Climate change needs addressing

Though the Mayan calendar miscalculated the end of the world in 2012, new information published by the National Climactic Data Center forebodes an equally concerning future for the planet.

The report, released last week, named 2012 the warmest year on record for the continental United States — a record previously set in 1998. And though the year’s average temperature — a chilly 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit — might seem undesirably low for USC’s student body, it marks the 15th straight year of temperature increases for the country and furthers evidence backing claims of climate change.

Data collected by the federal government since 1895 demonstrates a continual increase in U.S. temperatures. Not coincidentally, rates of fossil-fuel consumption

Mollie Berg | Daily Trojan

Mollie Berg | Daily Trojan

and greenhouse-gas emissions have been on a steady incline for decades. Current Environmental Protection Agency inventories have U.S. emissions projections on an upward trend through 2050, assuming no reforms are made. Additionally, global scientific consensus — as collected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — backs the notion that it is in fact these harmful, man-made activities that are causing the increases in temperature.

The data is alarming, and the consequences could be catastrophic. Climbing temperatures at home and abroad will result in the loss of land to rising sea levels, the spread of tropical diseases, worldwide food shortages and, of course, an increase in the occurrence of extreme weather, the likes of which were most recently seen with Superstorm Sandy.

The social, ecological and economic costs will be tremendous. Forget the iconic polar bear — if action isn’t taken, the planet will soon be unlivable for ourselves.

And action must be taken now. Unlike many current political issues, that of man-made climate change comes with a time limit. If new proposals for reform continue to be met with the type of gridlock that has plagued Washington for years, the problem will soon be insurmountable. For too long, policymakers and voters alike have placed short-term interests ahead of our long-term responsibility to protect our way of life for future generations.

This dangerous trajectory will inevitably bring about our own destruction if immediate adjustments are not made.Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the necessary reforms will be initiated from the top-down. Even as President Barack Obama emphasizes an “obligation to future generations to do something about [climate change],” it appears that the problem will once again take a secondary role on the national agenda to issues such as jobs and the economy. What’s more, Big Oil has already reared its ugly head in the new year, with Jack Gerard, the chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, warning Congress and the White House against any actions that might impede domestic fossil-fuel production.

So, with precarious support from the government and intimidating opposition from the increasingly powerful oil companies, everyday citizens are left with the task of addressing climate change themselves. It’s a daunting endeavor, to say the least, but grassroots initiatives seem to be the most promising with regard to solving the problem. One group,, has spearheaded numerous campaigns to move toward a more sustainable planet. With notable success, the organization has mobilized thousands of global citizens in support of the cause.

With the latest figures on U.S. temperatures for 2012 now available, we must inform business leaders and policymakers that the American people will no longer settle for more of the same detrimental complacency. We must reject ignorance and work toward a society that addresses today’s issues today, instead of placing the burden on future generations, when the problem will only be magnified.

Climate change skeptics beware: Following a year of relentless Midwestern droughts and extreme hurricanes along the East Coast, the NCDC’s most recent report only strengthens the argument that unfavorable changes in climate are largely the result of human activities. And though even top scientists cannot say with absolute certainty if 2013 will continue to follow climate-change trends, officials at every level should take note. New and bold policies might at be unpopular at first, but it’s certainly better to deal with that than a disastrous future.


Austin Reagan is a freshman majoring in environmental studies and political science.


3 replies
  1. Climate Solutions
    Climate Solutions says:

    Climate science is still in its infantcy. With nearly every climate “solution” looking like austerity for the masses, like a king raising taxes beacause the rabble have too many luxury items, I am a climate solution skeptic. We have more college basketball teams than we have temperature monitoring stations in the USA. There is not enough data to force us to act NOW. Nearly 90% of climate science funding comes from one side of the debate – the side that wants more taxes and more control over the spectrum of choices by individuals or groups of individuals. Liberty allows ideas to flourish and create solutions, rent seeking quells ideas.
    The riches of the internet boom brought new ideas to alternative energy, central planning kept all the alternative ideas stuck in the 1960s. Tesla started as a dream for an electric car that the rich would envy, now government subsidies and controls will doom the company to mediocrity.

    Mental health science has had more than 100 years to mature and it is also decidedly lacking in cures. To tie ourselves to climate “solutions” that only limit economic liberty, will only stunt our society for countless years and prevent that bright future that the climate scientists envision. Let us not jump to climate “solutions” too early.

    On the dark side, if man is the root of the climate problem than only WAR and mass MURDER is the solution. AUSTIN, I don’t think that you want that.

  2. Wake up!
    Wake up! says:

    The single largest producers of greenhouse gas are the animals we grow for food. According to the World Health Organization 1/3 of all greenhouse gasses are from this single source. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) also causes us to feed these animals more food than it would take to end starvation on the globe.

    If you really want to set the doomsday clock back, start with your fork and what is at the end of it. You can do more to cut greenhouse gasses by giving up animal protein one day a week than you can by cutting 1000 miles of driving.

    Diet for a new America by John Robbins
    The China Study by T. Colin Camobell

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