Society, throughout history, has embraced “truths” later revealed to be false: The Earth is flat, the Sun revolves around the Earth and, now, climate change is a hoax. Strong evidence – including the fact that the Arctic ice melt has reached the lowest point in history – shows that climate change is real. Yet Republican members of Congress still refuse to take meaningful steps to address what can be done to protect our planet from this growing threat.

The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest on record since record keeping began in 1895. June, July and August produced the third-hottest summer ever recorded. The nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature for the year– a full degree higher than in 2006, which, until now, had the hottest first eight months of any year.

We are experiencing the effects of these ever-more-extreme conditions daily. This summer, 40 out of 50 states had drought-designated counties with conditions severe enough to be eligible for federal aid. Almost two-thirds of the nation experienced moderate to severe drought conditions, a 30 percent increase from last year, when one-third of the country witnessed such conditions. Even more staggering, 80 percent of our agricultural land has been affected by drought, which means higher food prices at a time when Americans are already under financial strain.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed increasing numbers of wildfires, violent hurricanes and tornados, and unprecedented drought. Americans understand what’s happening, and they want us to do something about it. A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several recent high-profile weather and climatic events worse, according to a George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication study. A second report from the same center shows that 72 percent of Americans believe that developing clean energies should be a national priority.

The public is on our side here. It’s a wonder to me why my Republican colleagues in Congress continue to deny the reality of a warming planet and the role of humans in causing it. Maybe they don’t see the opportunities that come with addressing the problem head-on.