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NOAA Data Shows Last 12 Months was Hottest Year on Record

J. Mijin Cha

Data released last month by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center shows that the 12-month period between May 2011- April 2012 was the warmest year to date since recordkeeping began in 1895. The first quarter of 2012 alone saw temperatures that were more than 5 degrees F above average. In addition to temperatures, precipitation patterns are also abnormal. While precipitation levels were higher than usual on the West Coast and Northern and Central Plains, they were lower than usual in Texas and along the Gulf Coast. And, overall, national precipitation levels are below average.


This newly released data isn’t likely to persuade those that equate climate advocacy to mass murderers, but the rest of us should be very, very worried. The change in weather patterns affects the economy in several ways. One, increasing temperatures negatively impact the agriculture sector because the seasons shift disrupting growth patterns, yields decrease, and land becomes less productive. Two, as we’re seeing now, changing weather patterns mean more drought for dry areas and floods in other areas. As an example of the problems this causes, we highlighted the danger facing low-lying states due to increased flooding and precipitation. In fact, climate change will impact nearly every aspect of the economy, as shown by a series of papers Demos recently released that looked deeper into the economic impact of climate change in several states.

At the same time, attacks on climate change and climate policy are ramping up. Beyond equating climate advocates to mass murderers, a coalition of right-wing groups are coordinating efforts to turn the American public against wind farms and the President’s renewable energy agenda. The Guardian obtained a confidential strategy memo that highlights ways to destroy the wind industry, including a national PR campaign to demonize the industry, setting up “dummy businesses” to buy anti-wind billboards, and a dedicated campaign to build public opposition to state and federal government policies that support the industry. Other efforts highlighted by the Guardian include:

  •  A $6m election ad buy by the ultra-conservative group Americans for Prosperity attacking Barack Obama's support for wind and solar power.
  • An email and telephone campaign by the ALEC and Americans for Tax Reform to repeal or alter clean energy mandates requiring electricity companies to get a share of their power from renewables (otherwise known as renewable portfolio standards).
  • Supporting bills drafted by ALEC to overturn renewable portfolio standards, an effort we further detail here.

The right-wing cabal against clean energy is not only making us vulnerable to climate change, it is making our economy weaker by preventing us from engaging in a thriving sector and threatening our national security by keeping us dependent on unstable oil-producing nations.

The truth is that while we are behind in the clean energy race, we have great potential not only for clean energy development but also a thriving green jobs sector. How many months of record-breaking heat are needed before the nation wakes up to this reality?