Planet earth has surpassed a historic climate threshold – and the media remains relatively unmoved.
For the first time in recorded history, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere briefly surpassed the mark of 2 degrees Celsius above “normal.” As noted by Eric Holthaus at Slate, this is the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time in the history of human civilization.
The mark has long been regarded as the point above which climate change may likely begin to become dangerous to humanity.
While it may not seem like a few degrees warmer could make a qualitative difference, it is has enormous global ramifications. Countries around the world formally agreed years ago to hold warming under the 2-degree mark, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of the catastrophic impacts a 2 degree increase could have on the planet.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) February 26, 2016
The northernmost permanent settlement, Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, averaged 10 degrees above normal this winter, with temperatures above the freezing mark on nearly two dozen days since December 1.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) March 1, 2016
Almost overnight, the world has moved within arm’s reach of the climate goals negotiated just last December in Paris. There, small island nations on the front line of climate change set a temperature target of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius rise by the year 2100 as a line in the sand, and that limit was embraced by the global community of nations. On this pace, we may reach that level for the first time—though briefly—later this year. In fact, at the daily level, we’re probably already there. We could now be right in the heart of a decade or more surge in global warmingthat could kick off a series of tipping points with far-reaching implications on our species and the countless others we share the planet with.
It remains to be seen at what point the mainstream media and public consciousness will begin to take climate change seriously.