American winters are losing snow and ice as a result – making prime ski destinations, well, not prime.

This not only makes dressing up in a full-body werewolf costume uncomfortable but also disrupts the natural interactions between species, their habitats, and their migration patterns.


5. Many leaders still aren’t taking it seriously

The world has been aware of climate change at least since the IPCC formed in 1988. Scientists and the public rallied around environmental policy, but many global governments had a different idea. They were going to ignore it.

Countries contributing the most to global emissions have the best chance of curbing climate change, but leaders are doing little to address it.

Although it has been seven years since the Paris Agreement entered into force, none of the world’s major economies are on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

To outline steps to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change, parties submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years. While July 31 was the deadline to submit updated NDCs, many countries didn’t actually increase their climate pledges, and others missed the deadline entirely.

Climate literacy is among the climate goals that have missed the mark. Climate literacy (as supported by an integrated K-12 curricula) is needed to prepare youth with an understanding of the climate crisis and skills to create solutions, yet not one country has thoroughly addressed it within its NDC.

Everyone may die at the end of horror movies, but we don’t have to

We’re not in a Hollywood studio, helplessly in the hands of sadistic screenwriters. We can actively choose to change the ending of our story – and for that we should feel hopeful.

Younger generations are taking matters into their own hands and striking for the climate. They’re skipping school completely to plead for an end to inaction toward climate change and demanding world leaders to undertake environmental reforms. A 2021 study revealed that 83% of people aged 16-25 feel that we have failed to take care of our planet and concluded that it is vital for governments to take “urgent” action against climate change.

The next UN Conference of Parties (COP28) will be held this November. In this international meeting of heads of state and governments and stakeholders, countries will have an opportunity to heighten their ambition on climate change.

“This is the critical decade for climate change. Decisions made now will have an impact on how much temperatures will rise and the degree and severity of impacts we will see as a result,”  said Professor Piers Forster.

After decades of inaction on climate change, we don’t have any more time to spare before it’s too late. Join the movement and add your voice to this urgent call for change. You can become a Social Squad activist, sign the Global Plastics Treaty petition, and spread the word to your friends! Or, you can donate to our Canopy Project, which organizes tree plantings all over the world, and take the effort not to buy clothes that promote Fast Fashion.

This Halloween we must face our fears. The human-made monster that is climate change won’t go anywhere if you just close your eyes or turn off the TV. Action and advocacy are the only way to flip the script — and not wind up like your favorite victim at the end of the horror film.

Original source: https://www.earthday.org

Climate change impacts that will affect everybody