On Thursday evening, in the packed foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, people lined up to try on 3D outer space goggles, explore cutting-edge stream water models, and meet the brilliant scientific minds who worked on these projects.
Hardly anyone would play Russian roulette with a one-in-six chance of fatality. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) drew this analogy at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, wondering why the United States would take a gamble on climate action when 97 percent of climate scientists agree the climate is changing. At the roundtable hosted by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), scientists and climate policy experts discussed the scientific basis for climate action and the international ramifications of climate policies.
Early last week amidst the anticipated unveiling of the president’s budget proposal, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment discussed an equally contentious and ongoing topic – regulations promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Arguments during the hearing echoed those heard before; committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) stated federal government regulations micromanage states and theorized a “unilateral environmental agenda,” while Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) insisted they provide an even playing field for all Americans and are a response to “failure of the states to safeguard their residents from pollution in the from air, water, and soil.”
When the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, the agency posted online (as per their norm) hundreds of pages of technical documents, including underlying data, calculations, analyses, and memorandums. Their documentation, such as the Regulatory Impact Analysis, includes review of peer-reviewed literature, and the rule itself (which also used peer-reviewed science to underpin it) received unprecedented input through a number of outreach efforts, including 4.3 million public comments submitted during the six-month public comment period. For an agency so committed to transparency and the use of science for the public good, it should seem surprising that there are efforts by some in Congress to increase this transparency, public participation, and use of good science – but at the expense of allowing EPA to effectively do its job.
A 2015 report card that tallies up the number of graduate students and postdoctoral appointees (postdocs) in science and engineering fields in the U.S. was released this month.
At a time of acute partisan rhetoric, it’s good to remember that our elected leaders have a long track record of coming together around an issue that impacts us all: science. The passage of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) just before the holidays powerfully underscores that reality. Nothing advances our society more than acquiring new knowledge. As the AICA put it, “Scientific and technological advancement have been the largest drivers of economic growth in the last 50 years.” American discoveries have helped create industries and jobs, protect our war fighter. and have given us a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves.
The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to human activity is increasing global average surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and acidifying the ocean (1). Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations (1). Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy—a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition. But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow. This Policy Forum will focus on the four reasons I believe the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.
The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California, in Mexico. Today, the species is critically endangered, with less than 60 animals left in the wild, thanks to fishing nets to catch fish and shrimp for sale in Mexico and America. The animal is an accidental victim of the fishing industry, as are many other marine mammals.
The recent U.S. presidential election loomed large last week at the world’s largest annual gathering of Earth and space scientists, the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. When Eos asked some of the more than 20,000 scientists at the meeting what they thought the election’s outcome means for the Earth and space sciences, we heard a wide range of responses, from dismissal of the election’s importance to deep concern.
While students around the country were recalling organic chemistry processes and physics formulas during their end-of-semester exams last Friday, Congress was also at work. Following in the Senate’s footsteps, the House passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), a reauthorization of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology Education and Science Act of 2007, or America COMPETES, which was last reauthorized in 2010. The 2016 bill outlines policies for the National Science Foundation (NSF); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and other federal science and innovation programs, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs.