And Thus Ends the Hottest Decade on Record . . .

hottest decade record photo

Photo via the Portland Mercury

Yup, the aughts or naughts or naughties or whatever you want to call them have been confirmed to be the hottest decade in recorded history--a full 0.2 degrees C warmer than the nineties. And now, as Joe Romm puts it, "the hottest decade begins." So were do we stand?Yes, barring a spate of supervolcano eruptions or some sort of galactic alien cooling beam directed at earth, the '10s are almost certainly going to be even hotter than the '00s. The trend, unfortunately, is continuing interrupted (the '90s were previously the hottest on record, with temps 0.14 degrees C warmer than the '80s) thanks in part to the near complete lack of carbon emissions reductions by the world's biggest polluters. Here's looking at you, USA and China.

It is a shame that we're ending this decade, in which awareness of climate change rose to an all time high, mired in global discord on how to mitigate the threat, without a binding agreement from Copenhagen, still stuck battling big coal and oil funded climate change skeptics who'd rather protect their interests in the status quo than help forge solutions to an incoming worldwide disaster, and without any meaningful legislation in the US addressing global warming.

But. There's still much to be hopeful about: the EPA is set to begin regulating greenhouse gases in March. A few minor breakthroughs in Copenhagen hint that global agreement is possible, if elusive. The Senate climate bill, which is set to be tackled again next Spring, has bipartisan support, and chances of its passage shouldn't be underestimated. Most of all, the global community of activists, nonprofit groups, advocates, politicians, and everyday citizens rallying to address the climate issue is growing larger than ever before.

Hopefully, the 2010s will be the decade in which they will see the fruits of their labor. In the meantime, I'll end with this apropos quote from Climate Progress's end-of-the-year post:

By one recent estimate, human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for "80 to 120% of the warming" in recent decades.

Human-caused emissions are simply driving climate change to dangerous levels with forcings that dwarf previous natural forcings both in speed and scale.

And that's why the time to act is now, so every decade this century isn't the hottest decade on record, with unimaginably catastrophic consequences for the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.

Though we must acknowledge those gloomy consequences that inaction holds, an important thing to remember is how much hope there still is out there. So happy New Year's--let's make the first one in this nascent decade a step in the right direction.

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