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Vol. 14, No. 15 — August 15, 2012
Unless you live on a different planet, you probably weren't surprised to learn that July 2012 was the hottest month ever recorded in the lower 48 states. And it wasn't just the heat. As of the end of the month, 63 percent of the nation was experiencing drought conditions — the worst drought in U.S. history.
July's heat was no fluke. This latest hot month was part of the warmest 12-month period ever recorded in the United States, and over 27,000 high-temperature records have been broken or tied so far this year. As Jake Crouch, a climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center, told The New York Times, "This clearly shows a longer-term warming trend in the U.S., not just one really hot month."
The 21st century version of the Flat Earth Society and its members may dispute it, but the leading climate scientists now believe that our climate is already changing, and that the change is caused by human activity — namely our use of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil. In an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, NASA scientist James E. Hansen discussed the recent extreme weather, including the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave and last year's droughts in Texas and Oklahoma, saying, "It is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change."
Not all climate scientists agree with Hansen that these particular events can be definitively linked to human-caused global warming, but the vast majority agree that these events fit past predictions of what would happen as the planet warmed, and that more such events with even more extreme weather are in our future.
The only major differences between the scientists' models that predicted what would happen when climate change took over, and what's happening now, is that change appears to be happening far sooner and is far greater than the models predicted.
Penn State University's Dr. Michael E. Mann said it best: "The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good-faith debate about how to deal with the problem — how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."
The extreme weather is also making it more and more impossible for Americans to ignore the changing climate before them. For example, look at what's happening in Texas, home to the oil industry. A University of Texas energy poll shows that those who reject or deny mainstream climate science dropped to just 15 percent of the population. And 70 percent of the public accepts climate science, up from 65 percent in March. And for the first time, a majority of Republicans believe that climate change is real and happening now.
Unfortunately, the Republican majorities in state government in Texas and here in Harrisburg, and in Congress, don't share that changed belief. So it's time to take action. The single most important thing our nation and our world can do to reverse climate change is to change how we use energy, and what kind of energy we use.
We need to do all we can to move to a clean and renewable energy future. And that means we need to end the legislative gridlock that is killing the vital programs and subsidies for solar power, wind energy, energy efficiency programs, and other cutting-edge clean energy technologies. We can no longer let the voices of ignorance out yell the majority of scientists and their dire warnings.
If we don't take robust action now, the record-setting heat of July 2012 may only be the beginning.
PennFuture's Clean Energy Conference on September 13 and 14 in Philadelphia features the nation's best and brightest renewable energy leaders, policy makers, financiers, and advocates working together to change how our region and our nation use energy. You don't want to miss it! Learn more and register online today.
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