You can learn a lot about the climates we live in by the buildings we construct.

The steep roofs of Thai temples and Norwegian stave churches are clues to the heavy loads of rain and snow that fall in those countries, which threaten to damage a structure if they don’t slide quickly to the ground. The traditional mud brick architecture of Africa’s Sahel is a marker of an arid environment with hot days and cool nights, where thick adobe walls can keep the interior cooler than the outside air.

That parsimonious approach — adding only the features that are necessary for us to thrive in local conditions — applies across the world and throughout history. We’ve built our civilization on a series of local equilibria, paying the short-term cost of adapting to immediate conditions to avoid the long-term risks from extreme weather. With each tenth of a degree that the planet warms, we are breaking those equilibria.