The Climate Year in Review

For the second year in a row, apocalyptic wildfires have paired with disastrous hurricanes as Mother Nature reminds us that climate change is not going to disappear. The fact that the United States has been on the receiving end (rather than the predominantly poor countries that have borne the brunt for years) has made it harder for politicians in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry to keep sweeping the problem under the rug. Here are three major highlights from this year which, individually and collectively, mark a long overdue shift in the politics of climate change.

1) The World on Fire: Understanding Climate Change Caused This

At the end of 2017, experts and analysts for the first time called out human-caused climate change as the cause of specific extreme weather events. Even just a few years ago, that basically never happened. Scientists always stated events would be more likely to happen and could be more powerful but wouldn’t say, “Puerto Rico was ravaged last year because of climate change,” or “the wildfires in California this summer and well into autumn would never have happened if we curbed emissions in the early ’90s”. It’s politically valuable to be able to make these statements and point to the concrete effects of climate change instead of a nebulous change in probability or potential future effect.

2) 12 Years: A Hard Deadline

We have a final, highly specific, and very imminent deadline to get our act together. While environmentalists often speak of the world we are leaving to our grandchildren, it’s today’s children and even today’s adults in their 20s and 30s and 40s who can expect to see major, disaster-movie level climatic changes well before the end of their life. So this is a good motivator. It also makes goals very concrete. The idea of making certain changes within 10, 20, or 30 years takes on a certain dimension when we know changes made after the current projected 12-year turnaround time will be too late to allow us to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

3) 1.5 Degrees: An Even Tougher Target

In 2018, the UN asked the serious question of whether keeping global temperature change under two degrees is actually sufficient to avoid disastrous climate effects or whether a target of stopping temperature gain at 1.5 degrees celsius would be significantly better. Turns out it would. The UN hasn’t asked the IPCC for this kind of specific projection before, and the thing to be happy about here is that these kinds of specific questions are a hallmark of practical, ready-to-roll-up-our-sleeves thinking.

What It All Means

Taken together, it’s clear we’re in really big trouble. But it’s also becoming more clear to policymakers and citizens around the world that we need to take specific steps to meet our specific targets within a very specific timeline. As Greta Thunberg, the leader of a student climate strike says, we’re past the point of encouraging young people to grow up and become climate scientists to solve the problem. We know the problem and the solution and we have the tools to implement them. The goal of young activists like Greta, and all of us, really, needs to be in implementing it. We may finally be at the point that we’re ready, as a species, to do what needs to be done to save ourselves. To ensure it happens, we’ll have to be continually on top of our representatives for the next 12 years until we see it through.

Photo credit: Getty Images

76 comments

Daniel N
Past Member about a month ago

thank you

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Greta L
Greta L1 months ago

TYFS

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Thanks.

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Jessica C
Jessica C1 months ago

ugh

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Ann B
Ann B2 months ago

the powers that be never address global warming they are worried they wont get their 6 figure pay checks!!!!

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Ingrid A
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you

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berny p
berny p2 months ago

Glaciers are melting, temperatures are rising and more CO2 and Methane is going into our atmosphere. We need to change our government to people who think that humanities future is more important than short term profits.
YES but some people will only want to beleive what they want to beleive ...that is the worse for humanity.

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

The climate report is peer reviewed by scientists all over the world adding their input and conclusions within their own research. This is ongoing and the report is issued every two years. The US seems to have made it a political issue. Trump has hurt the US so much with our allies the allies have discovered the US is not all that and life can go on without the US being a global leader. Without the rest of the world how well will the US fare in the future with China and India making gigantic improvements to their quality of living and economics. China and India may still be producing too much pollution, but the amount they have improved it is staggering in such a short time.

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Just H
Just Human2 months ago

Hey Paul, you're doin' it. I'm not going to say what "it" is, but suffice to say you're doin' it.

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