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Google Earth Day Slideshow Highlights Climate Change's Impact on Planet

Time-lapse imagery shows the damage climate change has already done to our planet.

Time-lapse imagery shows the effects of climate change on four regions around the world.
Google

In recent years, we've seen the increasing havoc human-caused climate change has wreaked on every region of the Earth. Rising average temperatures have fueled extreme weather events such as devastating wildfires, hurricanes and floods.

Leading naturalist David Attenborough last year called climate change "the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced."

As we observe this year's Earth Day, on Friday, Google will launch time-lapse imagery that shows the very real threat climate change poses to our planet and our lives. The animated GIFs will focus on four different locales around the world, with the separate time-lapse sequences remaining on the Google home page for a few hours each.

The four GIFs, featuring a calendar timestamp in the lower right corner that indicates when each image was captured, spotlight glacier retreats on Mount Kilimanjaro and in Greenland, coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, and destruction of Harz Forests in Germany.

One of the leading causes of climate change is an abundance of carbon dioxide that comes from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, with the top three emitters being China, the US and the EU. Excess carbon dioxide emissions have resulted in a 1.1 degree Celsius increase in temperatures since preindustrial times. Scientists say temperatures will continue to rise as carbon dioxide levels increase, resulting in more extreme weather events, more heat, more drought and a catastrophic decline in biodiversity.

But it's not all bad news. Apart from voting for lawmakers, at all levels, who will pass laws that address the climate crisis, there are some things each of us can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help make the world a greener, healthier place:

Drive less. Cars are a major emitter of carbon dioxide. In the US, cars and trucks account for almost one-fifth of emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Eat less beef. Farmers need around 28 times the land to produce beef over pork or chicken and 11 times the water, according to a 2014 study. As a result, beef is five times more damaging to the climate than white meat and 11 times more than wheat, rice and potatoes. 

Plant a tree. A tree can be expected to absorb around 28 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and around a metric ton during a 40-year lifespan.

Buy local, seasonal food. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables can also be bad for the environment because they either have to be imported from overseas or local farmers have to use huge amounts of water and electricity to grow them out of season.

Fly less. Airplanes eat up huge amounts of gasoline, with international flights often easily burning well over 10,000 gallons of fuel and being responsible for around 5% of climate change, according to a 2019 report from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics.