June 2011 to June 2012 was the hottest 12-month period ever recorded in the mainland United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report from the National Climatic Data Center does not even include early July’s scorching temperatures that broke more than 2,000 individual heat records across the nation. The heat wave resulted in the deaths of 22 people and left millions without power for days.

Climate change skeptics like George Will wrote the heat wave off to “summer,” but atmospheric scientists around the globe agree that we are approaching or have already passed a tipping point on the environment. The governments of the world failed to take any action at the Rio+20 summit in June, and last week was a taste of what Americans can expect if our leaders continue to fail to address climate change. In other parts of the world, the consequences of inaction will be more severe: Famines, droughts, hurricanes, rising seas and extreme temperatures are just a selection of what we can look forward to. The only chance we have at staving off global catastrophe is taking swift, cohesive action. The future is in our hands. — CN


[The report] does incorporate the warmest March ever recorded as well as extreme heat in June, which also helped make the first six months of 2012 the warmest recorded of any January-June stretch.

In the last half of June alone, 170 all-time temperature records were matched or smashed in cities across the lower 48 states. The U.S. State Climate Extremes Committee also is reviewing whether 113-degree temperatures in South Carolina and 112-degree recordings in Georgia qualify as all-time records in those two states.

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