NOAA reports on climate as Texas politicians stick heads in sand

Elena Craft\

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups presented U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and other Texas politicians with “awards” for their persistent denial of basic climate science. In fact, climate change denial is all too common among Texas lawmakers. Governor Rick Perry, for example, calls climate change “a theory that has not been proven.”

In contrast, the international scientific community almost unanimously agreesthat greenhouse gases associated with human activity are responsible for the global warming pattern we’ve seen since the mid-20 century. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual State of the Climate report. The report brings together leading scientists and academics to assess the state of the Earth’s climate. The 2012 report, which included contributions from 384 authors from 52 countries, is the most authoritative analysis of climate change and its global effects.

The climate change consensus

NOAA’s comprehensive assessment stands as a rebuke to what we hear from many Texas lawmakers. Four major independent datasets agree that, globally, 2012 was among the ten warmest years on record (ranking either 8 or 9 depending on the dataset used). It was also the warmest year in American history. All that heat plunged the country into a billion-dollar drought, with 61.8% of the contiguous U.S. in drought conditions by July. While Texas fared better than the central U.S. in 2012, the all-time record-breaking summer of 2011 is still fresh in the memory of most Texans. The extreme temperatures and associated drought contributed to the most destructive wildfires in Texas history. The La Niña-related heat wave that prompted 2011’s extremes was made 20 times more likely by climate change.

Overall, the 2012 report showed, that “carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, acting NOAA Administrator

Many Americans, looking at the extreme weather of recent years, understand there is a connection between human activity, emissions and the climate. A majority of Americans accept the science of climate change and the reality of global warming. And state and federal leaders from all over the U.S. are stepping up to present solutions. In June, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg acted on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and outlined a $20 billion plan to protect New Yorkers from the next superstorm. Later that month, President Obama presented his Climate Action Plan to the nation. The plan includes state-by-state reports to help Americans from every corner of the nation understand the impacts of climate change and potential solutions. And earlier this month, the California Environmental Protection Agency released a report diagnosing how climate change is affecting California. Governor Jerry Brown said of the report, “Whether you live in California, Texas or Timbuktu, climate change is real, and it’s long past time for action.”

But even as mainstream American society searches for the best ways to cope with a changing climate, our leaders in Texas still have their heads in the sand. In fact, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has removed mention of climate change from state-commissioned reports, calling it “unsettled science, in our opinion.”

Their opinion is based on ideology rather than facts. The truth is that 97% of climate scientists believe that global warming is occurring and that human beings are the cause of it. The truth of climate science may be daunting, but it’s a truth Texas leaders must take to heart for the sake of this generation and those to come.