In fact, the 16 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997, the new data confirm, contributing to widening deserts, rising seas, withering drought, ravaging storms, blistering heat and other climate change impacts reaching from the tiniest African village to our own backyards.

Here in the United States, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska and California all wrapped up their hottest years on record. California remains mired in the grip of a three-year drought, its worst in centuries. The Northeast is still rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy. And that was just one of the climate-related disasters that cost this country an estimated $139 billion in damages in 2012 alone.

Above and beyond the economic costs, climate change has created a widening humanitarian crisis noted by spiritual leaders around the world. For example, Pope Francis is expected to publish an encyclical on the state of the world’s environment, singling out climate change as an urgent challenge to global stewardship. It’s reported that he’ll call on people of all faiths to embrace our obligation to protect future generations from this grave and gathering scourge.