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The Climate Post: Record Temperatures May Bring More Than Just Early Spring Flowers

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Washington, D.C.'s famed cherry blossoms -- now celebrating their centennial -- decided to spring one on visitors, peaking well before the arrival of most Cherry Blossom Festival-goers. Spring's forward leap is also causing coupling confusion among flowers and pollinators.

Above-average temperatures are responsible for these early blooms, marking this the fourth warmest winter on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA predicts the warm streak will continue for the next three months -- particularly in the already steamy southern states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Several newly released studies make the connection between this extreme weather and man-made heat-trapping pollution, says blogger Theo Spencer. Updated records of global temperatures, meanwhile, indicate the world has warmed by around 0.75 Celsius since 1900.

These warming temperatures may also be putting some five million people in the United States at risk for increased coastal flooding, according to a new Climate Central study. South Florida, southern Louisiana and the Carolinas top the list of states with the most land to lose if sea level rises one meter. By the end of the century rising seas could cost near $2 trillion if temperatures keep rising. Nearly $1.4 trillion in costs could be avoided, Reuters reports, if temperature increases were limited to near two degrees Celsius.

And with the spring thaw comes reports of the ongoing melting of Arctic sea ice, opening new shipping lanes in the harsh region. One agency is looking for ways to use underwater sensors to handle the increased activity without harming the environment.

Cheap Natural Gas, Costly Crude

Mild temperatures are also driving natural gas futures lower, with prices hovering around their 10-year low. The dip in natural gas prices is bad news for investors, but good for farmers who will get an extra boost in the form of low fertilizer prices, says Forbes.

While the shale boom and warmer Eastern climes are causing natural gas prices to plummet, the upward march at the gasoline pump continues unabated. According to AAA, gasoline is over $4 a gallon in seven states -- Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York and Washington -- as well as the District of Columbia. A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly gas prices and domestic oil production by the Associated Press revealed there is no link between U.S. oil production and gas prices at the pump. Meanwhile a new survey finds a number of academic economists say market forces, not government policy, account for changes in gasoline prices.

The high prices, up more than 17 percent this year, are taking a toll on consumer confidence, nudging sales of electric motorcycles, raising the price of hybrids and causing an uneasiness in the markets.

President's Energy Tour

A new poll suggests persistently high gasoline prices are eroding President Obama's public approval numbers. The White House points to new Energy Information Administration data to say the president is doing more than enough to produce energy on federal lands, while others -- citing the same data -- claim he is doing too little.

To underscore his efforts, the president set out on a four-state, two-day tour that wrapped up in Cushing, Okla. Politico reports the president will sign a directive expediting permits for the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline in Cushing -- where the southern pipeline is slated to begin. Midwest oil hits a bottleneck in Cushing on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, according to CNN.

Signing the permit is a move sure to be unpopular with environmental groups and Obama faced taste of green anger in Columbus, Ohio, where he concluded his tour with an address at Ohio State University. Students, including some former Obama campaign workers, rallied to push the president away from fossil fuels, according to 350.org. However, a new a Gallup poll released today shows 57 percent of Americans support the Keystone pipeline

In Cushing, Obama talked about his commitment to domestic energy production -- dubbed the "all of the above" energy strategy. Author Bill McKibben blasts this strategy: "Burning all the oil you can and then putting up a solar panel is like drinking six martinis at lunch and then downing a Vitamin Water." Others oppose it for different reasons: the National Review's Jim Geraghty says it "rejects many options," while Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum worries about policies "that clearly prioritize favored energy sources over other energy sources."

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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