And another one bites the dust. The year 2014 was the warmest everrecorded by humans. Then 2015 was warmer still. January 2016 broke the record for the largest monthly temperature anomaly. Then came last month.
February didn’t break climate change records – it obliterated them. Regions of the Arctic were were more than 16℃ warmer than normal – whatever constitutes normal now. But what is really making people stand up and notice is that the surface of the Earth north of the equator was 2℃ warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. This was meant to be a line that must not be crossed.
Two degrees was broadly interpreted as the temperature that could produce further, potentially runaway warming. You can think of it as a speed limit on our climate impact. But it’s not a target speed. If you are driving a car carrying a heavy load down a steep hill you’re often advised to change down from top gear and keep your speed low, as if you go too fast your brakes will fail and you will be unable to stop. Less braking means more speed which means less braking – a dangerous runaway feedback loop. Hopefully the hill flattens out and you have enough straight road ahead to recover. If you don’t then you will be stopping much more abruptly.
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