The scariest signals of 2018

Sensemaking / The scariest signals of 2018

Caution! Read if you dare

By Madeleine Wild / 29 Oct 2018

In the spirit of a ghoul-stly Hallowe'en surprise, here's a collection of the scariest signals you've spotted in 2018, and unlike most things this you'll see this Hallowe'en - they're all real. 

Signal 1: Study finds male sperm count has halved since 1973

Commercial chemicals are highly likely to be impacting human fertility

Chemicals that have leached into the ocean (especially PCBs) are already known to be responsible for the loss of reproductive capabilities amongst orcas, dolphins and other cetaceans - known as the orca 'apocolypse'. Now a rigorous study has suggested that human exposure to chemicals in plastics could be sending us on the same trajectory.


Signal 2: Five meat and dairy companies together emit more GHGs than major oil

Despite efforts, the meat and dairy industry could swallow as much as 80% of the carbon budget by 2050

One of the best ways for an individual to reduce their climate impact is to cut down on meat consumption. Globally, just five meat and dairy companies are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than major oil companies. Did you know that, traditionally, Western Christian denominations abstained from meat on Hallowe'en, which is why plant based delights like pumpkins and toffee apples are symbols of this holiday. Is it time we harnessed past traditions to re-root plant-based diets in modern culture?


Signal 3: IPCC publishes landmark report on the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming

IPCC publishes landmark report on the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming

Frights and shocks won't just be for Hallowe'en unless we act now on climate change. The IPCC's lastest report is a terrifying Hallowe'en read that no-one can afford to ignore. Extreme and unpredictable weather, mass migration, sea-level rise, disruption of harvests: we're only just beginning to see the consequences of climate change. If we are going to stay within 1.5 degrees warming, we need to put an end to all carbon emissions, immediately.

Signal 4: Rapid urbanisation in India linked to zoonotic disease outbreak

The loss of natural habitats is linked to the spread of disease in humans 

Climate change means animals are leaving their traditional habitats at an unprecedented rate and moving to new areas outside their normal range. Here they may be exposed to infection by new pathogens to which they have no resistance. The most famous example of this is the recent Ebola outbreak, in part triggered by humans moving into new areas and being exposed to the fruit bat virus. However, the danger is not just in human illness. All species that we depend on, such as crops and livestock, are likely to be susceptible to unforeseen diseases in the next 35 to 50 years. 

Signal 5: The WHO says 91% of the world population breathing polluted air

WHO reveals 7 million die from breathing dirty air each year in latest global air quality figures

What's hiding in the air we breathe? Invisible particle pollution is causing an urgent health crisis, being linked not only to heart and respiratory disease, but also to neurodegenerative disease such as dementia. Are we doing enough to safeguard ourselves and our families for a healthy future?


Signal 6: Chinese man sentenced to prison after reporting confirmed illegal industrial pollution

The persecution of environmentalwhistleblowers is on the rise

We're seeing a worrying wave of crackdowns on environmental activism, from China and Cambodia to the UK. As the effects of climate change kick in, will we see more cases of citizens starting to take the climate future into their own hands? This recent signal suggests it is already happening – a hundreds-strong group named 'Extinction Rebellion' has been formed, a group who are ready to face arrest in efforts to tackle government inaction on climate.


Signal 7: Sharp rise in emissions of ozone-destroying CFC-11 tracked to east Asia

Sharp rise in emissions of ozone-destroying CFC-11 tracked to east Asia

Just as the hole in the ozone layer was starting to repair itself, this year an invisible monster has been spotted looming in Asia. Not a phantom or demon, but a vast quantity of of CFC 11 – a gas responsible for depleting the atmosphere's protective ozone layer.

Has this given you a scare? Tread lightly, for all that you fear may just come true. Yet take heart from this collection of #SignalsofChange – although this presents a bleak future, that future is in our hands.  

Happy Hallowe'en!



What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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