Opinion: It was the fifth hottest year on Earth. Do something!

AP file photo by Noah Berger / In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, embers light up hillsides as the Dixie Fire burns near Milford in Lassen County, California. World leaders have been trying to do something about climate change for 29 years but in that time Earth has gotten much hotter and more dangerous.

It was a hot time on this old Earth - all year long in 2021. It was the fifth-hottest year on record and one of the seven hottest on record in the past seven years.

Let's repeat that. Seven years of record hottest Earth years - 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.

European scientists announced the finding Monday and it was chronicled in a story by The New York Times printed in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Tuesday.

Those same scientists caution that the fact this year's worldwide average temperature didn't beat the No. 1 record, a virtual tie between 2020 and 2016, is no reason to stop worrying about global warming's ominous grip on the planet.

Not when both the United States and Europe had their warmest summers on the books, Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus Climate Change Services, told the NYT. And not when higher temperatures around the Arctic caused it to rain for the first time at the Greenland ice sheet's normally frigid summit.

OK. We get it. Here in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia, it's cold outside and may even be snowing. But did you get that part about "rain for the first time" at the Greenland ice sheet's normally frigid summit?

The events of 2021 "are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work toward reducing net carbon emissions," the NYT story quotes Buontempo.

All climate change is both local (we'll get to that later) and global.

The mean global temperature last year was 2 to 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than before industrialization put humans to pumping lots of carbon dioxide into the air.

Copernicus said its preliminary analysis of global satellite measurements found concentrations of heat-trapping gases continued to rise last year, helped by 1,850 megatons of carbon emissions from wildfires worldwide.

Wait, you say? We can't help wildfires? Phooey! Of course we can. Climate change is the root cause of years-long drought and excessive heat in the west. One lightning strike in Oregon, one ill-timed California gender-reveal fireworks celebration, one escaped spark from a trash fire in Colorado and parched grasses and forests become another inferno.

But, as we note often, climate change impacts are not just about hotter temperatures. Those impacts also are about extremes.

Even as the western side of North America experienced extreme and record heat, drought and wildfires last summer and a small town in British Columbia hit 121.3 degrees, most of Australia, parts of Antarctica and areas of western Siberia experienced below-normal temperatures. Severe rainfall and flooding devastated Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. And Waverly, Tennessee.

The Waverly flood in August killed 20 people, destroyed 270 homes, severely damaged another 160 and took out houses, roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines. The National Weather Service said the State Climate Extremes Committee voted unanimously last month to confirm the record of 20.73 inches of rain in 24 hours bested the previous record of 13.6 inches in Milan in September 1982.

Most of the more recent climate change forecasts put the Southeastern U.S. in an often wetter and sometimes warmer climate change scenario. We're already seeing it.

Rainfall to the tune of nearly 63 inches in 2021 across the Tennessee Valley was 20% above normal last year, and rainfall was up here for the fourth consecutive year. Our region's normal is nearer to 55 inches.

Heat, too, has been with us more abundantly. The Tennessee Valley Authority in late July faced its highest summertime peak since 2012.

And we're seeing tornadoes shifting east onto a Dixie path - and later into the year. Just last month, the calendar said December but the warm moist air felt more like springtime. Add an eastbound storm front guided by a La Nina and we had a recipe for tornadoes, including one that became the longest tracked one ever on record. Many scientists say warm weather persisting into winter will become more common as the planet warms.

But don't just put your head in the sand. There is something you can do.

Educate yourself about climate change and make better choices. Like moving to LED light bulbs. Do you how many hours you can leave an LED bulb burning before you produce the same amount of greenhouse gas as running a single load in a clothes dryer? About 300 hours, or 13 days straight.

Here's something else you can do. Lean on your Republican lawmakers and recalcitrant Democratic lawmakers to pass the Build Back Better plan.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, signed into law in November, will help with climate change in that it is a "once-in-a-generation investment" of "crucial funding to advance carbon capture utilization, sequestration and removal; hydrogen and critical minerals and battery recycling; upgrading transmission infrastructure and modernizing the electric grid; energy efficiency, weatherization and more."

But the Build Back Better plan, even Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's slimmed down $1.8 trillion counteroffer (from which he has now backed away) contains a much larger investment in combating global warming. It would boost clean energy through a $555 billion package of grants, tax credits and other policies.

Don't be quiet about the need for this. Tell our lawmakers they must do more. Now.