The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

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.

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