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Drought, Blistering Temperatures and Raging Fires: Are We Screwed? 5 Facts You Should Know

If we combine our knowledge with action, we may have a fighting chance.

In 2007, as a drought-stricken Georgia watched its drinking water reserves dwindle, then-governor Sonny Purdue took action -- he organized a  prayer service for rain. In similar fashion in 2011 as fires raged across Texas in one of the state's worst droughts, Governor Rick Perry designated Easter weekend " official days of prayer for rain," according to the Texas Tribune.

And now as the country endures fires, drought and record-high temperatures, our leaders are on bended knee yet again. Earlier this month Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters he was saying an extra prayer for rain. But the latest science shows that the country's leaders are going to need a whole lot more than prayer. Vilsack for one, may be feeling the pressure. A backlash is growing against the Agriculture Secretary for comments he made in a recent press conference when asked about whether or not climate change may be playing a role in this summer's torturous weather.

Vilsack responded:

I'm not a scientist so I'm not going to opine as to the cause of this. All we know is that right now there are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are struggling. And it's important and necessary for them to know, rather than trying to focus on what's causing this, what can we do to help them.

Farmers don't want to know if there is a potential link between droughts affecting their livelihood and climate change? I'm pretty sure farmers like to plan ahead and knowing what may be coming down the road is extremely helpful. And Vilsack doesn't have to worry about "opining" on climate change, as Brad Johnson points out, the USDA -- the department Vilsack heads -- has a Climate Change Program Office that's staffed with top scientists.

In case you were worried that our government is not thinking long-term enough about our problems, Vilsack can reassure you. As he said:

Long term, we obviously are engaged in research projects; we're obviously working with seed companies. Don't discount the capacity of the seed companies. These technologies do make a difference.

On the off-chance that in fact Monsanto isn't able to save us from the effects of climate change, we are going to need another strategy because the news lately has not been good. Bad news is never fun to read, but putting our heads in the sand on this issue only makes the potential impacts that much worse. So, here are five facts about the state of our planet that you should know. If we combine our knowledge with action we may have a fighting chance.

1. This is a record year for heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that, "June temperatures contributed to a record-warm first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895." As a heatwave scorched the country in June, thousands of temperature records were broken in various places. The NCDC said highs of 113 degrees in South Carolina and 112 degrees in Georgia are under review for all-time state temperature records. 

It wasn't just hot in the U.S., it was the hottest June on record for the Northern Hemisphere (the third month in a row that has broken the all-time high) and globally averaged land temperatures were the highest as well. The record highs are becoming more frequent; so far, NASA has reported that nine of the 10 warmest years on record have all been since 2000. 

2. Over half the country is in drought. It's not just severe, it's expansive, and it's being called the worst drought in 50 years. The government's Drought Monitor map on July 24 had over 53 percent of the country experiencing moderate or worse drought and 38 percent in severe or worse drought. 

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