Climate change is terrifying. Yet sometimes, the enormity of the atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon can make it feel more like an abstract concept than a shift that has likely already impacted your corner of the world and will – according to every recent scientific model – have much more profound effects in the future.
To help you put it all into perspective, The New York Times teamed up with a group of climate scientists, economists and data analysts from the Rhodium Group, the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley to create an online tool that shows how much hotter your hometown has gotten since the year you were born – assuming it was sometime between 1920 and 2010.
It is widely agreed that climate change will continue to manifest in a general pattern (yes, there will be exceptions; no, they don’t disprove anything) of wet areas getting wetter and dry areas getting dryer overall, with more and more extreme weather events folded in. As such, the tool only works for regions of the world that currently experience temperatures of 32.2°C (90°F) or above for at least some part of the year. And because the calculations rely on historical data, only cities that have consistent weather recordings are included.
For example, I typed in Phoenix, Arizona, and 1950 (not my birth year, no amount of sunscreen can preserve skin that well), and was presented with graphs and info explaining that the desert city experienced about 151 days of 90°F or above temperatures that year, and today, the Phoenix area can expect, on average, 168 days per year. By the end of the century, Phoenix residents can expect between 177 and 199 of these incredibly hot days per year.
The interactive article explains that its projections were drawn from climate models assuming that countries around the world lower their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Signed by representatives from 195 of all 196 nations, the historic accord lays out a set of strategies to keep global temperature rise from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, as many watchdog agencies have noted, most countries are quite far from meeting their pledges, meaning that the future will probably be a lot hotter than the estimates provided here.
“More very hot days worldwide bring direct and dangerous impacts on people and the systems on which we depend,” Cynthia Rosenzweig, head of the Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the New York Times. “Food, water, energy, transportation, and ecosystems will be affected both in cities and the country. High-temperature health effects will strike the most vulnerable.”
For a detailed explanation of the methodology behind the estimates, click here.