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Sandy Tops List of 2012 Extreme Weather & Climate Events

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No. 10  333 Straight Months of Warmer Temperatures, and Counting

While the heat in the U.S. was especially notable in 2012, that doesn’t tell the whole story of what is happening to the global climate system. Globally, the year was much warmer than average as well, despite the presence of a cooling La Nina event during the first half of the year.

Click to enlarge the image. Credit: NOAA

The month of November continued an unbroken streak of warmer-than-average temperatures that dates back to 1985 — the year the hit film “Back to the Future” first hit theaters — with global average surface temperatures ranking as the fifth-warmest such month on record, according to figures recently released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

November was the 333rd month in a row with a global average surface temperature that was above the 20th century average, a clear sign of the warming trend that scientific evidence shows is due at in large part to man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. And with mild temperatures in early December, that string of record warm months seems likely to continue.

To put it another way, if you are under the age of 27, you have never experienced a month in which global average surface temperatures came in below the 20th century average, as the environmental news website Grist reported in October.

For the year-to-date, NOAA reported that 2012 is on track to be the eighth warmest year on record, due largely to near-record warmth over land areas from April to September, and above-average sea surface temperatures. The September-to-November period was especially mild, coming in just behind 2005 for the second-warmest such period

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By Emma H. (Rockwood, Ontario, Canada)
on December 31st, 2012

If the first step to survive climate change is interest, the second is knowledge. Which makes it worth considering that the place where we gain much of our common knowledge is school.  Unfortunately for the issue of climate change, school is focused on the economy, on creating good participants in the global marketplace, as well as good consumers who measure their success by their material gains.  And who are encouraged to spend more than they earn through easy credit and resulting debt.

What would it take for Americans to demand that education contribute to creating a sustainable future? It’s not a simple or easy change from our current educational aspirations.  But it’s one that might make it possible to work together and make the profound changes that will be needed to, first of all, lessen fossil fuel use, and then live well with less of the energy and petroleum products we’re addicted to.

We can create more local economies, regain lost skills, build local renewable energy systems, build local businesses, improve batteries needed to store power from intermittent wind and solar sources, begin a transition to a less lethal kind of culture.  We need to do it ourselves because our leaders are far too swayed by powerful fossil fuel and financial industries who invest hugely in maintaining the status quo.  But every decision we make, individually and collectively, can move the future to a new place.  Every product we buy comes from a company with policies we can support or reject.  Every mile we drive generates carbon dioxide - every mile we walk or bike - or don’t travel - doesn’t.  Local food and good insulation save energy, organic food doesn’t use fossil-fuel based chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, hericides).  Growing food and making things and playing music are highly satisfying skills that we have been educated to give up so we need to buy them “in the marketplace.”  But we could take them back. 

If we don’t begin to think more self-sufficiently, and with more awareness of the connections betwween fossil fuels and climate change, we’ll continue to see the weather become more violent, food prices rise, the cost of living soar, and “homeland security” come to mean the degree of climate stability we need. 

We were only able to become an agricultural society because of the last ten thousand years of stable climate.  If we continue to exacerbate climate change, we risk losing nothing less than the basis of civilization.  Education may be our only chance to bring about a large-scale turnaround. It can only happen if we work - hard - to make it happen.

We need to make our schools places of learning how to become a sustainable civilization.  If this is a new idea to you, do some browsing on “sustainability education.”

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