2014 Record Temperatures Put the Heat on Congress's Climate Deniers

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is not a scientist, as he is the first to tell you. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, insists he's not a scientist either. So maybe it's time they listened to what real scientists from NASA and NOAA reported Friday about global warming: 2014 was the hottest year on record.

The scientists behind Friday's report are no slouches. As NRDC's president Rhea Suh said, this data comes to us from “the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the gold standard for global climate data) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (the guys who put a man on the moon).” And they are not the only ones to make this determination either. Japanese scientists drew the same conclusions earlier this month. British scientists who track global temperatures are expected to make the same finding soon.

2014 was not alone. All ten of the hottest years on record since global temperature-taking began in 1880 have occurred since 1997. 2014 was not an accident or an outlying blip on the charts. “The basic issue is the long-term trend, and it is not going away,” Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt, chief of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, told the New York Times.

The 2014 data underscore that there been no “pause” in global warming, as some climate deniers maintain. NASA's Dr. Schmidt, Dr. James Hansen (Goddard's former chief and now at Columbia University), and other researchers wrote Friday:

Record global temperature in 2014, achieved with little assistance from the tropical ENSO [El Niño] cycle, confirms continuing global warming. More warming is expected in coming years and decades as a result of Earth's large energy imbalance, more energy coming in than going out, and with the help of even a mild El Niño 2015 may be significantly warmer than 2014.

They explain that the hottest years are usually those with strong El Niños. Thus, to see 2014's record heat without an El Niño is especially significant. It's Sherlock Holmes's dog that didn't bark.

In short, we are well down the road to serious trouble. But it's not too late to avoid the worst, by curbing the heat-trapping pollution that is driving all this trouble. To do that effectively, we have to act at home, and we have to galvanize global action.

At President Obama's direction, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken the first steps to cut carbon pollution from vehicles and power plants, methane leakage from the oil and gas sector, and industrial chemicals called hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs). And by showing leadership at home, the President has leveraged action by China and put the U.S. in position to close a global climate deal in Paris this December.

Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell are not listening to scientists. They are listening to the big polluters who, the Center for American Progress reports, made “a three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar investment to secure Republican control of Congress and to set the stage for a pro-coal, pro-drilling, and anti-environmental agenda in the new year.”

The Senate will soon vote—perhaps next week—on whether to accept or reject climate change science. I know it's naive of me to think Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell will start listening to scientists instead of the big polluters. But wasn't it President Ronald Reagan who said, “Facts are stubborn things”?

Here are the facts: Global warming is real, and really dangerous.

And taking action to curb it is an incredible economic opportunity we would be stupid to miss. Our car industry is back from bankruptcy and thriving making cars that by 2025 will have twice the gas mileage and half the carbon emissions of the cars produced in 2010. And if we lead with clean energy—renewable power and energy efficiency—we can cut carbon pollution from the nation's power plants well over 30 percent over the next 15 years while creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, saving power customers billions of dollars, and reaping health and climate protection benefits worth ten times their cost.

Increasing our energy efficiency—everything from better light bulbs and air conditioners to smarter-run factories and farms—could save the country $1.2 trillion by 2020, on an investment of less than half that amount. Solar and wind power can create jobs like gangbusters. The solar industry alone created more than 31,000 jobs last year, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2014 released last week.

I'm not willing to condemn my kids to an over-heated, broken planet. Boehner and McConnell are parents too. So when the Senate votes on climate science, wouldn't it be a good idea, especially if you're not a scientist, to listen to what scientists are saying?