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A Colder Year

NASA, NOAA and others declare this year colder than recent ones, but still part of an overall warming trend

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It’s easy to doubt climate change when it’s -8 degrees outside, as it has been the last few days around BACKPACKER offices here in Boulder, Colorado. And science would seem to bear this out: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the World Meteorological Organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Britain’s Hadley Center have released this year’s temperature recap, which concludes 2008 has been cooler than recent years.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop banging the climate-change drum: 2008 is still between the 7th and 12th warmest year on record, bolstering the idea that the Earth is still succumbing to an overall warming trend. Record-keeping started in 1880, and the 9 hottest years have all occurred since 1998.

This trend dovetails nicely with the rise in output of carbon emissions by humans, and James Hansen, head of the Goddard Institute and a vocal climate-change fighter, warns that if we don’t curb emissions immediately, the Earth will become a “different planet” from the one humans have thrived in for thousand of years.

As much as I’m ready to take a break from subzero temperatures, I’m still not quite ready to go surfing in Manhattan. Let’s curb some emissions, fellow humans—what do you say?

—Ted Alvarez

A Cooler Year On A Warming Planet (NY Times’ Dot Earth)