Ten charts that tell the story of 2019

The power of a good chart or map lies in its ability to inform the debates and decisions that lie ahead. Here are 10 graphics published by the Financial Times in 2019 where the real story is often about what happens next — in the years, decades and centuries to follow.

Map showing the estimated annual per capita income loss under a hard Brexit scenario (€) Europe to share the pain of departure but UK and Ireland will be most affected

Boris Johnson’s victory in the UK’s December general election, driven by his promise to “get Brexit done”, means that the premise of this graphic from earlier in the year — a “hard Brexit” — remains a strong possibility as we enter 2020. The estimated per capita income losses shown on the map illustrate cartographer Waldo Tobler’s first law of geography: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” Most economists predict a hard Brexit will hit the UK hardest, with neighbour Ireland a close second — but the ripple is predicted to extend across Europe.

Chart showing the Measles immunisation coverage (%) for the first dose (MCV1) among 1 year olds, between 2008 and 2018. Estimates, as of Jul 15 2019. The measles ‘first dose’ immunisationoffers an individual 90% protection from the disease. Twenty-three countries have yet to introduce the second dose, which would increase this cover to 99%.

Not all countries have made progress in their efforts to reach vaccination targets. Countries affected by war or civil unrest, such as Syria and South Sudan, have seen a big decline in measles vaccination rates in the past decade. In the US, where there is a prominent “anti-vax” movement, levels remain stubbornly below the 95 per cent threshold needed to prevent wider outbreaks. Meanwhile, new research suggests that the disease has a much more serious effect on children’s immune systems than previously thought.

Chart showing which jobs are risk from automation.

Workers are set to experience major changes to their jobs and careers as a result of automation. And according to the OECD, their governments are not preparing them for the disruption. Separate analysis by McKinsey suggests that those in low-skilled and low-paying jobs are exposed to the greatest risk of automation. But virtually every worker faces the threat of elements of their job being automated.

Map showing locations where once-a-century extreme sea level events are projected to occur at least annually by 2050, even if the world drastically cuts emissions. One metreSea level rise by 2100 if global warming exceeds 3C. 20%–90% projected loss of coastal wetlands by 2100. 90% projected loss of warm water coral reefs, even if global warming is limited to 1.5C.

Sea levels are rising quicker than previously thought — and pose a significant risk to coastal cities and low-lying islands, according to a September report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The UN’s researchers warned that extreme floods — typically experienced once a century — are likely to happen at least once a year by 2050 in many regions, even if global warming is limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Two maps showing Top 10 counties according to total vineyard hectares, 2015 and Top 10 counties based on area of viticulturally suitable land. Areas such as Essex and Suffolk have highly suitable land and climate as well as greater seasonal stability than areas currently populated with vineyards.

Climate change presents an unusual economic opportunity to English winegrowers according to academics at the University of East Anglia. A combined terrestrial and climatic model identifies over 33,000 hectares of prime viticulture land — an area larger than France’s Champagne region. The research suggests that Essex and Suffolk are particularly ripe for cultivation, while many current English vineyards are “sub-optimally” located. Useful intelligence, if you think you could run a vineyard.

Chart showing a visual history of lunar missions. Almost all missions have been unmanned; some completing a lunar orbit, others using the moon for a ‘gravity assist’ as part of a longer journey, some sending a probe to impact the lunar surface, and others landing rovers on the moon. Most early lunar missions failed to escape Earth’s orbit. The first two manned lunar missions were orbital only, and never landed. In July 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 becamethe first people to set foot on the moon. The crew of Apollo 13 never made it to the lunar surface. Every lunar mission since 1972 has been unmanned. After the frenetic activity of the space race, lunar missions were seen as too expensive. More recently, a wider set of countries has launched lunar missions.

2019 saw the 50th anniversary of the first manned Apollo landing — and renewed questions asking why it has been so long since the last crewed mission to the moon in 1972. With Nasa’s publicly declared goal of returning humans to Earth’s closest neighbour by 2024 and billionaire entrepreneurs joining aspiring space nations in launching ambitious missions of their own, one thing seems certain: space is set to become extremely busy.

Chart showing the number of patents published worldwide that mention facial recognition or surveillance cameras in the title or abstract, by country of patent author(s). China dominates both facial recognition and surveillance cameras patents

China is leading a global boom in surveillance technology that is fuelling increasingly polarised views on privacy and security. San Francisco police may have banned its police from using facial recognition software but, according to the FT’s Henry Mance, there are a growing number of companies justifying their technological advances on the premise that “anonymity was just a phase in human existence”.

Animated world map showing whether US or China is the larger supplier of goods in a country from 2000 to 2019. In 2000, Cuba, a rare Chinese stronghold in the Americas. Few countries in China’s orbit prior to WTO entry. In 2005, US top supplier to the Americas and key western allies. China major exporter to most of Europe, Asia and much of Africa. In 2010, China dominant in Europe and Africa, and has a foothold in Latin America. In 2018, China mops up holdouts in Africa and the Gulf. Red tide rises in South America. In 2019, Venezuela switches to China’s camp. France, Austria, Greenland, CAR and Zimbabwe rejoin US sphere of dominance.

The simmering trade war between the US and China threatened to spiral out of retaliatory control before signs of de-escalation finally appeared at the end of the year. This animated map paints a stark picture of the inroads into global trade China has made since joining the World Trade Organization in 2000. One analyst described 2019 as “peak China”.

US election: voters feel the economic pinch. Chart showing results of the survey question… Which of the following is the most important reason for the change in how you are faring financially? Of those who said their financial situation had improvedsince Trump became president, 39% said the most important factor in the change was wages or income level. Amount of personal savings and investments was the second-most cited factor for improved finances. 19% of thosesaying their financial position was worse named the burden of debt as the most important factor.

The US election will dominate news coverage in 2020. Rather than predicting a winner, a new FT/Peterson Foundation poll on US voter economic sentiment hints at some of the debates that will feature in the campaign, as two-thirds of Americans say the Trump presidency has not made them better off.

Finally, geologists revealed in December that magnetic north — the point on Earth’s surface that points directly downwards — is moving at an unprecedented rate of 50 kilometres a year. The latest update to the World Magnetic Model also confirmed that the planet’s magnetic field is weakening, which could eventually lead to a complete reversal in the field. Under such a scenario, Earth would be exposed to harmful solar and cosmic radiation, wreaking havoc on terrestrial life. As we enter the new decade looking for signs of optimism in an uncertain world, it is of some comfort that experts consider the chances of this particular catastrophe remote — at least for the next few centuries.

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