From where I sit, behind a computer, staring at data all day long; despite not being anywhere near an expert on the subject, the fact that there is any debate as to whether or not climate change has taken a radical turn over the past century is simply mind-boggling. That we can trace particular patterns to specific technological advances only further proves the concept that it is, in large part, a "dear lord, what have we done?" scenario.
There have always been natural, cyclical changes to the environment as a whole. Global temperatures, prior to World War II, followed a fairly predictable 30-40'ish year cycle of warming and cooling, very rarely rising even as high as the 20th century average, but generally falling within a standard range of temperatures. This is all taken into account (by the data I've seen anyway) *after* the industrial revolution, and tended to stay within that standard range until 1940 (which is backed up by the animated graph in that BBC article, much to my surprise - and dismay).
It doesn't take much of an imagination to correlate what was happening in the late 30's with the major spike in 1940. Between the Nazi war machine ramping up production, the unprecedented scale of the first truly global war, North America's first major freeway networks and the subsequent explosion in automobile usage, and the use of coal to power it all, with little to no regard for the environmental impact of it all, it's fairly clear that 1940 was the year that we crossed the tipping point, and that it would only be a matter of time before the planet began to fight back against the one species that had risen so high that nature began to have a hard time keeping up with it.
Our planet has a multi-billion year history of balance. Even in the face of incredible catastrophe, Earth has shown, time and time again, that it can, and *will* go to extreme lengths to maintain equilibrium. Some of those extremes haven't proven to be great for life as a whole, but in the immortal words of the fictional Doctor Ian Malcolm; "Life, uh... finds a way." That said, it seems obvious to me that nature is once again beginning to shift into extremes to fight back against the damage that we, as a species, have inflicted on virtually everything we touch.
Over the last several decades, largely within my own lifetime, we've seen increased extremes in both heat and cold, in deluge and drought, as the planet tried to find a balance point without necessitating something truly cataclysmic. We've only made this natural tendency more difficult by dumping ever increasing pollution into the equation, and are rapidly approaching the point where an extinction-level disaster becomes necessary in order for the planet to cool itself back down again.
I have my doubts as to whether or not we've crossed that line, and cling desperately to the hope that we can repair the damage we've done, before the planet does it for us, because our hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years of evolution allowing us to adapt our environment to us, would be the very thing that is our undoing. If we have crossed the point of no return, and our own extinction is inevitable, we owe it to whatever species steps into our place at the top of the evolutionary totem pole to at least try.
It's uncharacteristic of me to sound alarmist, but the gravity of the situation becomes ever clearer with the passing of every year. With each new record-breaking year, we lose more and more lives, homes, and land to nature's fury in the face of our hubris. Our work, here at OW, is quite possibly the key to - at the very least- getting the rest of the world to open their eyes and admit that without any shadow of a doubt, our greatest threat to our existence is ourselves.