Friday, January 11, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #90 - Part 4

Global warming: New US record in 2012

It’s official: NOAA announced on January 8 that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states of the US. The records go back to 1895.

Nineteen of those states recorded their warmest years ever. Three-quarters of them recorded their first-, second-, or third-hottest years ever. And 46 of those 48 states had one of their 10 warmest years ever. Even the coolest state, Washington, had a warmer-than-average year.

It was a year of blistering spring and summer heat, with July being the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous US. It was a year of tinderbox fire weather conditions, raging wildfires, the worst drought in several decades, and one of the worst storms to ever strike the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

That's just the US, remember. Globally, it's not quite as severe: 2012 is expected to be ranked as the fourth-warmest year on record, with that announcement coming later in the month.

But by one sort of measure, 2012 worldwide is already one for the record books:

The extent of Arctic sea ice grows and shrinks as the seasons change and one thing climate scientists have been watching is how the yearly minimum - when the ice covers the smallest area - has been declining over time. This year's minimum shattered the previous record set in 2007 by an area about equal to the size of Texas. Arctic sea ice is melting "faster than any model projected it would" - so fast that summers may see the Arctic ice-free within just a couple of decades.

What's more, Greenland's ice sheet also saw previous melting records shattered in 2012. One researcher called it "a Goliath year - the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979." In fact, Greenland is losing ice at a rate five times faster than it did in the 1990s.

On top of all that, new studies show that contrary to what some had thought, Antarctica is also losing ice. All this makes up at least part of the reason why sea levels are, according to a recent UN report, rising 60% faster than previously thought.

Now here's a question for you: How much of that have you heard? I got all this from easily-found news sources; I didn't have to dig into the bowels of some bureaucracy to find this information. But I'll tell you where I didn't find it: on network TV news and especially not on the Sunday morning talk shows.

In 2012 the Sunday shows, like "Meet the Press" and 'Face the Nation" and so on, spent less than eight minutes on climate change - that's total minutes total, all of them together, for the whole year. And who did they ask when they asked? Over half the time it was some media figure; nearly a third of the time it was politicians - every one of which was a GOPper. The Sunday shows have not quoted a scientist on climate change in four years.

The nightly news shows were better on all those fronts, quoting some Democrats and scientists and referring to the scientific consensus on global warming, but that "better" is only by comparison: The three nightly network news shows covered global climate change for a grand total of one hour in the entire year.

In fact, remember I just mentioned the report showing record-breaking Arctic sea ice loss? On both network and cable news, Paul Ryan's workout routine got more than triple the coverage that report did.

Considering we are now at a place where a report prepared for the World Bank says that unless the world acts quickly and dramatically against global warming, by the end of the century we will face an apocalypse marked by monstrous storms and the collapse of entire ecosystems with the displacement, suffering, and death of hundreds of millions of people amid rampant disease and widespread famine, considering that that is the future that current best scientific knowledge says we will have created for ourselves unless we change our ways and fast, that kind of media malfeasance is unforgiveable.


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