The Times reports today that 2004 was the fourth-warmest year on record:
...the global average continued a 30-year rise that is "due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said Dr. James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan.
The main source of such gases is smokestack and tailpipe emissions from burning coal and oil.
The highest global average was measured in 1998, when temperatures were raised by a strong cycle of El Niño in the Pacific Ocean; 2002 and 2003 were second and third warmest.
Dr. Hansen said a weak Niño pattern was likely to make 2005 at least the second warmest year and could push it beyond 1998 and set a record.
The unusual nature of the recent warming was corroborated separately yesterday by a new analysis of 2,000 years of indirect temperature records in tree rings, stalagmites, seabed layers, and other evidence from around the Northern Hemisphere.
That study, published in the journal Nature, found that previous peaks of warming, particularly during medieval times about 1,000 years ago, were as warm as the 20th-century average but that no spikes in the last 2,000 years matched the warming since 1990.
Not much really to add here--except that, editorially, this story bored even me, and I obviously at least cared enough to link to it here. It seems illustrative of the great piece Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote for Salon.com last year about how the media totally fails to cover environmental issues in a compelling way. (Whether or not this is willful failure, at the behest of the corporations that control the mainstream press, is a separate though also important question.)
Lousy coverage means this won't get into the popular consciousness, much less on the action agenda for policymaking, probably until we see some disastrous consequences. Talk about losing on style points...
Browsing aimlessly on a Friday, looking at Mark Schmitt's fine blog The Decembrist (thanks, VHCA), I came across a link to this provocatively titled piece: "The Death of Environmentalism." Worth a look in light of the above-noted item.