Next week, world leaders will gather in Paris to discuss strategies for addressing climate change. The main topic of conversation -- as it always is at these regular convenings -- will be how to curtail the production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide to prevent the worst-case scenarios of warming.
Climate change has been a topic of discussion long enough by now that our ability to stay within the targeted 2 degrees Celsius of total temperature increase is nearly impossible. As the world has talked about limiting carbon dioxide emissions, it has kept emitting carbon dioxide, consistently making the problem worse.
As the leaders gather to make new commitments aimed at slowing warming, the world will be entering the last month of what will almost certainly be its warmest on record. Since 1880, we've been gather data on the world's temperatures, and, through October of this year, the combined temperatures on land and on the ocean were 0.86 degrees warmer than the average temperatures seen in the 20th century. The existing heat record is 0.74 degrees above that norm -- a record set only last year.
You've likely heard that most of the hottest years on record have been in this century; six of the eight hottest years on record have occurred since 2009. But we also keep breaking the "hottest year on record" record, as we're poised to do in 2015.
To drive that point home, we created a tool using data from the NOAA that will show you how many "record-hottest years" you've experienced over the course of your life. If you were born in 1995, for example, you've lived through eight years that set new records as the hottest -- or about one-third of the years you've been alive.
Remember: The goal of the Paris talks is to keep warming under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. We're already nearly 1 degree above the 20th century norm -- and we have 85 more years to go.