Letters to the Editor

Climate Needs Undeniable

Editor's note: The following editorial appeared last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

We meant to write about global warming last month, but it was just too darn hot.

How hot? Nationally, it was the third-warmest June since 1879, when reliable temperature records began being kept. Globally, it was the hottest June ever.

Over the past two months, nine countries in Africa and Asia have seen new high-temperature records. On July 11, Russia reported its highest-ever temperature of 111.2 degrees. In Pakistan, the mercury reached a dizzying 128.3 degrees on May 26.

NASA reports that global average temperature from January to June also was the hottest on record.

Average temperature for the 12 months ending last March was the highest since record-keeping began, the federal space agency said. That record was broken again the following month -- and yet again in May.

How hot was it? Apparently not hot enough.

On Thursday, Senate Democratic leaders announced they were abandoning efforts to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation before the August recess -- which means the bill probably is dead until after the midterm elections in November.

The ramifications of that failure will linger for years to come. While China is gearing up to make record investments in clean energy, the United States is going nowhere.

Last year, the House passed a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, refineries and large factories and to establish a system for trading "emission credits."

That market-based approach has worked to reduce emissions of chemicals that cause acid rain. But Senate Democratic leaders were unable to find enough votes to get the climate bill passed.

There's plenty of blame to go around, starting in the White House. President Obama never fully engaged on the issue. Republicans and some Democrats, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., are worried more about short-term economic effects than long-term disaster. Politically, that's probably wise, but that will be of small comfort to future generations.

You can't measure climate change by just one storm or heat wave.

A scorching summer day no more proves global warming than a bad February snowstorm disproves it. But you can track climate change by examining patterns of heat waves, warm years and sweltering decades.

Since 2000, the number of heat records set in the lower 48 states is more than double the number of cold-temperature records.

The decade from 2000 to 2009 was the warmest on record. It displaced the decade of the 1990s, which in turn, displaced the 1980s. Are we starting to notice a trend?

One of the few things that has been cooling lately is rhetoric about the so-called Climategate e-mails as a "smoking gun" to debunk global warming.

Earlier this month, the British government issued its final report on the controversy, which began when stolen e-mail messages were posted online by climate-change denialists.

The report cleared researchers of allegations that they'd manipulated their findings and suppressed contradictory findings.

Meanwhile, four separate investigations in the United States have cleared Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann of charges that he engaged in similar scientific misconduct.

There is irony in Congress' climate change inaction. Many of the same senators who refused to support a cap-and-trade bill also express concern about the impact of budget deficits on future generations.

What about the impact of climate change on future generations? Too hot to handle.

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