WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Record-setting temperature increases in the United States last year should encourage lawmakers to take climate issues seriously, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the Lower 48 states. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, a full degree warmer than the previous record from 1988.
Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said extreme weather events like last year's superstorm Sandy were signs that it's time to tackle climate issues head on.
"Congress can no longer afford to watch the devastation from an air-conditioned perch," he said in a statement. "We must make 2013 a year for climate action."
NOAA said the 2012 temperature average in the continental United States was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average recorded during the 20th century. Last year also recorded the fourth-warmest winter and the second-warmest summer on record.
In November, the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization stated there was a 29 percent increase in the 1990-2010 period in the warming effect of greenhouse gas emissions. WMO notes this is the highest increase in the industrial age, which began more than 260 years ago.
WMO blamed human consumption of fossil fuels and some agricultural practices for the rise in the level of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. That claim is criticized by opponents of stringent environmental regulations.