Sunday, March 25, 2007

Literary Warrant [3]

Update: As illustrated by the first post below, a good deal of valuable information may be found in reports to Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), although these reports have been notoriously elusive. Now it appears they will be all the more difficult to obtain.

A third installment of recent—that is, all but the January 2006 UW webcast on disaster planning—news, reports, and commentary.
  • Congressional Research Service (via National Council for Science and the Environment), Roundup of Recent/Updated CRS Reports: Environment (March 14, 2007)

    Docuticker's occasional enumeration of links to PDFs of CRS reports, including works on the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and "sound science," stratospheric ozone depletion, and others.

  • Viren Doshi, Gary Schulman & Daniel Gabaldon, Lights! Water! Motion!, strategy+business

    "The world's urban infrastructure needs a $40 trillion makeover. Here’s how to reinvigorate our electricity, water, and transportation systems by integrating finance, governance, technology, and design."

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, State of the World's Forests 2007

    "Most countries in Europe and North America have succeeded in reversing centuries of deforestation and are now showing a net increase in forest area. Most developing countries, especially those in tropical areas, continue to experience high rates of deforestation and forest degradation. The countries that face the most serious challenges in achieving sustainable forest management are, by and large, the countries with the highest rates of poverty and civil conflict."—Foreword.

  • Frédéric Forge, Library of Parliament (Canada), Science and Technology Division, Biofuels—An Energy, Environmental or Agricultural Policy? (February 8, 2007)

    "Global production of biofuels is booming, as higher oil prices and technological breakthroughs have made it a more profitable business. Other key factors are the political will in most industrialized countries to find a reliable source of energy, and the implementation of new incentive programs; these have stimulated the industry’s growth and helped develop a level of infrastructure that can take advantage of favourable economic conditions."—Introduction.

    "The expansion of biofuel production will depend largely on government policies with ambitious goals, such as decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the current data, biofuels alone will not enable these goals to be met. Their advantages, however, are expected to increase if technologies that allow for the use of feedstocks that are less demanding to produce become more attractive economically.

    "The effect of future biofuel market expansions on agriculture should also be monitored. Despite strong hopes for higher grain prices, there is still much uncertainty about the effect of an increased demand for grains for biofuel production. Food and feed markets could well be affected, and production adjustments may offset higher prices to the farmer."—Conclusion.

  • The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World (MIT 2007)

    "An interdisciplinary MIT faculty group "examines the role of coal in a world where constraints on carbon dioxide emissions are adopted to mitigate global climate change."—Exectuive Summary.

  • Law Librarian Blog, New CFR Book Warning America Remains Vulnerable (March 15, 2007)

    A publisher's description (including an excerpt) of Stephen E. Flynn, The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation (2007). "We have learned little from the cataclysms of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to catastrophe, America is living on borrowed time—and squandering it."—Book Description.

  • Robert Meltz, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, Congressional Research Service (CRS), The Supreme Court Takes Five Environmental Cases for Its 2006-2007 Term

    "The Supreme Court has accepted five environmental cases for argument during its 2006-2007 term, a significant proportion of the 72 cases it will hear during the term. Two cases involve the Clean Air Act: one asking whether the act allows EPA to regulate vehicle emissions based on their global warming impacts; the other, whether an hourly or annual test must be used in determining whether a modification of a stationary source makes it a 'new source' requiring a permit. A third case asks whether an EPA decision to delegate the Clean Water Act discharge permitting program to a state is subject to Fish and Wildlife Service consultation under the Endangered Species Act. The fourth case deals with whether a liable party under the Superfund Act may seek contribution under one section of the act even though barred from doing so under another section because no EPA civil actions have been filed at the site. And the fifth case addresses whether county 'flow control' ordinances evade the strict scrutiny test for compliance with the dormant commerce clause or indeed evade the clause entirely, owing to the fact that the designated collection facility is publicly rather than privately owned."—Summary.

  • Slashdot: News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters, Global Warming Endangered by Hot Air? (March 17, 2007)

    "The BBC reports that leading climate researchers are concerned that the tone of speculation surrounding many reports (scientific as well as in the media) could be making it more difficult for legitimate science to make a case for the future." This Slashdot post, replete with the usual assortment of comments—fair, facile, and funny—links to the BBC story, which identifies the recent report, Sense About Science: Making Sense of the Weather and Climate ("An introduction to forecasts and predictions of weather events and climate change"), prepared by scientists identified in the story.

  • Robert Stavins, Judson Jaffe & Todd Schatzki, Too Good to Be True? An Examination of Three Economic Assessments of California Climate Change Policy (Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Faculty Research Working Papers Series, no. RWP07-016) (March 2007)

    "We find that although opportunities may exist for some no-cost emission reductions, these California studies substantially underestimate the cost of meeting California’s 2020 target. The studies underestimate costs by omitting important components of the costs of emission reduction efforts, and by overestimating offsetting savings that some of those efforts yield through improved energy efficiency. In some cases, the studies focus on the costs of particular actions to reduce emissions, but fail to consider the effectiveness and costs of policies that would be necessary to bring about such actions. While quantifying the full extent of the resulting cost underestimation is beyond the scope of our study, the underestimation is clearly economically significant. A few of the identified flaws individually lead to underestimation of annual costs on the order of billions of dollars. Hence, these studies do not offer reliable estimates of the cost of meeting California’s 2020 target. Better analyses are needed to inform policymakers."—Executive Summary.

  • United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Committee Examines Political Interference with Climate Science (March 19, 2007)

    "This hearing examined evidence and allegations of political interference with the work of government climate change scientists under the current Administration." Links to testimony, exhibits, a supplemental memorandum, and a video of the proceedings are included, courtesy of this beSpacific post, which also links to earlier hearings in January. According to the supplemental memorandum prepared for the March 19 hearing, "The CEQ documents appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change. The documents show that Mr. Cooney and other CEQ officials made at least 181 edits to the Administration's Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties. They also made at least 113 edits to the plan to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming. Other Administration documents that were heavily edited by Mr. Cooney and CEQ include EPA's Report on the Environment andthe annual report to Congress entitled Our Changing Planet."

  • University of Washington, Webcast: Regional Disaster Planning Efforts & The Biology of Pandemic Influenza (January 30, 2006)

    "This three-part talk addresses how Harborview Medical Center is working together with the hospitals in Seattle, King County, and King County Public Health to create an emergency health care coalition—of hospitals, pandemic flu planning and emergency preparedness, and the biology of pandemic influenza—and what we have learned from it in the past."—Description. Speakers include the CEO, an administrative director, and a professor of medicine at the Medical Center.

  • Waxman Introduces the Safe Climate Act of 2007 (March 20, 2007)

    "The Safe Climate Act freezes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, at the 2009 levels. Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990. These goals are comparable to emissions reduction goals adopted by many states and called for by leading American companies, small businesses, religious organizations, environmental advocates, and others."—Summary of the Bill. Includes links to the full text of the bill and a section-by-section summary.

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