Warming Leading to Record Temps, Melting

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Last month was among the top five warmest Junes on record, according to new data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The average global temperature, according to NOAA, was 60.54 degrees Fahrenheit—1.15 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees Fahrenheit. June’s record heat extended the world’s streak of warmer-than-average months to 340 and resulted in a roughly 63 percent decline in Northern Hemisphere snow cover—the third lowest cover on record.

Meanwhile, a new analysis in the journal Nature says manmade warming in the Arctic is an “economic time bomb,” and policy makers should not focus solely on the benefits of an increasingly open space in the region. Melting of ice caps—which trap billions of tons of the greenhouse gas methane—could cost the world more than $60 trillion. That figure nearly equals the size of the 2012 global economy.

“Estimates are that the economic benefits of Arctic shipping and oil exploration will be four orders of magnitude less than the additional costs analysed here,” said co-author Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge, who calculated the average global economic consequences of the release of 50 gigatonnes of methane over the course of one decade from thawing undersea permafrost with his fellow Dutch and British co-authors.

Given methane’s potency, the authors say such a release could increase the methane content of the atmosphere twelve-fold and raise temperatures by as much as 1.3 degrees Celsius—impacts most likely to be felt in developing countries.

McCarthy Confirmed after Record-Long Wait

Five months after President Barack Obama selected Gina McCarthy to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she overcame Republican objections and won Senate confirmation by a 59 to 40 vote. McCarthy, who oversaw the EPA’s Air and Radiation Office in Obama’s first term, replaces Lisa Jackson as the 13th administrator of the agency.

McCarthy will now be charged with carrying out the Obama Administration’s planned regulations on climate change, Obama announced in June.

“We have a clear responsibility to act now on climate change,” McCarthy offered by video message Monday. “That’s what President Obama has called on us and the American people [to do], so that we protect future generations. And he recently said the question now is whether we have the courage to act before it’s too late. This agency has the courage to act. We can make it happen.”

At the heart of Obama’s climate plan are efforts to limit emissions from new and existing power plants, representing about a third percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. House Republicans, this week, approved a bill that cuts the EPA’s 2014 budget by a third. It blocks federal rules to limit carbon emissions from power plants and the Tier 3 rule to reduce sulfur content in gasoline (subscription required).

Moniz Restructuring U.S. Energy Department

Ernest Moniz, another key person on Obama’s climate and energy team, is doing some reorganizing of the leadership in his department. In a recent memo to U.S. Energy Department staff, Moniz details the new structure, which he says is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of departmental operations.

“We must have the ability to closely integrate and move quickly among basic science, applied research, technology demonstration and deployment,” said Moniz. “The innovation chain is not linear but, rather, one that requires feedback among its various elements. This is particularly the case with regard to clean energy as we work to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan.”

Spill Less Damaging than 2010 BP Gusher

Fire caused a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico to partially collapse, just a day after a ruptured natural gas well on the Hercules offshore rig forced 44 people to evacuate. Hercules, on Wednesday, was working to plug the leak on the rig, which is roughly 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana. This latest offshore oil rig incident, Huffington Post reports, should not be as damaging as the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, because it appears to involve gas that disperses relatively easily.

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.