Will Warmest Year Get Significant Local Coverage?

Our local television meteorologists here—Damon Lane, for example—have been hyping the supposed upcoming cold spell here in the Oklahoma City area, but the real story is we now know 2012 was the warmest year on record for the continental United States, yet another sign how global warming continues to impact the planet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that the average temperature for 2012 in the contiguous part of the country, or the lower 48 states, was 55.3 degrees. That’s one degree higher than the previous record set in 1998 and more than three degrees above the average in the twentieth century.

Oklahoma was one of 19 states that had the warmest year on record, coming in at an average temperature of 63 degrees, which beat the previous record set in 1954.

Climatologists have noted the record temperature, along with other major signs, such as record arctic ice melting and the intensity of Hurricane Sandy, show the result of global warming, which is accelerated by manmade carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who fortunately no longer serves as the ranking member of the Environment and Senate Public Works Committee, is one of the major reasons the world has done little to combat climate change, a dubious distinction Inhofe apparently accepts proudly.

Inhofe has been perhaps the world’s most well-known critic of climate-chance science and has even published a book calling global warming a hoax theory presented by a liberal conspiracy. His argument, it has become glaringly apparent, is based on political paranoia and pseudo-science, but Inhofe remains in the mainstream here in Oklahoma for his undying support of oil, gas and coal companies no matter what the cost to the planet. Inhofe has accepted $533,250 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2007.

Inhofe’s well-known extremism, the record average annual high temperature and the extended drought might mean our local meteorologists should be at least cognizant of the fact they bear a responsibility to present a fair assessment of overall weather trends and what they might mean to state residents. It would be even better if they began an ongoing televised discussion about global warming.

But here are three things to consider: First and foremost, our local meteorologists are entertainers who are going to be more worried about their hair, clothes, delivery and trivial banter than anything else, including global warming. Second, framing minor weather events with breathless sensationalism is what they do despite how it might disrupt lives. Third, undoubtedly, they will do nothing to upset the local big oil and gas companies who spend a lot of money on local television advertising. Any solution to global warming, as it stands now, would have to entail a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels.

There’s no way to exaggerate the crisis of global warming. Our planet is fast approaching a tipping point, and global warming is our most serious problem, according to well-known economist Joseph Stiglitz, who writes, “ . . . retrofitting the global economy for climate change would help to restore aggregate demand and growth.” But that won’t happen until we really start talking about the issue seriously, and it’s going to have to happen on the local level.