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Warmest year on record sparks closer look at climate change

By Lacy Hilliard

A recent study published by NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) has confirmed that 2012 was the warmest year on record. The study has inspired a closer look into the global debate about climate change and the ever developing science surrounding it.
This past weekend, Johnson County experienced higher than average temperatures that topped out at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Though January is normally bitter in the mountains of East Tennessee, on January 12 and 13, Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City looked more like spring with park goers utilizing everything from playground equipment to walking trails. Though the fluke is predicted to be short-lived, the recorded increase in weather phenomenon of this sort is fueling the increase in climate change research.
There are two popular sides to the climate change debate; those that believe climate change is just a part of the earth’s natural climate cycle and those that believe that climate change is due to increased carbon emissions and therefore is manmade. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes climate change as fact and states that while climate change is partially due to the earth’s natural climate cycle, the effect of carbon emissions and the resulting warming trend is scientifically measurable and therefore accepted as fact.
The human impact on global climate change occurs in several different ways and is all centered on carbon emissions. The burning of fossil fuels for energy production/gasoline consumption, and methane emissions due to livestock production are the top human-related factors in global warming. The Earth is designed to control excess carbon; in order for plants to undergo photosynthesis, carbon must be present. Therefore plants absorb carbon and release oxygen. However, due to the ever growing world population and deforestation, the Earth’s natural balance of carbon and oxygen is compromised. While the planet does have the ability to adapt to an upset in its homeostasis, the rate at which humans are emitting carbon provides a great discrepancy in the rate at which the planet can adapt. Currently, humans emit approximately 33.4 billion metric tonnes of carbon each year through the burning of fossil fuels.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.