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climate change

After analyzing 2,000 years of detailed records kept by both nature and humans, researchers have discovered that the average surface temperature of the Earth has warmed faster in the past few decades than it did in the previous 1,900 years.

(Sean Gallup)

July was the hottest month in recorded history. That’s according to the World Meteorological Organization, which says the month that just ended edged out the previous global record month of July 2016. By year’s end, the planet will almost certainly have logged the hottest five-year stretch that human civilization has ever seen.

The point at which global warming went from a debatable theory to a real-time disaster unfolding right before our eyes has long since arrived. Scientists’ predictive models are no longer the primary evidence of it; heat waves and droughts, firestorms and polar vortexes, rising sea levels, and increased (and increasingly unpredictable) storm cycles are.

And still, America’s president and his party continue to act as if this is a partisan policy squabble instead of a fight for planetary survival. On this topic more than any other, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans demonstrate they cannot effectively lead modern America, let alone provide the global leadership needed on this existential issue.

Since Trump and the GOP have been so dangerously successful at spreading misinformation about the basics of climate change, let’s review the reality: Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun, raising Earth’s temperature. Carbon dioxide levels were steady for hundreds of thousands of years (based on analyses of ancient ice-core samples), but rose dramatically during the relative sliver of time since modern industrialization, with humans’ large-scale burning of fossil fuels.

What followed was exactly what would be logically expected: record high global temperature averages, melting sea ice, rising sea levels and the destabilization of weather patterns (i.e., worse storms) due to warmer, wetter air. This is climate science — but it isn’t rocket science. The basics are common sense, easily confirmed by data, and have been well understood for decades.

But because the solutions involve reducing the burning of fossil fuels and other reforms that big donors in heavy industry object to, the GOP continues to deny the undeniable. Trump has been especially enthusiastic about this self-delusionary game, using the presidential pulpit to impede and misrepresent the consistent conclusions of NASA and other experts in his own government that this threat is real, is human-caused and is growing.

“This is not science fiction. … It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action,” Petteri Taalas, the World Meteorological Organization’s secretary-general, warned in a statement. “Time is running out to rein in dangerous temperature increases with multiple impacts on our planet.”

Trump and the GOP have shown themselves incapable of seeing this epic imperative through any lens but that of partisanship and the demands of their industrial political donors. Any voter who cares about the planet we leave to our children should remember that in next year’s elections.