According to a new scientific paper, the majority of the recent and drastic heat waves – Texas last year, Russia's in 2010 and Europe's of 2003 – can all be attributed to global warming caused by the human releases of greenhouse gases.
James Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, along with two co-authors, published the findings earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Several of the claims, though, have been met with hostility from others in the field, saying that Hansen had presented weak statistical evidence to support his claims.
"The main thing is just to look at the statistics and see that the change is too large to be natural," Hansen told the New York Times. Specifically, the percentage of Earth's land surface covered by extreme heat in the summer has skyrocketed in recent years, he said, with prior to 1980, the number being at 1 percent, whereas now, it's up to 13 percent.
Regardless of the cause, July 2012 is now on record as being the hottest month ever for the continental United States, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The organization also reported that the first seven months of this year are the warmest and driest to date, with their records going back to 1895.
The effects of the heat and drought have been far-reaching, with many farmer's crops failing in the weather. Food prices have increased, and many farmers have had to sell or slaughter livestock that they can no longer feed.
While some businesses and organizations might think that they will remain unaffected, they would still be well-advised to ensure that an up-to-date business continuity plan is in place. Extreme heat has caused unforeseen damages to roadways and other infrastructure, which could affect employees' commutes. Global warming or not, companies need to properly prepare.