Editorial: Temperature increase alarming

The jump in average U.S. temperature in 2012 should serve a wakeup call to those who deny pollution has an impact on the environment, as well as those who claim environmental conservation efforts are unneeded or too costly.

The average U.S. temperature increased a full degree - to 55.32 - over the previous year, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Part of the increase can be attributed to normal weather fluctuations which would normally raise average temperatures by a tenth of a degree or so. Scientists say a jump of a full degree is alarming.

According to The Associated Press, last July was the hottest month on record. In addition, 19 states set yearly heat records. In Maryland, 2012 went down in the history books as the second warmest year on record.

In addition to the heat, 2012 also saw a continuation of extreme weather conditions, ranking second only to 1998. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 ranked behind only 2011 with 11 different disasters, causing more than $1 billion in damages. And along the Mississippi, shippers continue to worry that a drought and low water levels will shut down the river, meaning businesses will have to find alternative ways to move their goods. Elsewhere, the nation has been in the grip of a drought the likes of which hasn't been seen in 60 years.

The impact of the weather can be seen on jobs, the price of goods and the tremendous cost of cleaning up for individuals, communities and states that have been impacted by severe weather. In its first act, the 113th Congress approved a $9.7 billion aid package for Superstorm Sandy relief after the outgoing Congress failed to act on the bill.

The increase in severe weather events in recent years, combined with the data on U.S. and global temperature increases, show that it is more than just normal climate variations that is impacting our weather. It also serves as a warning that we need to get serious about what we are doing to the planet, and the condition we want to leave it in for future generations.