The story of 2018, in 10 charts

2018 year

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Writer


It was the year The Avengers topped the movie charts, France won the World Cup for the second time and Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. It was also the year of the strong jobs market and booming electric vehicle sales as well as rising temperatures, accelerating deforestation and deadly wildfires. Here’s a selection of key charts that answer the question – what happened in 2018?

1. US jobless rate hits 49-year low

The last time US unemployment was this low was around the time Diana Ross and Elvis topped the Billboard chart. The jobless rate was 3.7% in November, according to the US Labor Department, staying at its lowest level since 1969 for a third month. Looking ahead to 2019 such a hot labour market is likely to fuel wage growth, strengthening the case for the Federal Reserve to keep increasing interest rates.

2. Summers are getting hotter

It wasn’t just the US jobs market that got hotter in 2018, temperatures were on the up as well. Climate Central, a US-based climate change research organization, analysed past temperature records for June, July and August across the US and found a dramatic increase in both rural and urban locations in 2017 compared with 1970. Climate change has been a burning political and social topic for some time, and that doesn’t look set to change next year.

3. China’s love affair with electric cars blossomed

China is the fastest adopter of electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide, and its demand is forecast to keep growing. In China, EVs will account for 19% of all passenger vehicle sales, compared to 14% in Europe and 11% in the US, according to Bloomberg’s Electric Vehicles Outlook 2018.

4. Carbon emissions soar

Global carbon emissions will soar to a record high in 2018, according to research from the Global Carbon Project, which attributed the increase to more cars and an uptick in coal use. The 10 biggest emitters are China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a whole region of countries ranks third. Even so, the research team said trends are changing and there is still time to address climate change, if the right efforts are made.

5. Deforestation accelerated

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest was destroyed at the fastest pace in a decade, according to government data. Data collected from satellite images for the year ending in July showed 7,900 square kilometers of forest were cleared, up around 14% from a year earlier. Separate data showed the extent to which illegal mining of gold and diamonds is part of the problem, with Venezuela and Brazil among the worst affected.

6. Wildfires became more deadly

California suffered its deadliest ever wildfire and, separately, its biggest ever, in what was the worst wildfire year on record. While wildfires have always been part of several US states’ natural ecology, they seem to be growing in severity and frequency. And the US is not the only country to suffer: countries including the UK, Portugal and Greece all experienced major fires in their countryside this summer and all occurred during sustained heatwaves.

7. Bitcoin took a bath

Bitcoin plummeted in value amid concern regulators could crack down on cryptocurrencies and institutional investment failed to materialize. Prices have dropped more than 80% from last year’s record high. What’s in store for 2019? Watch this space.

8. Brexit rocked financial markets

Volatility in British financial markets soared, fueled by uncertainty about the state of the nation’s exit from the European Union. With the clock running down and UK lawmakers seemingly unable to agree on a way forward, 2019 may be rocky. As for what’s next, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said price swings will continue as long as uncertainty abounds.

9. The world got less peaceful

The average level of global peacefulness declined, according to the 2018 Global Peace Index, with 92 countries deteriorating and only 71 improving. According to the UNHCR, there are now almost 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, around 1% of the world’s population and the highest number in modern history.

10. The internet continued to captivate us all

This chart showing a minute of online activity in 2018 encapsulates the internet’s vast scale. The infographic from Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan of Cumulus Media shows how much happens on different platforms in each 60-second span, underscoring the scope of activity.

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