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2012 Hottest Year Since Record Keeping Began in 1895

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation, marked by historic drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms.

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U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “The facts speak for themselves – whether it is NOAA’s announcement today that 2012 was the hottest year on record or the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, predictions of dangerous climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes.”

“We need to focus now on what we must do to address climate change so that we can protect our people, local communities, and the nation’s economy,” Boxer said.

While some Congressional Republicans, such as U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, continue to call climate change the “global warming hoax” and block action to deal with it whenever they can, the U.S. National Research Council concluded as early as 2010 that,  “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for – and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems.”

“Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time we break records like this,” said Angela Anderson, the director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The longer we delay reducing emissions, the more climate change we’re going to lock in. The President has promised to make climate change a priority in his second term, but he needs to turn those words into action,” said Anderson. “The price tag for dealing with unchecked climate change makes the fiscal cliff look like a crack in the sidewalk.”

Many U.S. cities saw their temperature records broken.

“2012 has been a wake-up call for local governments,” said Michael Schmitz, executive director for the association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development known as ICLEI USA.

“Today’s news underscores the need for America’s cities and counties to prepare for a new reality of extreme weather that puts at risk their citizens, infrastructure, natural resources, local businesses and other economic assets,” said Schmitz.

Many cities are taking action to protect themselves from worsening climate change without waiting for the federal government to act.

For instance, the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, experienced the most extreme heat wave on record in July 2012. Persistent drought continued throughout the year, with rainfall at 8” below normal.

On June 29, a powerful derecho – a lengthy, straight-line windstorm with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms – brought winds from 60 to 80 mph, downed hundreds of trees, and left more than one million people in the DC area without power.

To protect the city core from flooding, Washington is having a flood gate constructed on the National Mall.

In addition, the Capitol District had installed 1.5 million square feet of green roofs by the end of 2012 due to requirements and incentives to encourage green roofs, which cool the city and slow stormwater runoff.

The tree canopy in the district grew by 818 acres between 2006 and 2011, a 2.1 percent increase which helps provide shape, cool the city, and reduce energy use.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security, the District purchases so much renewable energy that it was recognized in 2011, and again in 2012, as the #1 U.S. EPA Green Power Community.

“We need to build more resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of climate change and energy uncertainty,” Schmitz said. “Local governments, unlike Congress, recognize that they cannot afford to ignore climate change, and the good news is that thousands of cities and counties are moving forward to take action.”

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