The first eight months of 2008 may have dulled some residents of the U.S. into a sense of complacency about global warming: It hasn't been exceptionally hot.
The latest analysis from the National Climactic Data Center, for the January-to-August period, suggests that's a fair observation, given that some regions of the U.S. -- the upper Midwest and parts of the West -- have been cooler than average, and most of the country has been barely above average.
But a broader look around the globe shows that the buildup of greenhouse gases hasn't spared the globe from extraordinary warming. In Asia, particularly, temperatures have been far above average. Overall, the Northern Hemisphere continues to be much warmer than it was 30 years ago.
Here's a look at the data, in graphical form:
The continued trend of warming is taking a toll on the Arctic, where sea ice reached its second-lowest extent ever recorded this summer, and where the total volume of sea ice may have decreased to its lowest -ever point.
The Arctic is only the first and clearest indicator of global warming's real world effects. Widespread weather disruptions, droughts, floods, expansion of disease, species extinctions, mass human migrations, greater insurance costs, degrading public infrastructure ... The list of predicted effects from global warming is long and getting longer. The only solution is to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, and most agree that will take both regulations that recognize carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and a fundamental shift in government policy away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy technology, and most likely nuclear power.
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