The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Tuesday that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States. The report has sparked calls from environmentalists and Democrats for more action to fight climate change.
“The facts speak for themselves — whether it is NOAA’s announcement today that 2012 was the hottest year on record or the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, predictions of dangerous climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes,” California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a statement. “We need to focus now on what we must do to address climate change so that we can protect our people, local communities, and the nation’s economy.”
Environmental groups have also chimed in and urged action on climate change.
“NOAA’s report should sound the alarm that we can’t wait another day to start fighting climate change,” said Daniel Lashof, director of Natural Resource Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program, adding that slashing emissions from existing power plants would significantly reduce emissions.
“The longer we delay reducing emissions, the more climate change we’re going to lock in. The President has promised to make climate change a priority in his second term, but he needs to turn those words into action,” Angela Anderson, the director of the Climate and Energy Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Environmental News Service.
However, climate change is a global phenomena and it should be noted that 2012 was not the warmest year globally, says David Kreutzer, research fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“Global warming used to refer to the globe,” Kreutzer told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “The year 2012 was not the hottest year ever globally nor was it even the hottest year of the past 34 (since accurate satellite data have been kept). It was not the second hottest or the third hottest or the fourth hottest.”
“According to the climate models that are supposed to worry us, global warming should be accelerating,” Kreutzer said. “Instead world temperatures have flattened out over the past 15 years. Note that China is in the middle of a record-breaking cold winter.”
According to NOAA, last year saw a “record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn,” with an average yearly temperature 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit — 1.0 degree Fahrenheit above the previous warmest year of 1998.
Last year also marked the 15th driest year on record with the average precipitation total for the U.S. being 2.57 inches below average.
According to the U.S. Climate Extremes Index, 2012 was the second most extreme year for weather on record for the U.S. The index evaluates extremes in temperature, precipitation, and landfalling tropical cyclones.
“It’s not clear what the Climate Extremes Index tells us since it is an arbitrary weighting of an arbitrarily chosen set of measures,” said Kreutzer. “That said, 1934 had the third highest CEI. How does that link to CO2?”
NOAA reports that 2012 saw eleven disasters that reached $1 billion in losses, including Hurricanes Sandy, Isaac, as well as tornado outbreaks across the country.
“Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time we break records like this,” Anderson said. “The price tag for dealing with unchecked climate change makes the fiscal cliff look like a crack in the sidewalk.”
“If average world temperatures were SAT scores, 2012 would not be going to an Ivy League school,” Kreutzer said.
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