People are using the viral '10-year challenge' as a stark warning about what's happening to our planet
A set of photos shows the difference between the ice on Switzerland's Rhone Glacier between September 2018 (top) and September 2009 (bottom).
- Social media feeds are currently filled with "10-year challenge" posts that juxtapose users' photos from 2009 and 2019.
- Environmental activists are using the trend to draw attention to how much Earth has changed in the last 10 years, posting side-by-side images of our planet's recent transformation.
- This year has started off with a slew of depressing news about climate change: Last year was the hottest year on record for the world's oceans (which are also warming up faster than we thought), and Antarctic ice is melting faster than it used to.
Not only did 2018 turn out to be the oceans' warmest year on record, but scientists realized that oceans are also heating up 40% faster than they'd previously thought. What's more, research has revealed that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting nearly six times faster than it was in 1980s.
So when a viral photo challenge emerged in which users juxtapose pictures of themselves from 2009 and today, some environmentalists seized on the opportunity to highlight Earth's own "10-year challenge."
Sites like Reddit and
Many of the 10-year comparison photos show melting glaciers - one of the most visually dramatic effects of a warming planet.
Melting glaciers mean the North and South Poles are slowly getting make-overs (and not the good kind). In a worst-case scenario, called a "pulse," warmer water could cause the glaciers holding back Antarctica and Greenland's ice sheets to collapse. That would send massive quantities of ice into the oceans, potentially leading to rapid sea-level rise around the world.
If a pulse were to happen, the sea level in South
It's one thing to talk about these threats in the abstract. But it's a different ballgame when we see visual proof.
The real #10yearchallenge? Climate change. According to @IPCC_CH #SR15, we have just over 10 years to #ActOnClimate before we cause irreparable damage to our planet. Take our free course on #ClimateAction and become a part of the solution. Enroll now! https://t.co/puzQgIiUoQ pic.twitter.com/Ujz7kEAnoH
- The SDG Academy (@SDG_Academy) January 14, 2019
The top photo here shows the Rhone glacier in Switzerland now, while the bottom shows how much more ice there was in 2009.
Although many glaciers have shrunk dramatically in the last decade, juxtapositions that show their changes over a longer period of time are even more striking.
These photos of Alaska's Muir Glacier are placed on top of each other so you can swipe back and forth to see how much has melted over the last 120-plus years.
Different glacial systems — if and when they melt — may impact some coastal cities more severely than others, according to NASA research.
Of course, the effects of climate change aren't limited to glaciers.
Higher ocean temperatures and acidification cause corals to expel the algae living in their tissues and turn white — what's known as coral bleaching. Swipe back and forth here to see it for yourself.
Rivers and lakes are also shrinking as growing populations demand more water. Pesticide and fertilizer run-off from farmland can also pollute what little is left.
Forests in South America and Central Africa are also shrinking because of logging and deforestation.
Politicians and celebrities are chiming in about our environmental 10-year challenge, too. Mesut Özil, who plays for Arsenal in the UK's Premier League and played for the 2018 German World Cup team, embraced the message.
In an Instagram post, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker wrote, "if we want to pass on a sustainable healthy world to the next generation, we need to have started yesterday."
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