The World Woke Up As the Planet Rapidly Warmed this Decade
The decade will come to a close in about two weeks, ending a ten year period in which the world woke up to the threat climate change has on the planet.
It was a decade that set a lot of environmental records many of which we look back at in horror.
Weather extremes became the norm whether it was wildfires that burned neighborhoods or hurricanes that destroyed communities and entire islands. Countless deaths can be contributed to climate change as droughts plagued some regions while others dealt with massive flooding.
All the while the planet got warmer as people did little to curb their CO2 emitting activities. Let's not forget President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, a pledge signed by world leaders to curb emissions and slow down the warming of the planet.
“God, this was a terrible decade,” Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara told National Geographic in a report highlighting the environmental records set over the past decade. “Let’s make the next one less bad.”
Warmest decade ever
According to National Geographic, this decade set the record as the hottest ever recorded. Much of the rapid warming occurred in the second half of the decade with the last five years setting heat records each year. This year is forecasted to be the second hottest year ever recorded.
The warming planet has also increased the pace at which the Earth's ice is melting, setting yet another record this decade. The Arctic has warmed by about 1.8 F degrees in the past ten years, according to National Geographic, which compares to warming of under 1 degree C for Earth over the last fifty years.
The world has awakened to the threat posed by climate change
On the positive side, people did wake up during the last decade to the threat climate change has on our existence. The awakening was slow in the early part of the decade as Americans focused on emerging from the Great Recession. But that all changed when climate change brought supersized storms like Hurricane Harvey, which the report pointed out added 20% more rain and Hurricane Maria, which was a Category 5 hurricane that caused $90 billion in damages and led to an estimated 2,975 deaths.
More recently public interest about climate change is being driven by young people led by climate activists including Greta Thunberg, who was just named Time magazine's Person Of The Year 2019. A walk-out for climate change earlier this year drew millions of students, determined to bring attention to how climate change is stealing their futures all because of the 16-year-old girl.