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The Earth is Warmer Now Than in Past 11,000 Years

J. Mijin Cha

One of the arguments used by climate deniers is that the earth is actually in the middle of a cooling period, despite recent record temperatures. In fact, there was a period of cooling but as a new study shows, we are in the middle of a dramatic U-turn and are now experiencing a heat spike. Looking at 11,000 years of global temperatures, the study finds that there were several thousands of years of cooling… until the 20th century and the rise of industrialization.

This study provides even more evidence that global warming is not a natural phenomenon. Instead, the rise of carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution is changing global temperatures and trends. In 100 years, we have gone from one end of the temperature spectrum to the other. The period between 1900 and 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years. The period between 2000 and 2010 was one of the warmest.

The logical action, then, is to meaningfully decrease carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it’s unclear if decisionmakers feel the same way. The push for extreme forms of energy, like tar sands and fracking, actually move us closer to catastrophic climate change. Nowhere is this more evident than the State Department’s recent environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline. The EIS claims that there would be no negative environmental consequences from approving the pipeline—even though it also states that tar sands produce more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

Given where we are in terms of the impact that greenhouse gases have on warming, it seems that there is a negative environmental impact to approving the pipeline. In fact, the statement actually raises the climate impacts of the pipeline and then dismisses them because the mining and burning of tar sands is unstoppable. That is kind of like standing by and not doing anything as a house burns down because well, it was already on fire.

But, the conclusion of the report is not surprising once it was revealed that it was written by a firm that was under contract with the pipeline operator, TransCanada. TransCanada paid Environmental Resources Management an undisclosed sum to write the EIS, which is now an official government document. The report also draws on work done by other oil industry contractors. So, a company paid by the pipeline operator finds that there will be no negative environmental impact from the pipeline. With this kind of reality, how can anyone argue that the deck is not stacked?