Over the course of the past century, mean global temperatures increased by .6°C. This change seems slight but isn’t: in the winter of 1905 my great-grandfather, a coppersmith, installed the roof on a new reef-point lighthouse two miles from Lake Michigan’s shore. Each morning he drove out across the open ice in a horse and buggy laden with his copperworking tools; today the water that far from shore never freezes, much less to a depth that could support a horse’s weight.

Well into the 1990s, such changes had happened gradually enough to seem salubrious, at least in the Upper Midwest—a karmic or godly reward, perhaps, for hard work and good behavior. No snow in October! Another fifty-degree day in February! It was as if the weather, too, partook of the national feeling of post-WWII progress: the economy would expand, technology would advance, the fusty mores of a black-and-white era would relax, and the climate, like some index or celebration of all this, would slowly become more mild. This was America. Our children would not only have bigger cars, smaller stereos, a few extra years to find themselves—they’d have better weather, too.

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