Changing Planet

As Country Breaks Heat Record, Studies Analyze Climate Connection

The same week the continental United States broke its record for the hottest six months in a calendar year, the United Nations announced 2011 was among the 15 warmest so far. Climate change may have increased the chances of the types of extreme weather seen in 2011, and may have been heavily influenced by a weather pattern called La Niña.

The odds of such record U.S. heat being a random coincidence—while not 1 in 1,594,323, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center said in a new report—are perhaps on the order of 1 in 100,000. One NOAA scientist claims there is an 80 percent chance the record heat can be attributed to climate change. Meanwhile, Meteorologist David Epstein called the extremes “simply a reality of nature.”

This report, and another released this week by NOAA and the American Meteorological Society, link the recent weather extremes and records to manmade warming. The Guardian points to air conditioning as one modern convenience increasing our climate risk—now responsible for almost half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Ultimately, how people perceive the science behind numbers like these may hinge on their political ideologies. One University of North Carolina researcher found trust and confidence in science has declined since 1974 among people who are politically conservative.

Renewable Energy Investment, Generation Grow

As debates over a renewable fuel standard for transportation hit a political divide, global clean energy investments are rising—roughly 24 percent. Renewable energy generation, overall, is projected to grow more than 40 percent in the next five years. China is expected to be the largest contributor to this growth, and globally hydropower is predicted to lead—followed closely by wind, bioenergy and solar power.

This growth is amid forecasts world oil demand will decrease in 2012. Slower economic growth was cited by the International Energy Administration’s as the reason for the 130,000-barrel-a-day cut.

The U.S. still fared poorly on energy efficiency rankings. The American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy used 27 metrics to calculate the ninth-place ranking among 12 major economies. Countries including China, France, Italy and Australia ranked higher than the U.S.—with the United Kingdom taking the top spot.

Judge: Air Should Be Treated Like Water

One expert says attorneys tasked with arguing climate change lawsuits could benefit from a Texas judge’s recent ruling that the air and atmosphere must be protected for public use. Adam Abrams, an attorney representing Texas, said the ruling could be a persuasive argument in lawsuits designed to force states to cut emissions, pending in 11 other states. “I think it’s huge that we got a judge to acknowledge that the atmosphere is a public trust asset and the air is a public trust asset,” Abrams said. “It’s the first time we’ve had verbiage like this come out of one of these cases.”

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad. In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.
  • John Dodds

    OK, so we had 2 La Ninas & the warmest year (followed by the coldest Winter of 2011-12, SO WHAT? WHAT CHANGED? Why did we have Southern drought in Australia & Brazil and a northern Russian heat wave in the first half of 2011, followed by a breaking of the drought and the coldest winter in 2011-12 in decades?
    WHAT CHANGED? Naming 2 La Ninas in a row does NOT tell us WHY? It is scientific idiocy UNLESS you can identify where the total amount of energy came from & went to? Or is NOAA now claiming that La Nina now creates its own energy out of nothingness? La Nina is a NAME for a specific set of Conditions. It does NOT identify where the change of energy comes from. OR maybe NOAA does NOT understand basic science.
    I suggest that you might first identify that planetary orbits impact the amount of energy transferred INTO the Earth, ie the moon causes a transfer of energy that causes tidal energy CHANGES. Likewise the 60 cycle of the Jupiter/Saturn resonance orbit resulted in Jupiter being at its closest point in October 2011. Jupiter CHANGED from adding more energy in early 2011 to suddenly adding less energy. at Christmas time. Maybe you can even say that Jupiter’s energy transfer CAUSES La Ninas. Because the mere existence of La Ninas sure didn’t change the amount of Energy coming in.
    Are you NOAA scientific experts so incredibly STUPID that you can’t identify the CHANGE in conditions?- see the paper Gravity causes Climate change in for more details)

  • Mark Decelle

    Have we reached the tipping point? Is it too late already to save the planet. No Americans I know cncern themselves with real change issues. A couple of solar options and hybred cars is not going to cut it.

  • J Williams

    Giving David Epstein’s remark equal placement in this article to NOAA’s analysis is a great disservice. What credentials does he carry in this field? Placing the two side by side is a joke.

  • […] Country Breaks Heat Record, Studies Analyze Climate Connection. The story from National Geographic, here’s an excerpt: “The same week the continental United States broke its record for […]

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