The year the climate changed everything

Brian Merchant writes: That 2014 is turning out to be the hottest year ever recorded is, sadly, not particularly remarkable. Nor was it really notable that, despite the global swelter, most of humanity was content to pump out a record-breaking volume — 35 billion tons — of additional heat-trapping carbon pollution.

It wasn’t remarkable that the world’s climate scientists issued a series of reports bearing the international climatology community’s strongest warnings yet. (It is “extremely likely” that human influence is the “dominant cause” of today’s warming, which is scientist for “wake up.”)

Or that California experienced the worst drought in at least 1,200 years.

Or that a massive ice sheet in Antarctica thawed and collapsed, all but guaranteeing 10 feet of global sea level rise from it alone. It may take a long time — hundreds of years, even—but it’s locked in.

Or that the Pentagon is officially preparing plans for waging wars in a warming world.

Or that vast plumes of methane, a super-heat-trapping gas, are bubbling up in the Arctic at a rate not seen before.

Or that conservative politicians, pundits, and voters ignored it all, continuing their tradition of brushing off climate change as a liberal contrivance, and of convening hearings to haughtily disavow one of the most robust scientific consensuses ever established.

None of those deeply unnerving developments were particularly surprising in 2014—they all simply reflect the new machinations of the world we now inhabit. We live in the age of perpetual, incremental environmental decline. [Continue reading…]

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