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.
Dr. France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), selected Dr. William E. Easterling to lead NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences. The Directorate supports basic research to advance knowledge and innovation in atmospheric, earth, ocean, and polar sciences, providing over 60 percent of federal funding for basic research in the geosciences at academic institutions across the country.
Instead of sitting quietly at a desk with a pencil and notebook, schoolchildren are now encouraged to explore virtual ecosystems through an online game, build their own website, or propose and conduct an experiment. Technology and innovation are helping education become more interactive, engaging, creative, and hands-on in the 21st century, and improving literacy in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has become increasing important to prepare the next generation of America’s workforce.
A ‘Steps of the Scientific Method’ poster hangs in a middle school science lab. Students quickly learn that during the ‘results’ stage, if the outcome is not what you expect, you cannot just go back and change the data. This principle is taught from the very beginning of science education, but a Department of Interior (DOI) Scientific Integrity Review Panel found that a few employees at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) failed to adhere to this while collecting data from a mass spectrometer at the Energy Resources Program (ERP) Geochemistry Laboratory in Colorado.
The leaders of 29 science organizations are urging President-elect Donald Trump to meet with them and quickly appoint a science adviser. Signers of the new Trump letter include most major science groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Geophysical Union. Appointment of an adviser would help the president-elect analyze effective ways to use science and technology to address national challenges, the leaders said.
A teacher in Boise checks his weather app and packs an umbrella while a Miami businesswoman decides to work from home because the local news announces her usual route to work is flooded. What do these two have in common? The information they rely on for their daily activities depends on observational data from the ocean. Some ocean observations provide real-time results, but others must be continuously collected for years before significant patterns and changes can be detected and analyzed. Due to the vital importance of observing systems to the benefit of our nation’s economy, national security, and scientific enterprise, the National Academy of Science’s Ocean Studies Board ad hoc observations committee held a two-day workshop to hear expert opinions on ocean observation systems as they draft a report prioritizing imperative ocean variables for climate research.