We're already seeing signs that this year could bring more of the extreme weather we saw in 2012. Just the other week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their yearly 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, warning that we could see a storm season full of powerful and potentially devastating hurricanes. But there's another factor at play that could make this perilous situation even worse: climate change. Over the years, climate change has led to higher sea levels, which means that any hurricanes that make landfall could do considerably more damage than similar storms inflicted in the past.
Experts have made clear that climate change is having unprecedented effects on our weather patterns, including more powerful storms, record heat waves and droughts, and increased flooding. The scientific view on climate change is as solid as any public policy question will ever get with the National Academy of Sciences finding that nearly all climate researchers most actively publishing on this believe that humans are contributing to climate change.
We saw the impacts of climate change right outside our window in 2012, a year that brought record-breaking heat waves, droughts, wildfires and Superstorm Sandy. Meanwhile, NOAA scientists documented that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the U.S. mainland. During a single month last year, there were more than 3,200 daily high temperature records broken or tied across the country.
Despite the reams of scientific research, there are still many members of Congress who do not acknowledge that humans are contributing to climate change.
While these climate deniers are preventing Congress from taking action, President Obama can take steps to combat the climate crisis by using his executive authority. He should move forward with rules curbing pollution from new and existing power plants, which will help to reduce emissions from the largest individual source of carbon pollution. He should also reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would worsen climate change by facilitating the release of massive amounts of carbon pollution from tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet.
With extreme weather becoming more and more extreme, it's now more important than ever that President Obama build on his climate legacy and take steps to help us meet the challenge of our generation, the climate crisis.