Climate change is having a steroidal effect on extreme weather. A summer featuring the hottest July on record in the continental United States punctuated a series of costly and deadly weather events.

This week, we released a new report, “Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters” [PDF]. The report looks at the impacts of 2012’s record-breaking heat on agriculture, wildfires, storms, and water levels. The report found the links between extreme weather and climate to be abundant, robust, and well-documented in peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Here are a few highlights from our report:

  • Wildfires: This year, wildfires burned more than 8.6 million acres, an area the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
  • Drought: This summer, more than half of the counties in the United States have been designated disaster zones. The 2012 drought is on par with the worst months from the multi-year droughts of the Dust Bowl era.
  • Record temperature: August 2012 was the 330th consecutive month with global temperatures above the 20th century average. There has not been a single month cooler than the 20th century global average since February 1985.
  • Sea ice melt: Arctic sea ice coverage shrank to a record low 1.32 million square miles, 18 percent below the previous record set in 2007.

For decades, we have been fighting for a cleaner, safer environment — a future where our children and grandchildren never have to worry about the air they breathe or the water they drink.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In this Congress, we have witnessed an all-out assault on the environment and the proliferation of polluter giveaways. While Mitt Romney jokes about the dangers of global warming, his Republican allies in the House have voted more than 300 times to undermine environmental protections during the last 18 months.

Carbon pollution is mixing a deadly cocktail of heat and extreme weather that is costing lives and billions of dollars in damages. Natural disasters in 2011 resulted in the most costly toll in history — $154 billion worth of worldwide losses from floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other extreme weather events. But the Republican response to this threat has been to deny the science and block action.

While a strategy of denial and delay may benefit polluters, it’s not what the American people want their Congress to be doing. A recent poll from the Civil Society Institute [PDF] indicated that 81 percent of Americans are concerned about “increased drought” and extreme weather events. Clearly, now is the time for climate action. It’s what the planet needs and it’s what the public wants. We must create a sea change in Congress before we fall victim to sea rise.

Please follow us on Twitter for breaking news and information in the battle against polluters: @MarkeyMemo and @WaxmanClimate.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!