Climate Change Facts

The earth on a field of grass

Bright Idea: If every American replaced one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb next year, the decrease in pollution would be equal to taking nearly one million cars off the road.

Record Breakers: Can’t remember a summer (or a winter) as warm as this? You’re not alone. Every year since 1992 has ranked among the 20 warmest years on record.

Spring Forward: In the northeastern United States, the frost-free start of early spring now comes 11 days earlier than it did in the 1950s. If current climate trends continue, the frost season could be shortened by a full month by 2050.

Disappearing Act: Scientists calculate that climate change could drive more than a million species of plants and animals to extinction by 2050. The main culprits: temperature changes and fragmented habitats.

Fish Kill: Record temperatures in Yellowstone National Park’s Firehole River killed a thousand trout—the largest death toll in the park’s 135-year history. Up to 50% of Rocky Mountain trout habitat could vanish if warming continues through the 21st century.

Spruce Under Siege: Since 1987, nearly 4 million acres of white spruce forest on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula have been lost to an exploding population of spruce bark beetles. Warmer temperatures year-round have helped the destructive beetles survive and mature faster than ever before.

Land of the Lost: Rising temperatures over the past 60 years are robbing Glacier National Park in Montana of its namesake. Scientists at the park predict that all of its glaciers may disappear by 2030.

Blackwater NWR marsh

Blackwater NWR/Photo by

Flood Zone: Climate change could cause sea level to rise between seven and 23 inches by 2100. A two-foot rise in sea level would drown 2,200 miles of major roads and 900 miles of railroad in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

Stronger Storms: As the oceans heat up, we may see more devastating storms like 2005’s Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast. A recent study shows that the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled in the past 35 years.

Money to Burn: Hotter temperatures, severe droughts and more lightning strikes are setting the American West ablaze more often. The U.S. Forest Service now spends up to 45% of its annual budget on firefighting and fire prevention—a 20% increase since 2000.

Unhealthy Heat: Dangerous heat waves in American cities could become more deadly if climate change continues unchecked. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that heat-related deaths may jump from 700 per year to between 3,000 and 5,000 per year by 2050.

Planting for the Future: Carbon dioxide emissions fuel the Earth’s warming, but one tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

On the Move: Edith’s checkerspot butterfly is one of many animals and plants losing ground to climate change. Formerly flying from Mexico to British Columbia, Mexican populations of the butterfly are now four times more likely to be extinct than their Canadian cousins.

Shorter Ski Season: Researchers predict that the ski season in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California could be three to six weeks shorter by 2050, severely impacting the state’s tourism industry.

Drive 55: Vermont’s “10% Challenge” encourages motorists to drive 55 miles per hour on 65-mph highways, saving 28 pounds of climate-warming emissions per gallon of gas.