Because I love the smell of controversy in the morning...

NASA has once again stoked the climate change debate, calling 2013 the seventh warmest year on record since 1880. According to a report from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), 2013 tied 2009 and 2006 for that dubious honor, with the average temperature in 2013 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit (14.6 Celsius), which is 1.1 F (0.6 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

"Long-term trends in surface temperatures are unusual and 2013 adds to the evidence for ongoing climate change," GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said. "While one year or one season can be affected by random weather events, this analysis shows the necessity for continued, long-term monitoring."

“Climatologist”, of course, being shorthand for a climate change scientist — which implies a certain predisposition to their field of study — the GISS noted that with the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.

Naturally, this only includes data since 1880, which is a miniscule fragment of Earth’s history (and precludes any possibility of discussing a truly long-term climate trend). And 2013 bore witness to a rather dramatic development up north, where the Arctic ice caps actually grew by nearly a million square miles, an increase of 60% year over year. Climatologists had previously predicted an “ice-free Arctic” by 2013.

Still, we’re definitely experiencing some sort of climate trend. But is it anthropogenic, aka man-caused, global warming? Is it a warming trend at all, or are we actually headed toward a new ice age (or at least global cooling)? And the trillion-dollar question: What — if anything — should be done about it?

Should the U.S. ratify the Kyoto Protocols, tying our climate change policy (and trillions of dollars) to international law? The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is actually a large-scale version of a domestic cap-and-trade scheme that leads AGW discussions in this country. Under cap-and-trade, companies are awarded for keeping pollutants under a predetermined level.

Federal authorities issue carbon credits, which can be sold to enable higher levels of emissions. Environmentally friendly companies thus earn a tidy profit by selling off their excess permits. Critics claim this would cripple certain industries, which would be forced under federal law to, in effect, subsidize “green” companies.

But is the situation so dire — and the data so irrefutable — that we should act before it’s too late? As always, I leave the answer up to my readers. I’m just a lowly editor, but if we are to act on AGW/climate change, it’s the engineers who will manufacture the solutions. Either way, the opinion of an engineer carries more weight than 10 politicians.

So let your opinion be heard! Is NASA’s data cause for action? Or does it fail to take into account relevant info?