U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a joint press conference on 11 November 2014 announcing a groundbreaking deal to reduce carbon emissions and tackle the growing crisis of global climate change. Photo: MSNBC

By Michael E. Mann
5 December 2014

As the mercury rose in 2014, so did reasons to be thankful.

Climate change is the kind of thing that makes you feel plenty of emotions, but usually gratitude is not one of them. This year, though, something is different. Though there have been plenty of record-hot months this year, there have been even more reasons to be thankful.

2014 will likely go down as the hottest year on record, while the last decade was the hottest our thermometers have ever recorded. In this year alone, June, August, September, and October saw record-breaking heat. The year to date has been so hot that even with the recent cold snap in the United States, it is nearly certain that 2014 will go down as the hottest year on record. To avoid the record, we would need to experience the first cooler-than-average month in nearly 30 years.

Yet I find myself thankful for this hot year.

Past changes in global climate have taken place over thousands of years. Now, humans are emitting so much carbon into the atmosphere that our climate is changing at a rate that is potentially unprecedented in millions of years. As far back as the paleoclimate record takes us, we find no evidence for a warming of the globe as rapid as what we are currently experiencing.

But still, I am thankful.

While this was the hottest year on record, it should also go down as a record year for climate action. At a minimum, it will be considered a turning point: a time when the scientific evidence became crystal clear to all but the most vociferous of climate-change deniers, and industry's arguments for inaction became exhausted - even Exxon recognizes the inevitability of a price on carbon.

2014 will be seen as pivotal, when public apathy was overcome by 400,000 marchers in New York City and more across the globe, when political action started with President Obama's support for the Clean Power Plan. It will be remembered as the point at which the diplomatic climate changed, when we crossed a societal tipping point as the United States and China agreed to a partnership on reducing emissions. [more]

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