Earth Heating, America Hurting, Prompts ‘100 Days of Climate Action’

coal, power plant
Reliant Energy's Conemaugh coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania emitting greenhouse gases (Photo by )


WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2013 (ENS) – Evidence that the planet’s temperature is rising came flooding in this week, and in response environmental and public health groups have launched “100 Days of Climate Action,” from Inauguration Day to Earth Day

The Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Environment Colorado and many other groups plan to put pressure on President Barack Obama to provide a specific climate agenda for his second term.

Gretchen Alfonso, policy analyst for Clean Air Council and Pennsylvania organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, told reporters on a telebriefing today, “We will push President Obama to own this issue, and we will push for a climate champion as the next head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

“We will push for the mention of climate and clean air in both Inaugural Address and the State of the Union Address,” said Alfonso.

“We will be trying climate fools in the court of public opinion and planning climate-focused Earth Day events,” she said.

The campaign will press the urgency of climate action on every level from individual to global through a series of in-person meetings, public town hall events, gathering groups and going out into communities talking to individuals, encouraging people to handwrite letters to Obama, Alfonso said.

coal, power plant
Reliant Energy’s Conemaugh coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania emits greenhouse gases (Photo by Stefan Schlöhmer)

The facts released today by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, show that average global temperatures for 2012 were among the 10 warmest on record.

“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” said climatologist Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

These findings come right after Friday’s release of the latest climate assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a program of 13 federal government agencies,  required by law to report on climate change every four years.

“Climate change is already affecting the American people,” declares this report. “Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.”

The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has overseen the development of this draft climate assessment report, engaging over 240 authors in its creation. The report is available for public comment.

“Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the assessment states. “This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems.”

drought, corn
Drought-stricken corn on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, July 26, 2012 (Photo by Crane Station)

“The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming. U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5°F since 1895; more than 80% of this 21 increase has occurred since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s hottest on record.”

Reverend Mitch Hescox of York, Pennsylvania is convinced. Now serving as president and CEO of The Evangelical Environmental Network, a national organization, Hescox is the son of a coal miner, who spent 14 years early in his career preparing and crushing coal into coal-fired power plants.

“I have come 180 degrees,” he told reporters on the conference call today. “Climate change is real and we must act.”

Telling the story of one of his parishioners who nearly died in last summer’s heatwave, Hescox said, “I hope and pray that this assessment can spur ameircans to take action.”

“To defeat the worst of climate change will require the same kind of commitment as defeating Fascism in World War II,” he said.

After the billions of dollars of damage done by the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, many people are now convinced of the dangers of sea level rise due to melting ice caps and glaciers.

The Global Change Research Program’s draft assessment has hard facts for those who still need more evidence.

“After at least two thousand years of little change, sea level rose by roughly 8 inches over the last century, and satellite data provide evidence that the rate of rise over the past 20 years has roughly doubled,” the assessment states.

“In the U.S., millions of people and many of the nation’s assets related to military readiness, energy, transportation, commerce, and ecosystems are located in areas at risk of coastal flooding because of sea level rise and storm surge,” it points out.

“Sea level is rising because ocean water expands as it heats up and because water is added to the oceans from melting glaciers and ice sheets. Sea level is projected to rise an additional 1 to 4 feet in this century,” says the assessment.

“Scientists are unable to narrow this range at present because the processes affecting the loss of ice mass from the large ice sheets are dynamic and still the subject of intense study. Some impact assessments in this report use a set of sea level rise scenarios within this range, while others consider sea level rise as high as 6.6 feet,” according to the assessment.

Dr. Raymond Najjar, professor of oceanography in the Department of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, told reporters today, that the U.S. climate assessment report “confirms and strengthens” other assessments by other groups such as the National Research Council and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

melting glaciers
Greenland glaciers melting (Photo courtesy European Environment Agency)

“The world is warming, it is unequivocal,” he said. “There are so many lines of evidence for this – measurements with thermometers on land, in the ocean and in the air. Sea ice declining, sea levels are rising, the air is becoming more humid.”

The European Environment Agency issued a report January 3 stating, “The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic reached a new record low in September 2012. Climate change is melting the sea ice in the region at a rate much faster than estimated by earlier projections. The snow cover also shows a downward trend. The melting Arctic might impact not only the people living in the region, but also elsewhere in Europe and beyond.”

Najjar is convinced that human activity, particularly burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which emit greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of this warming. “Other factoers can change the climate, but these can all be accounted for,” he said, “and when they’re accounted for you’re left with a clear, linear, robust increase in temperature that can’t be otherwise explained.”

On top of all this evidence, the Natural Resources Defense Council today released an updated interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review showing that in 2012, there were at least 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow broken by extreme weather events.

New this year, the interactive map at also ranks all 50 states for the percentage of weather stations reporting at least one monthly heat record broken in 2012.

The 10 states showing the highest percentage with new heat records are: Tennessee (36%), Wisconsin (31%), Minnesota (30%), Illinois (29%), Indiana (28%), Nevada (27%), West Virginia (26%), Maine (26%), Colorado (25%), and Maryland (24%).

Especially hard-hit regions include the Upper Midwest, Northeast, northern Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain states.

Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist said, “2012’s unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like. This extreme weather has awoken communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection. We know how to reduce local risks, improve our lives and create more resilient communities. Now our leaders must act.”

Actions taken now will slow climate change after roughly 50 years, scientists say because of the effects of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

In the near future, the assessment says, “U.S. temperatures will continue to rise, with the next few decades projected to see another two degrees F to four degrees F in most areas.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.

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