2012 hottest year on record in contiguous U.S., NOAA says - The Washington Post
Alaska and the Pacific Northwest didn’t experience record-setting heat last year; a cool-weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean kept temperatures lower.
...Vanderbilt Law School professor Michael Vandenbergh said today’s leaders will be judged harshly by future generations for not focusing on climate change.
“A hundred years from now, they’re not going to be talking about health care or the fiscal cliff,” he said. “But they will ask, ‘What did you do when we knew we were going to have serious climate change?’ ”
John R. Christy, who directs the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said some researchers are exaggerating the severity of the threat. He said that the right climate target is “in the mind of the beholder,” given that rising energy demand is a sign that many poor people are struggling “to be lifted out of their current condition.”
“No one in Washington can stop that,” he said. “And, right now, carbon is the most accessible and affordable way to supply that energy — so CO2 emissions will continue to rise because of the undeniable benefit carbon energy brings to human life.”
...Some scientists, however, think it is premature to blame droughts or hurricanes on human-caused warming. Georgia Institute of Technology atmospheric scientist Judith A. Curry said in an e-mail that the global average temperature for 2012 will not set a record — last year will probably be the eighth warmest. “Natural variability continues to dominate the occurrence of extreme weather events,” she said.
Chris Field, who directs the Carnegie Institution for Science’s global ecology department at Stanford University, noted that although it is impossible to say whether the world will be “safe” if it limits the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, he compared it to “the number of flat tires I can tolerate on a road trip in my car.”
“With even one flat, there is a risk of a serious accident. But because I am a careful driver, and I have a spare, one is probably ok,” he wrote in an e-mail. “With two flats on the trip, I know I don’t have a spare for the second one, and I understand that the risk of a serious accident is increased. . . . For more than two flats, things get really messy.”