As this hottest-on-record, godforsaken decade draws to a close, it’s clear that global warming is no longer a problem for future generations but one that’s already displacing communities, costing billions, and driving mass extinctions. And it’s worth asking: Where did the past 10 years get us?
The seven charts below begin to hint at an answer to that question. Some of the changes they document, like the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the number of billion dollar disasters that occur each year, illustrate how little we did to reduce emissions and how unprepared the world is to deal with the warming we’ve already locked in. Even though more people believe in human-caused climate change now than 10 years ago, a growing chasm in political partisanship makes it more difficult than ever for Congress to pass climate legislation.
But by other measures, we might one day look back on the 2010s as a turning point in our civilization’s approach to climate change. The growth of renewable energy and rapid retirement of coal-burning power plants this decade illustrate that crucial changes to the world order are currently well underway.