An Illustrated Explanation of the Global Environmental Crises

Are a visual? Review the ecological crisis facing humanity by Alvin Urquhart, Emeritus Professor and a founder of the Environmental Studies Program, University of Oregon.

A Short Explanation of the Global Environmental Crises

I have assembled a series of diagrams to illustrate the environmental crises facing humanity today. The background to the story presented here is the development of the modern world in the past 100-200 years. Modern prosperity, based on growth and progress, is largely attributable to technology that depends on scientific discoveries and, more particularly, on energy derived from fossil fuels.

First, I present the large-scale evidence associated with the current crises:  (a.) the over consumption of natural resources as is shown by diagrams from the Global Footprint Network, and (b.) by the destruction of the Earth’s natural ecological systems as studied by the Stockholm Resilience Group.

Next, I focus on Global Warming because it is an immediate threat to the lives of billions of people within the lifetime of many still alive. In particular, I hone-in on the scientific models of global warming and their possible inaccuracies.

Lastly, I indicate the failure of national governments, large corporations, financial institutions, and society, in general, to act in a significant way in time to slow the two major problems I first noted. The result is a predicament without solutions for maintaining the modern civilization of growth and progress, which we have experienced throughout most of our lifetimes.

Without solutions to the major environmental crises and their impact on humanity, modern civilization seems headed for ever larger disasters. The science largely seems correct, and the scientific models seem adequate, even as the most used ones of the IPCC are politically chosen. Most importantly, governments, capitalists, and society in general ignore the truth of the scientific models when it does not agree with their long-established goals of growth and progress.  Furthermore, the time to bring accord between scientific projections and societal goals (inertia) is too short to avoid the predicament within which we find ourselves.

For more information about the author of this article, Alvin Urquhart, Emeritus Professor of Geography who was a founder and director of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon, click here.


The Condition of the Earth’s Ecology.

Two diagrams--Ecological Footprint and Safe Earth Operating Systems--

show the deterioration of the Earth’s ecological systems in recent times. Underlying these changes are growth in population, alterations in use of land, and consumption of fossil fuels.

The Global Ecological Footprint is dominated by greenhouse gas emissions, population growth, and land use changes.



                                                                           Global Footprint Network



                                                                                Global Footprint Network

The footprint of consumption




Land use change and Population growth. 





    Our World in Data



Population growth and land use changes are the result of increased demands for goods and services, which are produced by the consumption of fossil fuels. In the process of extracting and burning fossil fuels, greenhouse gases are released.













(Source: IEA)

As the atmospheric greenhouse gases increase, atmospheric temperature increase.


Most heat is stored in the oceans, but its effects are less well known than heat in the atmosphere. This heat affects ocean currents, ocean acidity, glacial melt, and atmospheric warming. When heat energy in the oceans will be release in greater amounts is, as yet, unknown.



 (Source:  K. von Schuckmann et al.: Heat stored in the Earth system Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 2013–2041, 2020)

Many Earth systems are beyond safe operating levels



Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. Based on Richardson et al. 2023


Many of these changes are also related to use of fossil fuels such as nitrogen applied to agricultural land, discharges into fresh and sea water, vegetation clearance and use of land, making plastics, etc. However, disastrous these changes may be, current concerns with global warming dominate environmental discussions.


Paris accords of IPCC in 2015

Limiting use of energy as a way to reduce global warming has been a concern for decades with its most dramatic expression, the Paris Agreement of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPOC) report of 2015. It set the year, 2100, as the goal to reach Zero Emissions and 2030 as the goal to reach 1.50 C warming. 




The IPCC goals to limit emissions of greenhouse gases to 1.50C by 2050 and to 2.00C by the year 2100 were chosen with the belief that GHG emissions could be stabilized.






(Source: IPCC report)

Projections of growth in relationship to different models

(Next 3 diagrams are from  Global warming in the pipeline James E. Hansen, Makiko Sato, Leon Simons, Larissa S. Nazarenko, Karina vonSchuckmann, Norman G. Loeb, Matthew B. Osman, Pushker Kharecha, Qinjian Jin, George Tselioudis, Andrew Lacis, Reto Ruedy, Gary Russell, Junji Cao, Jing Li). (2023)





If aerosols (particulates in the air) are reduced, climate warming will accelerate.



(Global Warming in the Pipeline; Hansen et al.)

Projections of Global warming will accelerate if the accepted value for ECS (climate sensitivity) that is used in the IPCC  reports (2.50 C) is incorrect. Hansen, et al. indicate that 3.50 C or 40 C  values of ECS may be more accurate.)



                                      (Global Warming in the Pipeline; Hansen et al.)



Tipping Points or events that radically and irreversibly change the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere need to be considered for predicting ecological system change.



(Source:  Job One for Humanity)



(Source:  Job One for Humanity)

Climageddon is a term used by Job One for Humanity for the onset of climate disasters


(Source:  Job One for Humanity)


Remediation Attempts

Changes in energy needed to reach NZG by 2050





Technological processes dealing with Carbon reduction that are  needed to reach IPCC goals



Necessary changes in energy use



Fossil fuel use by scenario, 2020, 2030 and 2050


IEA,, IEA, Paris, IEA. Licence: CC BY 4.0

Projections of fossil fuel production to reach net zero emissions




The projections above must be realized if the IPCC goals are to be reached. Nevertheless, the major gas and oil producing corporations are investing in new gas and oil fields. National governments and major financial institutions are subsidizing or giving credit for increased production.

Proposed new oil and gas productions



Governmental subsidies of fossil fuel corporations.






And GDP continues to grow; interest rates remain high; dept continues to pay for the future.



Published by Statistica Aaron O'Neill,Dec 7, 2023




Draw your own conclusions based on humanity’s possibility to change course in the use of fossil fuels in its efforts to maintain modern civilization.

For more detailed comments based on these and similar diagrams, go to: 

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For more of Al Urquhart's work based on these and similar diagrams 

For more information about the author of this article, Alvin Urquhart, Emeritus Professor of Geography who was a founder and director of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon, click here.

To read more of Alvin's wonderful work, called "How to Face Global Warming," click here first and then click here for part 2. Part 2 brilliantly summarizes all of the things we must do to physically, emotionally, and even spiritually survive the climate change emergency and the many consequences we can no longer avoid.

Also see his new posts on

We also strongly recommend you get Alvin's book, 

Nature & Culture: A Personal Crisis

Nature & Culture: A Personal Crisis

by Alvin W. Urquhart | Jan 2, 2013
To get an ebook download of this book, go to


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