Planet Earth has been spinning for more than 4 billion years and a lot has changed over that time. The continents formed and moved around — life evolved from single-cell plants all the way up to humans.
But we've only really been celebrating and honoring our blue marble for the last 53 years, starting on April 22,1970.
President Richard Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon planted a tree on the White House's South Lawn to celebrate the first Earth Day.
"The great question of the '70s is: Shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, to our water?" President Nixon said.
Fast forward more than a half-century, and President Nixon's question is still waiting to be answered.
In the meantime, the planet's temperature is rising and so are sea levels because glaciers and polar ice sheets are melting. Severe weather is intensifying, including flash flooding, hurricanes and droughts.
"Our world has a major climate challenge before us. Today's policies would make our world 2.8 degrees hotter by the end of the century, and this is a death sentence," said U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.
Just since last year, greenhouse gas emissions have trapped 49% more heat in the atmosphere. And in 2022, we had 18 severe weather and climate disasters that cost over $1 billion, including Hurricane Ian, which caused $112 billion in damages and killed 150 people along the Florida Gulf Coast.
This year, Earth Day leaders say we can slow or even stop the damage if we invest in our planet.
"The climate crisis is a challenge to the entire planet, but it's also an opportunity economically — a huge opportunity for our countries to achieve better health, better security, cleaner air, so there are extraordinary upsides to this challenge," said U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
The U.N. says the challenge is urgent and impacts every inch of our planet on this Earth Day.
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