I’ve been startled by the number of global warming naysayers in comment threads around the internet lately who have pointed to some colder weather this year to try to poke holes in established science. Yes, there was an unusual snow in Houston and New Orleans. But for global warming, we need to look at annual and decades-long data to get a comprehensive picture. And the BBC just reported this morning that 2008 ranks as the 9th hottest year in historical record.
2008 is not as hot as the extreme 1998 nor the first seven years of this century, but it was more than half a degree Farhenheit hotter than the 1961-1990 norm. If that half a degree doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, that slight change is causing the Arctic sea ice to disappear and accelerating the melt of huge volumes of Greenland and Antarctic ice into our oceans. So next time we feel a day of chilly weather, we have to see that in the context of dramatic climatic shifts that even hundreds of IPCC scientists have trouble keeping track of. The next few years may resemble 2008′s cooler La Nina pattern or they may bring a return to El Nino conditions that will usher in new record temperatures and faster melting of glaciers and ice sheets.
If you are skeptical of the dangers of global warming, be skeptical of the damage of 350 parts per million (ppm) and help nations around the world achieve higher goals of 400, 450, or 500 ppm. We need everyone to do what they can to reduce energy consumption and to increase the market share of low-carbon energy sources. The recession is sending emissions down in the US, Japan and elsewhere. And we need to base our economic recovery on climate-friendly energy efficiency and low-carbon energy such as wind, natural gas, and solar.
Bottom line: While 2008 wasn’t the hottest year on record, it certainly was hot historically at #9 all-time. If you want to help preserve this lovely climate that has nurtured civilization these past several thousand years, please do your part to push the sustainable energy transition in your own life and in the policies of our communities and countries.