John Ashbery, Moon Glow, 2008 (collage)
The spoon went in
stirred the coffee,
was removed and lay
on the saucer, silent.
The lost library
about where they'd end up,
realizing they already had.
—from John Ashbery, A November, A Worldly Country (New York: Harper Collins, 2007)
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure (March 25, 2009)
"The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure finds not much has changed since the last edition four years ago. Years of delayed maintenance and lack of modernization have left Americans with an outdated and failing infrastructure that cannot meet our needs."—Preface.
- Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, Hazard & Risk Science Review 2008
"The last 12 months has seen two major catastrophes happening within a few weeks of one another. The arrival of Cyclone Nargis in Burma triggered the most lethal natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami, while just a few weeks later, China experienced its most destructive earthquake in more than three decades. Together, these events highlight the fact that natural hazards are continuing to exact ever greater tolls, both in rural and urban settings, and in developing and developed nations alike.
"As we report in Hazard & Risk Science Review 2008, this is a trend that is certain to continue, driven perhaps—in the case of wind-related disasters—by a changing climate, but primarily by rapidly-expanding populations in regions of high vulnerability and exposure, exacerbated by poor preparedness. Here, we present a digest of the latest peer-reviewed papers that address those issues, such as hazard prediction, modelling, and characterisation that, together, aim to diminish vulnerability and exposure and reduce disaster risk. Our aim continues to be to improve industry awareness and understanding of natural catastrophes and the processes that drive them, to limit the number of shocks and surprises arising from hazardous events, and to help drive more informed business decisions on a day-to-day basis."—Author's note.
- Dan Bodansky, Opinio Juris (blog), Human Rights and Climate Change (April 1, 2009)
"The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution last week on 'Human Rights and Climate Change,' in follow up to the January report by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on the Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights.
"The Council resolution is significant less for what it says than for the fact of its adoption, which reflects the growing interconnections between the worlds of climate change and human rights. The resolution notes that 'climate change-related effects have a wide range of implications...for the enjoyment of human rights' and 'affirms' that 'human rights obligations and commitments have the potential to inform and strengthen international and national policy-making in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence, legitimacy and sustainable outcomes.' But the Council’s only concrete decision was to hold a panel discussion on climate change and human rights next year."
- Clare Breidenich & Daniel Bodansky, University of Georgia School of Law, Measurement, Reporting and Verification in a Post-2012 Climate Agreement (Pew Center on Global Climate Change) (April 2009)
"MRV can serve a wide range of purposes in a new climate agreement. It can provide an important means of tracking parties’ progress individually and collectively toward the Convention’s ultimate objective. The very process of measurement can facilitate parties’ actions by establishing baselines and helping to identify mitigation potentials. The reporting of actions can allow for their recognition internationally. The review or verification of parties’ actions can enhance action through expert advice on opportunities for improvement. MRV could play a particular role in the linkage between developing countries’ action and support for those actions. Finally, credible MRV can strengthen mutual confidence in countries’ actions and in the regime, thereby enabling a stronger collective effort.
"This report considers options for MRV in a new climate agreement. It begins by looking at basic issues in measurement, reporting and verification, and how they are addressed in different international regimes. It then evaluates existing requirements and mechanisms under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol that are relevant to MRV. Finally, it outlines a range of options for adapting these mechanisms and establishing new ones for purposes of MRV in a new agreement."—Introduction.
- Nicholas Burger et al., RAND Environment, Energy, and Economic Development, Evaluating Options for U.S. Greenhouse-Gas Mitigation Using Multiple Criteria (Occasional Paper) (2009)
"Choosing a set of policy responses to mitigate greenhouse gases (GHGs) responsible for climate change is one of the great challenges that the United States faces in the coming years. Many policy options emphasize overall cost-effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions. In the search for options that are effective and politically feasible, however, other concerns have comparable importance. Mitigating GHGs in practice will require balancing cost-effectiveness and other objectives that reflect the institutional and political realities of passing major federal legislation with widespread impacts on U.S. producers and consumers.
"This paper develops a framework for evaluating GHG mitigation policy in the United States that balances several criteria. It draws on conceptual analysis and examples from U.S. energy policy to motivate an evaluative framework that incorporates a range of views of what constitutes 'good' policy. It should be of interest to stakeholders in the GHG policymaking process and especially to those responsible for crafting U.S. climate policy."—Preface.
- Congressional Budget Office (CBO), The Impact of Ethanol Use on Food Prices and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions (April 2009)
"This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, which was prepared at the request of Representatives Ron Kind, Rosa DeLauro, and James McGovern, examines the relationship between increasing production of ethanol and rising prices for food. In particular, CBO estimated how much of the rise in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008 was due to an increase in the production of ethanol and how much that increase in prices might raise federal expenditures on food assistance programs. CBO also examined how much the increased use of ethanol might lower emissions of greenhouse gases. In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, the report contains no recommendations."—Preface.
- Terry M. Dinan, Senior Advisor, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), The Distributional Consequences of a Cap-and-Trade Program for CO
2Emissions (Testimony before the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support Commitee on Ways and Means U.S. House of Representatives) (March 12, 2009)
"One option for reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner is to establish a carefully designed cap-and-trade program. Under such a program, the government would set gradually tightening limits on emissions, issue rights (or allowances) consistent with those limits, and then allow firms to trade the allowances among themselves. The net financial impact of such a program on low- and moderate-income households would depend in large part on how the value of emission allowances was allocated. By itself, a cap-and-trade program would lead to higher prices for energy and energy-intensive goods. Those price increases would impose a larger burden on low- and moderate income households than on higher-income households, relative to either their income or total spending. Lawmakers could choose to offset the price increases experienced by low- and moderate-income households by providing for the sale of some or all of the CO
2emission allowances and using the revenues to compensate such households."
- Environmental Integrity Project, The Calm Before the Storm (April 2009)
"Due in part to the recent economic slowdown and milder-than-usual weather, carbon dioxide (CO
2) emissions from U.S. power plants dropped 3.1 percent in 2008, tempering a steady increasing trend in the preceding years, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). EIP officials cautioned that the one-year dip is a departure from the recent trends in power plant carbon dioxide emissions, which have risen 0.9 percent since 2003, and 4.5 percent since 1998, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite the slight overall national improvement in CO2 emissions, six states had increases in power plant emissions of 1 million tons or more from 2007 to 2008: Oklahoma (3.1 million); Iowa (1.8 million); Texas (1.7 million); Nebraska (1.3 million); Illinois (1.1 million) and Washington (1.1 million)."—Press release (April 6, 2009)
- European Environment Agency (EEA), EEA Signals 2009: Key Environmental Issues Facing Europe (1831-2772) (2008)
"Finding, reading and understanding the range of ‘signals’ regarding the health and diversity of our environment is at the heart of what we do. Signals respects the complexity of the underlying science and shows awareness of the uncertainties inherent in all of the issues we address. Our target audience is broad, ranging from students to scientists, policy-makers to farmers and small business people. Signals, which will be published in all 26 EEA languages, takes a story-based approach to help us better communicate with this diverse group of people. The eight stories addressed are not exhaustive but have been selected on the basis of their relevance to the current environmental policy debate in Europe. They address priority issues of climate change, nature and biodiversity, the use of natural resources and health."—What Is Signals.
- Guy Carpenter & Co. Ltd., Man-Made Cats Hit 09 USD7 Billion in 2008 (2009)
"Man-made and technological catastrophes caused around USD7 billion in insured losses last year. This put 2008 losses around 46 percent higher than the annual average of USD4.8 billion, according to data from Swiss Re. Nineteen known events resulted in insured losses of more than USD50 million each, according to publicly available information. These events occurred in 11 countries, with losses ranging from USD80 million to nearly USD2 billion."—Executive Summary.
- Philip J. Klotzbach & William M. Gray, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane and U.S. Landfall Strike Probability for 2009 (April 7, 2009)
"We issue these forecasts to satisfy the curiosity of the general public and to bring attention to the hurricane problem. There is a general interest in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season. One must remember that our forecasts are based on the premise that those global oceanic and atmospheric conditions which preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons. This is not always true for individual seasons. It is also important that the reader appreciate that these seasonal forecasts are based on statistical schemes which, owing to their intrinsically probabilistic nature, will fail in some years. Moreover, these forecasts do not specifically predict where within the Atlantic basin these storms will strike. The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low and reflects the fact that, in any one season, most U.S. coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active the individual season is."—Why issue extended-range forecasts for seasonal hurricane activity?
- National Research Council of the National Academies, Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Systems—A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives (2009)
"For the people of the United States, the 20th century was one of unprecedented population growth, economic development, and improved quality of life. The critical infrastructure systems-water, wastewater, power, transportation, and telecommunications-built in the 20th century have become so much a part of modern life that they are taken for granted. By 2030, 60 million more Americans will expect these systems to deliver essential services. Large segments and components of the nation's critical infrastructure systems are now 50 to 100 years old, and their performance and condition are deteriorating. Improvements are clearly necessary. However, approaching infrastructure renewal by continuing to use the same processes, practices, technologies, and materials that were developed in the 20th century will likely yield the same results: increasing instances of service disruptions, higher operating and repair costs, and the possibility of catastrophic, cascading failures. If the nation is to meet some of the important challenges of the 21st century, a new paradigm for the renewal of critical infrastructure systems is needed. This book discusses the essential components of this new paradigm, and outlines a framework to ensure that ongoing activities, knowledge, and technologies can be aligned and leveraged to help meet multiple national objectives."—Summary.
- National Research Council of the National Academies, Panel on Strategies and Methods for Climate-Related Decisions Support, Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate (2009)
"The report recommends six principles that all agencies should follow in supporting decision makers who are facing the effects of climate change. For example, agencies’ efforts should be driven by the needs of end users in the field, not by scientific research priorities. And agencies should create close ties between the scientists who produce climate change information and the practitioners who use it."—Press release (March 12, 2009)
- National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Contaminated Coal Waste (March 12, 2009)
"Coal-fired power plants produced more than 126 million tons of contaminated coal waste in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, according to figures reported to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And NRDC estimates show that the waste produced in a single year contains nearly 100,000 tons of toxic metals."
- Deborah Paulus-Jagrič, UPDATE: Global Warming: A Comparative Guide to the E.U. and the U.S. and Their Approaches to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol (GlobaLex) (February 2009)
"In this guide, I briefly summarize the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, and discuss the sources one would use to research them, but I make no claim to originality there. As a comparative guide, it has relatively little to offer, at least thus far. To state the major difference between the E.U. and the U.S. in the simplest way, in the E.U. there are climate change laws to apply (the E.U. has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and takes its commitments very seriously), and in the U.S. there are none, at least at the federal level. When and if the U.S. government chooses to act on climate change, this guide will include its actions; thus it will evolve and become a truly comparative guide. Its current value lies in its compilation of recent information on the important work that U.S. states and cities have initiated to address climate change and, hopefully, to compel the federal government into action."—Introduction.
- Darren Springer & Greg Dierkers, National Governors' Association, An Infrastructure Vision for the 21st Century: Strengthening Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future (2009)
"The nation faces a host of infrastructure challenges that are critical to address. These include broad systemic issues of underinvestment, inadequate revenue, and a need to improve planning efforts that affect assets across the board. They also include concerns about reducing our dependence on imported oil, diversifying our nation’s electricity portfolio, and responding to climate change that affect transportation and energy infrastructure in particular. While federal investments expected for 2009 could fund shovel-ready projects in transit, highways, school repair, and other critical areas—helping states put people to work right away on pressing needs—a long-term strategy to address these challenges also is needed."—Executive Summary.
- Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd., Natural Catastrophes and Man-made Disasters in 2008: North America and Asia Suffer Heavy Losses, sigma, no. 2/2009 (2009)
"In 2008, natural catastrophes and man-made disasters caused 240 500 fatalities and led to economic losses of USD 269 bn.1 The cost to property insurers was USD 52.5 bn, making 2008 one of the costliest catastrophe years in history. The extent of the damage once again revealed the need to introduce improved prevention and post disaster management practices. It also reaffirmed that the lack of insurance cover, particularly in the emerging markets, continues to leave many people vulnerable after a catastrophic event occurs."
"Of the 311 catastrophic events in 2008, 137 were considered natural catastrophes, while the remaining 174 were man-made disasters."—Executive Summary.
- United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Water in a Changing World (3rd United Nations World Water Development Report) (2009)
"Important decisions affecting water management are made outside the water sector and are driven by external, largely unpredictable drivers—demography, climate change, the global economy, changing societal values and norms, technological innovation, laws and customs, and financial markets. Many of these external drivers are dynamic and changing at a faster pace. Developments outside the water domain influence water management strategies and policies. Decisions in other sectors and those related to development, growth and livelihoods need to incorporate water as an integral component, including responses to climate change, food and energy challenges and disaster management. The analysis of these issues leads to a set of responses and recommendations for action that incorporate the contribution of water to sustainable development."—Overview of Key Messages.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP Year Book: New Science and Developments in Our Changing Environment (2009)
"The UNEP Year Book 2009 presents work in progress on scientific understanding of global environmental change, as well as foresight about possible issues on the horizon. The aim is to raise awareness of the interlinkages among environmental issues that can accelerate the rates of change and threaten human wellbeing.
"The chapters of this Year Book track the same trajectory as our awareness of environmental change. Transformations are inherent to this trajectory and are taking place on many fronts: from industrial agriculture to eco-agriculture; from a wasteful society towards a resource efficient one; and from a triad of competing interests among civil society, the private sector, and governments to a more cooperative model based on mutual benefits."—Introduction.
- United States Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2009: With Projections to 2030 (DOE/EIA-0383) (March 2009)
"The projections in AEO2009 look beyond current economic and financial woes and focus on factors that drive U.S. energy markets in the longer term. Key issues highlighted in the AEO2009 include higher but uncertain world oil prices, growing concern about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and its impacts on energy investment decisions, the increasing use of renewable fuels, the increasing production of unconventional natural gas, the shift in the transportation fleet to more efficient vehicles, and improved efficiency in end-use appliances. Using a reference case and a broad range of sensitivity cases, AEO2009 illustrates these key energy market trends and explores important areas of uncertainty in the U.S. energy economy. The AEO2009 cases, which were developed before enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA2009) in February 2009, reflect laws and policies in effect as of November 2008.
"AEO2009 also includes in-depth discussions on topics of special interest that may affect the energy market outlook, including changes in Federal and State laws and regulations and recent developments in technologies for energy production and consumption. Some of the highlights for selected topics are mentioned in this Executive Summary, but readers interested in other issues or a fuller discussion should look at the Legislation and Regulations and Issues in Focus sections."—Executive Summary.
- United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana: Building Performance Observations, Recommendations, and Technical Guidance (Mitigation Assessment Team Report, FEMA P-757) (April 2009)
"In response to Hurricane Ike, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed a Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) to evaluate and assess damage from the hurricane and provide observations, conclusions, and recommendations on the performance of buildings and other structures impacted by wind and flood forces. The MAT included FEMA Headquarters and Regional Office engineers, representatives from other Federal agencies and academia, and experts from the design and construction industry. The conclusions and recommendations of this Report are intended to provide decision-makers with information and technical guidance that can be used to reduce future hurricane damage."—Resource Record Details.
- United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Special Community Disaster Loans Program (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) (March 30, 2009)
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) proposes to amend its regulations regarding the Special Community Disaster Loans Program to implement loan cancellation provisions for Special Community Disaster Loans provided by FEMA to local governments in the Gulf region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This rule does not propose the automatic cancellation of all Special Community Disaster Loans. This rule proposes procedures and requirements for governments who received Special Community Disaster Loans to apply for cancellation of loan obligations as authorized by the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007. The proposed procedures are intended to provide sufficient information to FEMA to determine when cancellation of a Special Community Disaster Loan, in whole or in part, is warranted. This proposed rule would not apply to any loans made under FEMA’s traditional Community Disaster Loan program which is governed under separate regulations."—Summary.
- United States Department of the Interior (DOI), Minerals Management Service (MMS), Survey of Available Data on OCS Resources And Identification of Data Gaps (Report to the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior) (OCS Report MMS 2009-015)
"In response to President Obama’s vision for energy independence for our Nation, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced on February 10, 2009, a four-part strategy for developing a new, comprehensive approach to energy resources of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).... The OCS refers to 1.7 billion acres of Federal jurisdiction lands submerged under the ocean seaward of State boundaries, generally beginning 3 geographical miles off the coastline (for most States) and extending for at least 200 nautical miles to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone and further as the continental shelf is extended. As the Secretary explained in his announcement, the DOI should establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, in a way that provides States, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas."—Executive Summary.
- United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Megaregions: Literature Review of the Implications for U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Transportation Planning (FHWA-BAA-HEPP-02-2007) (September 2008)
"In the twenty-first century, the United States faces increasing challenges in terms of economic competitiveness, quality of life, traffic congestion, aging transportation infrastructure, and scarcity of natural resources. These challenges are particularly difficult because they are not confined to traditional geographic or political borders, but arise from the interactions between cities and regions. In order to address these challenges, local, state, regional, and federal actors may be well served by planning for critical infrastructure on a scale larger than has been common in transportation and regional planning history and practice. One potential approach to address these challenges, and take advantages of the opportunities that arise from growing urban agglomerations, is the idea of the 'megaregion.'"—Executive Summary.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of the Science Advisor, Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling, Guidance on the Development, Evaluation, and Application of Environmental Models (EPA/100/K-09/003) (March 2009)
"This guidance recommends best practices to help determine when a model, despite its uncertainties, can be appropriately used to inform a decision. Specifically, it recommends that model developers and users: (a) subject their model to credible, objective peer review; (b) assess the quality of the data they use; (c) corroborate their model by evaluating the degree to which it corresponds to the system being modeled; and (d) perform sensitivity and uncertainty analyses. Sensitivity analysis evaluates the effect of changes in input values or assumptions on a model's results. Uncertainty analysis investigates the effects of lack of knowledge and other potential sources of error in the model (e.g., the “uncertainty” associated with model parameter values). When conducted in combination, sensitivity and uncertainty analysis allow model users to be more informed about the confidence that can be placed in model results. A model’s quality to support a decision becomes better known when information is available to assess these factors."—Executive Summary.
- United States House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Committee, American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Discussion Draft)
"Chairman Henry A. Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman Edward J. Markey of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee released a draft of clean energy legislation that hopes to create jobs, help end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and combat global warming. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) is a comprehensive approach to America’s energy policy that charts a new course toward a clean energy economy."