State of the Climate: You’re Getting Warmer

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Year by year, the evidence that the planet is getting warmer—and that humans are the main driver—keeps adding up. Today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its State of the Climate in 2010 report, and researchers found that 2010 was tried with 2005 as the warmest year on record. (Download a PDF of the highlights here.) Not only that, the NCDC crunched past data and found that temperatures in the U.S. between 1981 and 2010 were on average half a degree warmer Farenheit than they were from 1971 to 2000.

Those new “normals,” as the 30-year temperature averages are called, are important baselines for understanding how the climate might be changing—and it is changing. Every state in the U.S. saw its annual maximum and minimum temperatures increase on average. Globally, May was the 315th straight month that temperatures were above the monthly average for the 20th century. So even though certain regions might have suffered through unusually cold or snowy weather—think the ice-bound British isles this winter—on the whole, globally, the new normal is hotter. “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 F warmer than the 1970s, so we’d expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,” said Thomas Karl, NCDC’s director, in a statement.

(More from TIME: Effects of Climate Change)

From NRDC, here’s a visual representation of how the continental U.S. has warmed over the past few decades:

The State of the Climate in 2010 report also showed that carbon emissions increased more rapidly in 2010 than they did in 2009, and on the whole, faster than they had on average over the past 30 years—meaning that for all the efforts the world is taking on climate change, we’re still falling behind. (Check out this great piece by the BBC’s Richard Black about the challenges Britain is experiencing trying to slow the growth in carbon emissions, even with fairly ambitious national policies.) We can argue over the best ways to deal with climate change and greenhouse emissions, and how much money should be channeled towards innovation or adaptation, whether it’s realistic to try to put a price on carbon. But it’s baffling that so many American politicians on the right—including just about every Republican presidential candidate not named Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman—deny the basic scientific consensus behind climate change, a consensus being confirmed by reality just about every day. How much more evidence do they need?

(Photos from TIME: Himalayan Glaciers Under Threat)

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