By Tennille Tracy
WASHINGTON--The month of June was the fourth-hottest June on record, a federal agency reported Monday, lending ammunition to environmental groups that are stepping up pressure on lawmakers to address climate change and adopt stricter controls on greenhouse-gas emissions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that the average global temperature on land and water reached 61 degrees Fahrenheit in June--about one degree warmer than the 20th-century average and the fourth-hottest June since records began in 1880.
Monday's disclosure followed the release of data in June, also from the NOAA, that showed the U.S. in particular was experiencing record warm weather, with the stretch from June 2011 to June 2012 being the warmest 12 months on record.
Pointing to these high global temperatures and a recent string of extreme-weather events, environmental groups are seizing the opportunity to call on lawmakers to aggressively limit greenhouse gases.
"Congress may be loath to tackle an issue that has become a lightning rod for America's red-blue divide, but this is a threat that should transcend politics and receive bipartisan action," World Resources Institute director Jennifer Morgan said in a blog post recently.
Climate change recently took a more central role in the debate between President Barack Obama and likely GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
In a debate between representatives of the two campaigns last week, an Obama surrogate said the U.S. should press for an international treaty on global warming and move forward with domestic limits on carbon dioxide.
A Romney representative said U.S. companies shouldn't be forced to comply with stringent carbon standards when their foreign competitors operate without them.
The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of finalizing rules that will cap carbon-dioxide emissions at newly built power plants. Experts said the rules, along with cheap natural-gas prices, will make it hard for power-plant operators to justify the construction of new coal-fired plants.
On Monday, Dominion Resources Inc. (D) Chief Executive Tom Farrell urged the EPA to loosen the standards because, he said, a power system that relies heavily on natural gas alone to generate electricity will expose ratepayers to swings in natural-gas prices.
Write to Tennille Tracy at email@example.com.