With an unusually warm November, we don't even need to see the final 3 weeks of the year to know that 2012 will be the warmest in the record books. The climate deniers / delayers have cycled through dozens of debunked, non-scientific LIES over the years to try and keep the gravy train running for their paymasters in the fossil fuel industry, the most popular one being the patently FALSE claim that "there has been no climate change since 1998...scratch that, 2001...no wait!...2005!" Now I know evidence usually doesn't work on these people, but it sure does make them look silly to rational folks when they flatly deny it!
The heat is on again in the U.S. After recording its first cooler-than-average month in sixteen months during October, the U.S. heated up considerably in November, notching its 20th warmest November since 1895, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. The warm November virtually assures that 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the U.S. The year-to-date period of January - November has been by far the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S.--a remarkable 1.0°F above the previous record... December 2012 would have to be 1°F colder than our coldest December on record (set in 1983) to prevent the year 2012 from being the warmest in U.S. history. This is meteorologically impossible, given the recent December heat in the U.S.The climate is undoubtedly getting more extreme. The summer of 2012 saw the lowest Arctic ice cover on record and sea ice volume is crashing as well. Ocean temperatures are rising, making superstorms like Sandy much more likely and more devastating when they land. This past summer gave us record droughts over much of the country while also coming in the heels of devastating drought in 2011. "there has been no climate change since 1998" my ass!
As long as the fossil fuel companies can make money delaying climate action while offloading the cost of dealing with their pollution onto the rest of us, they won't budge. When confronted with ever more evidence, they will shift around, come up with ever more elaborate lies and move the goalposts for winning the climate "debate" as far as they can manage. Skeptical Science has compiled 173(!) of these lies if you're interested. The deniers lost the scientific debate decades ago and have acted like children making up fantastical tales as to how mom's lamp was shattered into pieces on the living room floor ever since.
This is one of the defining issues of our times. The people who will suffer the most from climate change are also the world's poorest. We can continue to send around $1B out of the country EACH DAY importing oil or we can create countless jobs building a clean energy future in this country. And we can either leave a legacy of toxins in our air, water and soil, or we can give future generations the same or even more opportunities than we had to flourish in a cleaner environment.
Many dirty energy mouthpieces keep repeating the lie that environmentalists want everybody to live in huts and have a miserable life. That environmentalists place the planet above its people. What they fail to realize is that the Earth provides everything that people need; the health and well-being of both are intricately linked. If you care about people, you have to care about the planet too. Disrupting the climate through pure greed will surely force more of us to "live in huts and have a miserable life".
While things might seem hopeless, climate change is a beast that will have to be slain by MILLIONS to BILLIONS of cuts. Personal decisions like energy efficiency, conservation, transportation, food selection and consumption habits will all play a part. However, we also need to start incorporating the cost of dealing with fossil fuel pollution into the price of fuels over time. Coal power alone saddles us with between $100B to over $500B in YEARLY damages. We still pay these costs, but they show up as higher health insurance premiums and diminished GDP growth. If we spent $100B - $500B LESS on healthcare and had a proportionally higher GDP because of a cleaner environment, how much clean energy and efficiency measures could this buy? How easy would it be to start this virtuous cycle?
Tighter environmental regulations on coal power plants, along with cheaper natural gas prices, have FINALLY signaled the beginning of the end for coal's dominance of electricity generation. "Fracking" for natural gas has its own problems, but if it can be adequately-regulated to minimize air and groundwater pollution, then it might be a somewhat useful bridge to a clean energy future. It's unclear whether this is even possible though, but repealing the SPECIFIC exemptions from the Clean Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act that "fracking" benefits from would be a good start.
Even though natural gas releases 1/2 the global warming emissions of coal (at the power plant mind you...methane releases during "fracking" are estimated to cancel most if not all of this benefit), it is still a fossil fuel. Its emissions still throw our climate out of whack and it will inevitably run out just like all the other remnants of long-dead organisms we burn for energy.
We will still need a meaningful and equitable Carbon Tax to deal with the problem, however. $20 a ton for a carbon tax is a figure that is repeated often enough. At roughly 7B tonnes, U.S. CO2 emissions would net about $140B in carbon taxes yearly. While this would push up gasoline by $0.17 a gallon or so, add under $200 to the average family's annual electricity bill and push up the price of goods somewhat, there are ways to lessen the sting of this policy on the most vulnerable members of society. Using 90% of the carbon tax revenues to lower payroll taxes would be one of the most progressive ways of enacting the tax. The last $14B of carbon tax revenues could go towards energy efficiency retrofits, clean energy R&D and energy transmission / distribution development to lessen the impact even more. This form of the Carbon Tax is mostly revenue-neutral, awards work and innovation and mostly allows the Free Market to come up with the solutions to climate change. Aside from "Obama derangement syndrome" and willing disbelief of reality, I don't see how Republicans could oppose this. I won't get my hopes up though, especially with the current makeup of Congress.
With common-sense, fair and effectively enforced environmental laws coupled with a Carbon Tax that stops dirty energy companies from profiting unfairly while they disrupt our climate, we have a chance to head this catastrophe off at the pass. Time is not on our side however. If Congress cannot even understand the scope of the climate threat, we need to work hard in 2014 to ensure that the next set of legislators "gets it". We need to make sure they will work in the best interests of the American People and not just the select few who happen to own oil companies or coal mines.