08/09/2012 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fascinated by Olympic Record-breaking? What About Record-breaking Climate Change?

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Millions (perhaps billions) around the world hold their breath during Olympic events, watching the seconds fly with their eyes on the "OR" (Olympic Record) and "WR" (World Record) numbers in the corner of the screen. And, moving past the nationalism of "our" (whichever nation's) athletes, it is a hold the breath amazing moment when a new record tumbles.

Sadly, however, the Olympics are far from where the most impressive and most important record-breaking is occurring. Instead, it is in our backyards and communities.

In the United States through August 6, with over 35% of the year still to come), there have been 27,042 high temperature records broken in 2012.

To provide a context, "2011 had the second-warmest summer on record for the lower 48 states."  And, with that "second-warmest summer on record", the United States broke or tied 26,674 daily record highs -- through all 12 months of 2011.

Let's be clear, just like in athletics, many "records" are "made to broken."

However, just like in athletics, 'steroids' can have their impact on weather. With droughts, heat waves, flooding, storms and other mounting extreme weather, the United States -- and the rest of the planet -- is seeing the impact of a climate on the steroids of humanity's greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts on the climate system.

With the Olympics in mind, what we're seeing is the climate's equivalent to East Germany's "women" breaking Olympic swimming records.

Simply put, hot and cold records should roughly balance over time.  We are, however, seeing a drastically skewed set of record-breaking that is worsening in an almost exponential fashion. While recent decades have seen a growing proportion of more "hot" than "cold" records, rather than something close to an even balance, 2012 is seeing something more like a 7.5 to 1 imbalance of more hot rather than cold temperature records.


This is neither accidental nor natural nor cyclical nor normal, as anti-science syndrome suffering haters of a livable economic system (e.g., climate deniers) want you to think.  As Senator Reid laid out so eloquently,

It's time for us all -- whether we're leaders in Washington, members of the media, scientists, academics, environmentalists or utility industry executives -- to stop acting like those who ignore the crisis or deny it exists entirely have a valid point of view. They don't.

The international community -- and the United States and the United States Congress -- reacted with disgust at the impact of steroids on sports (especially the Olympics).  And, there has been action to reduce that impact with severe penalties to those who violate the rules against steroid use.

With all due respect to the personal achievements of Olympic and other athletes, sports record-breaking is meaningless in comparison to the real-world impacts that we are already seeing from climate change and the spectre of what might happen with unchecked catastrophic climate chaos.  It is well past time to move our attention off the sports pages and to treat climate statistics with the same seriousness and passion as sports records.

Key source article: Andrew Freedman, More record highs during 2012 so far than all of 2011, Climate Central

Related:  Seth Borenstein, Ouch! July in US was hottest ever in history books

And, as long as we're talking "Olympics", want to learn about some minimally discussed Olympic Greenwashing?