“Red state” has a new meaning beyond being reliably Republican. The red now stands for record high temperatures.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced this week what anyone who walked outside their front door last year already knows — 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States.
The lower 48 states experienced an average temperature of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit (12.9 ºC), which is 3.2 degrees above the 20th-century average and the highest average temperature in 118 years of recordkeeping dating back to 1895 — 19 states experienced the warmest year on record, mostly in the Plains and Midwest.
Last year also experienced the second-most extreme weather in recorded history, and with rainfall down significantly, the wildfire season was the third most destructive in history. And during the past decade, the ratio between high temperatures and low temperatures has been 2 to 1 in favor of warmer temperatures, the clearest indication that the climate is warming.
Rapid global warming is taking place at the same time that media coverage of climate change is decreasing, and the subject was nearly nonexistent in the recent president election — although President Obama recently stated that addressing climate change and increasing domestic, clean energy would be a top priority in his second term.
Ironically, many of the elected leaders from the states most affected by climate change are themselves the biggest global warming deniers on Capitol Hill, and have fought against any policies that would reduce fossil fuel emissions and boost clean energy.
Here are five red states that experienced their warmest year on record and their climate change-denying elected officials.
Photo credit: World Learning via Flickr
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith
Republican representative Lamar Smith’s state set a record for heat in 2012, with an average temperature of 67.5 degrees. Texas had its driest year ever in 2011 as Kendall County, in Smith’s 21st congressional district, experienced record declines in the water table due to the severe drought. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) included 157 Texas counties as drought disaster areas.
Smith, who denies man-made climate change, took over the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the 113th Congress. He replaces Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), another climate-change denier. Smith has attacked the media for not presenting the perspective of global warming skeptics, attacked environmentalists as “global warming alarmists” and accused climate scientists of conspiring to make up evidence that the planet is warming, even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming.
“I’m really more fearful of freezing,” Hall said. “And I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they’re not basing it [global warming] on real scientific facts.”
While Smith denies man-made climate change and opposes action to reduce carbon emissions, he posted this statement to his constituents on his website during the third harshest drought in Texas history:
“As we all await much-needed rain, I join you in hoping for a quick turnaround to these perilously dry conditions.”
Photo credit: US House of Representatives via Wikimedia Commons
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe
Oklahoma is another state that experienced its warmest year on record. The average temperature in the Sooner State was 63 degrees. The USDA today declared a drought disaster in 76 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.
When it comes to climate change denial, Republican senator James Inhofe takes the top prize for outrageous statements. His anti-environmental stances are even more dangerous because Inhofe serves as the ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and was its chairman from 2003 to 2007.
In a 2003 Senate speech, Inhofe said that “catastrophic global warming is a hoax.” Last year, Inhofe stated on a Christian radio show that the Bible refutes climate change, saying “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
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Utah State Rep. Mike Noel
Utah experienced the state’s hottest year ever in 2012, with an average temperature of 51.6 degrees. Two years ago, Republican state representative Mike Noel claimed that climate change is “in fact a conspiracy to limit population not only in this country but across the globe.” He also introduced legislation targeting global warming lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry when a natural disaster occurs.
In this video, Noel tells fellow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that a carbon tax is a “Trojan horse” to grab people’s land.
South Dakota State Rep. Don Kopp
In 2012, South Dakota experienced its warmest year on record, with an average temperature of 49.2 degrees. But the state legislature believes the earth has been cooling for the past eight years. In 2010 they passed a resolution calling for a “balanced teaching” of global warming in schools and denying evidence of global warming. Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the resolution was this passage praising carbon dioxide: “WHEREAS, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life on earth. Many scientists refer to carbon dioxide as ‘the gas of life.'”
State rep. Don Kopp said “if you’re going to teach science and there are two sides, you need to teach both, or it’s about politics.” Kopp also said that “people are tired of government telling them what to do. Since I’m against big government, I don’t believe government should be telling the schools what they should be teaching. This was just a resolution.”
Photo credit: Rapid City Journal
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso
Wyoming experienced an average temperature of 45.6 degrees in 2012, making it the hottest year on record for the state. But while his coal-heavy state heats up from man-made climate change, Republican senator John Barrasso has been busy in Washington blasting the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. climate change spending.
Barrasso used to be more pragmatic when it came to climate change and clean energy, but his views have become increasingly extreme over the past several years. He was against the cap-and-trade bill to limit carbon emissions and is buddies with another climate denier, Sen. Inhofe. Barrasso tried to block federal agencies from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act by introducing a bill called “Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act.”
“It’s time for the administration to face the facts: Americans rejected cap-and-trade because they know it means higher energy prices and lost jobs. Washington agencies are now trying a backdoor approach to regulate our climate by abusing existing laws. Congress must step in and stand up for the American people. My bill will shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap-and-trade policies in any form,” Barrasso said in a statement.
It is the ultimate irony that a medical doctor such as Barrasso would try to block the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act to protect the public’s health from dangerous particulates and the wildfires, drought and severe weather caused by man-made climate change from the burning of fossil fuels.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr