There are endless ways to take action against the climate crisis and create a positive impact – small acts of care or bigger ones, from recycling to joining a coastal clean-up project. 

However, conquering a sustainable future for us all is a long path that begins with one tiny step: awareness. 

So, let’s take a look at the records that paint an honest portrait of the world we live in; the good, the bad, and the ugly. The small victories we have gained and the big battles we still need to fight. 

polar bear in the arctic

Highest sea level rise

It's a certainty: human activity has caused global warming. 

In 2019, the ocean heat content for the upper 2,000 meters was measured at 228 ZJ (Zettajoules; 228 billion trillion Joules): way above the average registered between 1981 and 2010. 

It represents the warmest average global ocean surface temperature recorded, and equates to a temperature rise of 0.075°C (0.135°F).

Moreover, since detailed records began in 1880, the global average sea level is estimated to have risen by 21-24 cm (8-9 in). This happens largely as a result of melting ice sheets and glaciers, as well as thermal expansion of water caused by warming oceans. 

The year 2019 represented the greatest increase, breaking the highest sea level rise record previously recorded in 2010. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global average sea level was 87.61 mm (3.4 in) above the 1993 average.

Polar bears are among the many species whose survival is greatly threatened by global warming. The rising temperature is rapidly melting their sea-ice habit. 

In partnership with Guinness World Records 2022, Earthwatch Europe created a cycle of lessons that (among other topics) focuses on the polar regions.

greatest ocean pollutant

Greatest ocean pollutant

We are surrounded by plastic in our day-to-day lives. From shopping bags to food packaging, this environmentally unfriendly material can be found in every home in the world. 

It's unsurprising, then, that plastic bags are by far the greatest ocean pollutant in the world. 

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic bags account for over 50% of all marine litter, with 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean. 

This is an alarming statistic, especially as plastic takes 450 years to decompose - almost half a millennium. 

That means that the mountains of plastic already in our oceans, in addition to the millions of tonnes being dumped right now and in the future, will remain and plague ecosystems for hundreds of years.

In certain parts of the Pacific Ocean, for every kilogram of biomass (including plankton) scientists have counted 6 kg of plastic. 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch ocean with debris

Deepest plastic debris found in the sea 

Plastic pollution isn't just an issue for the ocean's surface. 

A plastic bag was spotted at an extraordinary depth of 10,898 metres (6 mi 1,358 yd 7.11 in), making it the deepest plastic debris found in the sea.

The finding was made by the Global Oceanographic Data Center (GODAC) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and published in the journal Marine Policy, Volume 96, in October 2018. 

Longest-distance stage swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Longest-distance stage swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch 

Between 14 June and 31 August 2019, long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte (France) decided to take a swim.

The French swimmer crossed a distance of 338 nautical miles (626 km; 389 mi) through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), setting out from Hawaii and ending in California, USA. 

Better known as GPGP, the area is located in the North Pacific Gyre and it’s considered the largest agglomeration of marine debris in the world. It's about three times the size of France or six times the size of the UK. 

While splashing around plastic debris and highlighting the state of emergency of our oceans, Lecomte broke the record for longest-distance stage swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He also snapped some ghastly pictures of the area. 

It contains as much as 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing around 80,000 tonnes (88,180 US tons), and it’s easy to imagine how the waste is suffocating the ocean and its inhabitants. 

Stockholm is the most eco friendly city in the world

Most environmentally friendly city

But it’s not all bad, with many nations and cities striving to be more environmentally friendly. Stockholm, Sweden, ranked as the most environmentally friendly city in the world.

Low emissions, sustainable infrastructures and good air quality make it the most planet-friendly city across a global range of 100 cities. 

In 2018, Arcadis studied cities around the globe based on three pillars of sustainability: people, planet and profit. These three dimensions offer an indicative picture of the health and wealth of the cities taken into consideration, and their foreseeable future. 

When it came to the environmental pillar ("Planet"), the Swedish capital resulted the top city in the world.

Frankfurt, Germany placed as runner up, followed by Zurich, Switzerland.