Countdown to Christmas: Ways the world changed in 2015, from the refugee crisis and climate change deal to time travel and New Horizons trip to Pluto

Clara Guibourg
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The universe got a little bit smaller... (Source: Getty)

It’s been a tumultuous year, that’s for sure.

From the Charlie Hebdo attacks that shocked Paris and the world in January to the historic climate change deal signed not two weeks ago, the world is many ways a different place today than it was a year ago.

Although there are still some weeks to go until New Year’s Eve, we’ve taken a look back at the year and picked out some of the ways the world changed in 2015.

1. We got more scared

Paris was hit by not one, but two tragic terrorist attacks in 2015: the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January and the chillingly coordinated mass shootings by jihadist group Isis in December. Isis strengthened its stronghold over parts of Syria and Iraq. A Russian Metrojet airliner was brought down by a bomb over Egypt, killing all 221 aboard. And the Syria crisis continues to worsen, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their lives this year alone.

But let’s not succumb to despair:

2. The world also got a little warmer

As the refugee crisis worsened in the late summer months, with makeshift camps sprawling in Calais and refugees risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean in perilous conditions, one little boy's plight managed to change the debate on the crisis.

The image of three year-old Aylan Kurdi, lying drowned on a Mediterranean beach in Turkey captured the world’s attention, jolting us into higher gear over the growing refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands joined marches across Europe demanding political action to accept more refugees. #RefugeesWelcome became a trending topic and in the UK David Cameron pledged to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.

3. The universe got a whole lot smaller

From politics and humanitarian crises to the world of science, the universe got a little bit smaller - figuratively speaking. We finally got a proper look at Pluto this year, as Nasa’s New Horizons mission zoomed past the dwarf planet furthest out in our solar system.

Previously, the best images we’ve had of Pluto show it as a grainy speck. New Horizons gave us beautifully clear photos and suddenly the solar system seemed a whole lot more... real.

4. The world got a lot cooler

We all went briefly mental over Back to the Future Day, but forget hoverboards: The real tech innovations of 2015 were far more cool.

Time travel, anyone?

Maybe not exactly like you imagined it, but there's now a camera that lets you "teleport" back in time. Thanks to virtual reality, we can now step right inside our favourite photos to experience the moment again. The Teleport 3-D Camera shoots with a 360 degree view - meaning when you look at the images on a VR headset you’ll be able to relive everything as it was when you took the photo.

Nostalgics of the future are in luck.

5. We got richer

And, perhaps more importantly, many of us also got less poor: In 2015, the proportion of world’s population living in “extreme poverty” fell below 10 per cent for the first time ever. Global poverty has been declining sharply, led by the UN’s millennium goal to eradicate extreme poverty, called “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”.

702 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2015. In 2012, according to World Bank data, this figure was 902 million.

6. We reached a historic agreement

2015 was the year that we finally got a global agreement on how to tackle climate change, with the world’s nations agreeing to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius at the COP21 climate summit in Paris in December.

This is the first time we’ve had a near-universal agreement on climate change, and although there is still a long way to go, experts say this is cause for optimism.