One of the most dangerous aspects of climate change is human nature and, especially, "creeping normalcy." That is when we see the world outside our window as "normal" as though it's how it has always been. Once it is normalized it is no longer aberrant, different, abnormal, alarming. It's what we do, how we cope.
We're on a roller coaster. We squeal with delight as the cars plunge down the tracks but then we recover at bottom dead center and reset for the next peak.
As we close out the current decade and move into the 2020s it's useful to take stock of where we are and how we got here. The 2010s were, hands down, the hottest decade in human experience. Way hotter.
Deadly heat waves, wildfires and widespread flooding punctuated a decade of climate extremes that, by many scientific accounts, show global warming kicking into overdrive.
As the year drew to a close, scientists were confidently saying 2019 was Earth's second-warmest recorded year on record, capping the warmest decade. Eight of the 10 warmest years since measurements began occurred this decade, and the other two were only a few years earlier.What a decade it's been and not just for heat. Droughts, floods, wildfires from the tropics extending far inside the Arctic Circle, retreat of the glaciers, vanishing Arctic sea ice, and more that are all part of this climate witches' brew.
Again and again, scientists completed near real-time attribution studies showing how global warming is making extremes—including wildfires—more likely.
Even more worrisome, scientists warned late in the year that many of these extremes are linked and intensify each other, pushing the global climate system ever-closer to tipping points that could lead to the breakdown of ecological systems—already seen in coral reefs and some forests—and potentially trigger runaway warming.
"Every decade or half-decade we go into a new realm of temperature. When you look at the decadal averages, it becomes pretty obvious that the climate of the 20th Century is gone. We're in a new neighborhood," said Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.
"When I look at the patterns, the thing that always comes back to me is, we share one atmosphere, one climate system with people we will never meet. When we poke it here in our part of the world it can have mammoth consequences elsewhere," he said.In Canada we're careful not to dwell on how our petro-economy "can have mammoth consequences elsewhere ...with people we will never meet." Our cherished Canadian values, how we see ourselves, aren't up to the risk of introspection.
No matter how conditions worsen, we'll always have creeping normalcy to soothe our frayed nerves.