Google Doodle marks Earth Day 2022 with dramatic time-lapse images

Earth’s climate crisis laid bare: Google marks Earth Day with stark time-lapse images of Greenland’s melting ice caps and two decades of coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef

  • Scenes include melting glaciers in Greenland, coral bleaching in Australia, and deforestation in Germany
  • Each of the time-lapses will remain on the Google’s homepage for several hours at a time for Earth Day 2022
  • Google data reveals people in the UK are taking steps to live more sustainable lives and make greener choices

Google is marking Earth Day 2022 with a selection of time-lapse satellite images on its homepage, showing the dramatic impacts of climate change on our planet.

The scenes include melting glaciers in Greenland between 2000 and 2020, retreating snow cover on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania between 1986 and 2020, deforestation of the Harz forests in Elend, Germany, between 1995 and 2020 and coral bleaching at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, between March and May 2016.

Each of the time-lapses will remain on Google’s homepage for several hours at a time, and clicking on one of the images will take the user through to the search results page for ‘climate change’, where they can learn more about protecting the planet.

‘Today’s annual Earth Day Doodle addresses one of the most pressing topics of our time: climate change,’ said Google in a blog post.

‘Using real time-lapse imagery from Google Earth Timelapse and other sources, the Doodle shows the impact of climate change across four different locales around our planet.

‘Acting now and together to live more sustainably is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.’

Google also released new search data today, revealing that people in the UK are taking steps to live more sustainable lives.

Glacier retreat at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – 1986 vs 2020

Glacier retreat in Sermersooq, Greenland – 2000 vs 2020

Coral bleaching on Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia – March 2016 vs May 2016

Harz Forests destroyed by bark beetle infestation due to rising temperatures and severe drought in Elend, Germany – 1995 vs 2020


Net zero refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere.

Net-zero organisations should be actively reducing their emissions aligned to a 1.5ᵒC science-based target in line with the Paris Agreement.

There will be some carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated with current technology, so to achieve net zero, it is essential that certified greenhouse gas removals are also in place.

The UK government says it is committed to ensuring emissions generated by the UK re offset by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.

There are two main ways this can be achieved – by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Source: Carbon Trust 

Today’s Google Doodle images are in stark contrast with the positive animation published for Earth Day 2021, which the company said was designed to ‘encourage everyone to find one small act they can do to restore our Earth’.

Climate counsellor Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University in Sydney, told The Guardian that this may be a response to the recent IPCC report, which warned there is a ‘brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity’ to limit global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) by 2100.

‘Our physical and biological world is transforming before our eyes and that’s what these images are emphasising and so there’s absolutely no time to waste,’ she told the newspaper.

The IPCC report, published earlier this month, states that global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must also be slashed by a whopping 48 per cent by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050 if we’re to hit the target, according to the report.

Meanwhile, methane emissions must be reduced by a third by 2030, and almost halved by 2050.

As it stands, we are currently on track for global warming of 5.7°F (3.2°C) by 2100, with devastating consequences for ‘all living things’, according to the IPCC.

‘We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,’ said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.

Figures from Google’s Search and Maps apps show that people in the UK are trying to make greener and cleaner choices.

The firm revealed that, since March last year, the number of people searching for a ‘used clothing store’ on Google Maps has increased more than five-fold – a sign people are trying to live more sustainably.

Google Maps searches in the UK for donation centres have more than doubled in the last year, while searches for waste management services are up by 86 per cent.

On Google Search, the five most searched for topics around climate since the start of the year all related to living more sustainably, with ‘veganism’, ‘recycling’, ‘waste collection’, ‘electric car’ and ‘landfill’ being the most searched terms on the issue.

The majority of climate scientists advising the COP26 summit in 2021 fear the world is on course to warm by a ‘catastrophic’ 5.4°F (3°C).

Nearly two thirds of scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who responded to a survey said they expected the planet to warm by this much.

Just 4 per cent said they thought the world would meet the target of limiting warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C).

Read more: Majority of IPCC scientists predict ‘catastrophic’ temperature rise

Searches linked to electric cars have also spiked on Google Maps, with searches for electric vehicle charging stations more than doubling since March last year. 

‘These trends show how enthusiastic the UK is about making sustainable choices,’ Matt Brittin, Google president for EMEA, said in response to the new data.

‘We know people aren’t always sure where to start so we’re doing everything we can to make it easier, including making changes to some of your favourite tools.

‘We’re displaying carbon emissions in Google Flights, enabling travellers to search for eco-certified hotels and we’ll shortly be adding eco-routes to Maps, showing you the most fuel-efficient routes.’

Google said its data also showed that families as a whole were trying to do more for the environment, with ‘what is sustainability for kids?’ named as one of the top trending questions within the climate topic on Google Search.

In response to the growing public awareness of the human impact on the climate, Google now shows carbon emissions for flights in search results and is planning to introduce other environmental awareness features.

What is the IPCC report and what impact will it have? 

The latest climate report from the UN sets out the action needed to tackle the global warming crisis.

Here are answers to some key questions about the report.

What is the report?

It is the third part of a global assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the sixth such assessment the UN body has conducted, with the most recent one back in 2013/14.

This third report looks at ‘mitigation’ or the action needed to curb global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The first part, labelled a ‘code red for humanity’ when it was published last August, examined the physical basis of climate change, while the second report in February this year spelled out the impacts of rising temperatures and the options for – and limits to – adapting to them.

What is the IPCC?

It is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established in 1988 to provide political leaders with scientific assessments on climate change, to help them make policy. Some 195 countries are members of the IPCC.

There always seems to be another climate report coming out. What is different about this one?

The IPCC reports are an assessment of all the available science on climate change.

This latest study references more than 18,000 studies and sources, and has involved hundreds of authors from around the world, who have received tens of thousands of comments on earlier drafts from scientists and governments.

Most importantly, the 63-page summary of the report has been subject to a line-by-line approval process involving scientists and representatives of the 195 governments before publication – which has taken place online over the last two weeks.

It significantly overran its scheduled Friday finishing time, wrapping up the approval process late on Sunday evening, but it does mean that governments have signed off on the findings.

What does the report say?

It warns that without deep and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, it will be impossible to limit global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C), beyond which the most catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt.

That means substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels, a switch to clean energy such as increasingly cheap renewables, technology to capture carbon and scaling up everything from electric cars to energy efficiency in buildings.

It also highlights ways to encourage people to make greener choices, such as plant-based diets or choosing to walk and cycle, and warns that measures to take carbon from the atmosphere, including tree planting and new technology will also be needed.

What impact will it have?

The first part of the assessment came out in the run-up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, which aimed – and just about managed – to keep limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) within reach.

The second part of the report landed just days after the world was plunged into a geopolitical crisis with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war, which worsened already soaring energy prices as western nations scrambled to shift away from Russian oil and gas, has put security of supplies and fuel costs at the top of the agenda for many countries including the UK.

Those backing climate action have seized on the report’s findings on the need for deep cuts in fossil fuel use, saying it is another reason to wean countries off oil and gas, alongside energy security and curbing Russian aggression.

But with fossil fuel companies putting pressure on governments to increase exploration and production, and with consumers facing a cost-of-living crisis, there is a danger – once again – that decisive climate action falls victim to more immediate concerns for politicians.

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