In 138 years of modern record keeping, 2018 appears to be the fourth hottest year so far. (According to NASA, modern records began in 1880, because previous observations can’t provide information about large enough sections of the planet.)
This appears on the surface to be nothing more than a dry statistical point, and in fact, we make an effort on this page not to post about data points like this, since they aren’t very memorable and carry little weight when left to stand on their own. The planet is hot and getting measurably hotter—On paper that’s not a surprise, and it doesn’t mean very much to those who aren’t feeling its direct effects.
But with each passing year, and each measurable but seemingly small temperature increase,
the circle of people who DO feel those direct effects grows wider and wider. Those who are trying to raise their families and make a living in New Delhi or Arizona can simply step outside to feel that this August brings pressures and strains different from those of previous years. But those who live in more temperate climates are also experiencing changes they may not fully recognize. Here are a few:
California is experiencing the largest fire in state history.
Staple grain harvests (wheat and corn) will be lower this fall than in past years, in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Heat related deaths have climbed sharply in Japan.
Electricity grids have crashed due to heat waves on four different continents.
17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Industrial emissions of CO2 grew to record levels in 2017, and sea levels continued rising by about three inches globally.
What does this mean for us, and why are we posting a blog about it? Our reason is simple: because the increase in global temperature is by no means leveling off. This increase isn’t an event in the distant future, or the recent past. The climb is taking place as we speak, and trends indicate that next year each of the lines under scrutiny (global temperature, sea levels, heat-related human mortality, etc) will only increase from its current position this summer. The impact of this year’s (and next year’s) heat waves and weather patterns will undoubtedly impact food supply and electricity grids just as they have this year, only more so.
In other words, the time has come to accept that climate change is our current reality—but not our current “normal”. Next year will not resemble this year, and the year after will also bring its own unique measurements and challenges to the systems and institutions that sustain us.