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Editorial: Pay attention to the weather

How many times must we warn about the impacts of climate change?

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 10:00 am

If doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, denying the same scientific reality over and over and insisting it doesn’t exist is the definition of folly.

Although someone who never leaves America’s North Pacific shore might be forgiven for thinking the entire nation must be as cool and wet as it is here, the latest climatic data shows quite the opposite.

•The year just ended was the hottest on record in the Lower 48, 3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th century average and a full degree warmer than 1998, the previous record year.

•Temperatures were above normal for every month from June 2011 to September 2012, a 16-month stretch that had not occurred since the government began keeping records in 1895, according to the Washington Post.

• A massive extreme to exceptional drought covers the majority of the nation’s vital grain belt.

• The Mississippi River is so low barge traffic is being seriously impacted, this impeding the nation’s ability to move key commodities.

• The southern hemisphere’s early summer is seeing catastrophic wildfires in Australia and elsewhere, starting to threaten lives and homes in major urban centers.

• The Arctic and Antarctic are both exhibiting dangerous instability. The high northern latitudes are melting at an alarming rate.

It is still easy to find climate-change skeptics, even in academic circles, as the Post did for its report on 2012’s U.S. heat record. Even responsible meteorologists like University of Washington’s Cliff Mass repeatedly stress that while there is no doubt humans are messing up the climate, it stretches the facts to attribute any one event like Superstorm Sandy to climate change.

However, the overall pattern is clear. The trend shown by 2012 is beginning to elicit serious concern that the globe may be warming far faster than could have been believed possible even five years ago.

“A hundred years from now, they’re not going to be talking about health care or the fiscal cliff,” Vanderbilt Law School professor Michael Vandenbergh told the Post. “But they will ask, ‘What did you do when we knew we were going to have serious climate change?’”

 There are no easy answers in a political sense. But this issue demands a top place in the national and global agenda. In the absence of prompt and smart action, the future is looking hot and deadly.

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