It’s official, though it comes as no surprise to anyone who lived through it: 2012 was the hottest year on record for the United States, by an unprecedented margin (“2012 rated hottest year on record; Average U.S. temperature 1 degree above 1998 mark,” Jan. 9).
The average temperature in 2012 was 3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th century average. Our second-warmest year, 1998, was “only” 2.2 degrees hotter.
That’s the same as breaking Usain Bolt’s 100-meter dash record of 9.6 seconds by a full three seconds, or showing up Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point basketball game with a 145-point game — the kind of things that don’t happen unless there is a change in the rules.
Our atmosphere’s changing composition makes Earth hotter, and years like 2012 possible. Extreme weather such as superstorm Sandy and catastrophic drought caused tens of billions of dollars in damages. Unfortunately, that’s what we can expect on a warming planet.
To tackle global warming and extreme weather, we must limit carbon pollution, which fuels the problem. President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working to do so by developing the first-ever carbon dioxide limits for new power plants. This historic step received support from a record number of Americans during its comment period.
The EPA should finish the job on these standards and develop standards for existing power plants, which are the single largest source of carbon pollution. It’s getting hot here.
Federal Field Associate Environment Ohio