In this July 2012 photo, corn stalks struggling from lack of rain and a heat wave covering most of the country are seen in Farmingdale, Ill. Despite the U.S. enduring its worst drought in decades, a The U.S. Department of Agriculture report to be issued on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 is expected to show a harvest that's smaller nationally but still surprisingly strong considering the lingering drought. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:05PM
The early focus of President Barack Obama’s second term, which begins next week, is taking shape. The fiscal mess tops his agenda, along with gun control and immigration reform.
All important topics, ones demanding action. But the list is incomplete.
In the early days of Obama’s second term, which is when presidents have the best shot at success, expectations are low that we’ll see movement on climate change.
Here’s the problem: Global warming can’t and won’t wait.
The planet is growing warmer more quickly than in the past, causing more extreme weather, and promises to keep on warming if nothing changes, a series of government reports released in the last 10 days have found. The global temperature in 2012 ranked among the top 10 warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, two separate federal agencies found. The nine warmest years ever recorded all occurred since 2000.
The average temperature in the United States also reached an all-time high in 2012.
This warming is causing more extreme weather, such as drought and wildfires, as we saw last summer, threatening air and water quality, agricultural productivity, infrastructure, animal habitats and more.
The cause? Last Friday, a panel of scientists convened by the federal government said, as others already have, that climate change primarily is caused by human activity, largely from the burning of fossil fuels.
Nothing short of a major change to the world’s fossil-fuel driven economy — a reduction in emissions of heat-trapping gases — will do, both through international efforts and action in Congress this year. The best course domestically is through a tax system or strong industry regulation.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the scientists wrote.
All that’s left is for Obama and Congress to act.