Last year, global carbon emissions hit a record high, and the latest science tells us that we're almost certainly locked into roughly 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming. It might not sound like much, but 2 degrees Celsius will redraw maps, change landscapes, and force cities to deploy aggressive adaptation measures.
A new book by Abrams Books, 100 Places to Go Before They Disappear, uses stunning photography to show us all exactly what's at stake. The project started as an installation of large-scale photographs that were displayed in a Copenhagen plaza during COP15, the disappointing international climate meeting in 2009. (The exhibition is in Toronto right now, and will be moving around North America.)
Actually going to these places—flying around the globe, spewing greenhouse gases all the while—would, of course, exacerbate the problem in a small way. But this isn't a travel book. It's more of an educational project, providing a vivid picture of what we actually have to lose.
In his foreword, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, writes that climate change "is already happening" and that the effects will be clear to all. "By bringing this to the the attention of the public and highlighting 100 places that the world holds dear," Pachauri writes, "this whole project is turning attention to something that hopefully will bring about decisions that might actually protect these beautiful, valuable and precious places on the Earth."
The book includes some "places" that may seem obvious, and some that might come as quite a surprise. Yes, there are Arctic landscapes and sinking South Pacific islands. But there are also major American cities and massive pieces of modern infrastructure. What follows are ten of the places that I found most striking. Preserving them is a big reason that I stay committed to combating climate change.
Special thanks to Abrams Books and Getty Images, Ltd. for allowing us to use these images.