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New From the GAO

November 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier: Congress Should Consider Revising Cost Cap Legislation to Include All Construction Costs. GAO-15-22, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-22
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667091.pdf

2. Climate Change: Better Management of Exposure to Potential Future Losses Is Needed for Federal Flood and Crop Insurance. GAO-15-28, October 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-28
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666697.pdf

3. Financial Stability Oversight Council: Further Actions Could Improve the Nonbank Designation Process. GAO-15-51, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-51
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667095.pdf

4. Bank Capital Reforms: Initial Effects of Basel III on Capital, Credit, and International Competitiveness. GAO-15-67, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-67
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667113.pdf

5. Small Business Innovation Research: Change in Program Eligibility Has Had Little Impact. GAO-15-68, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-68
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667099.pdf

6. Building Partner Capacity: State and DOD Need to Define Time Frames to Guide and Track Global Security Contingency Fund Projects. GAO-15-75, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-75
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667116.pdf

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Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations

November 19, 2014 Comments off

Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations
Source: Ceres

Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, ranks the nation’s 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority.

This report summarizes responses from insurance companies to a survey on climatechange risks developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In 2013, insurance regulators in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, NewYork and Washington required insurers writing in excess of $100 million in direct written premiums, and licensed to operate in any of the five states, to disclose their climate- related risks using this survey.

The aim of the survey, and Ceres’ analysis of the responses, is to provide regulators,insurers, investors and other stakeholders with substantive information about the risks insurers face from climate change and the steps insurers are taking—or are not taking— to respond to those risks. Because virtually every large insurer operates in at least one of the mandatory climate risk disclosure states, this analysis effectively opens a window into the entire industry. The report distills key findings and industry trends, and includes company specific scores based on disclosed actions taken to manage climate risks. It also offers recommendations for insurers and regulators to improve the insurance sectors’ overall management of climate change risks.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Proposal: Are the Emission Rate Targets Front-Loaded?, CRS Insights (November 3, 2014)

November 18, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Proposal: Are the Emission Rate Targets Front-Loaded?, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On June 18, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations (the “Clean Power Plan”) addressing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. Carbon dioxide is the primary human-related greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and these electric generating units, as a group, account for the largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States.

The proposal would establish state-specific CO2 emission rate targets measured in pounds of CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation. The targets include both a 2030 goal and an interim goal to be achieved “on average” between 2020 and 2029. States would prepare and submit to EPA implementation plans describing the state-specific activities that would achieve the emission rate targets.

Assuming the proposal becomes a final rule in June 2015, states would then have until June 30, 2016, to submit their implementation plans. However, states could request an additional year for submission of a complete plan, provided that they have taken “meaningful steps” toward completion by the 2016 deadline. Alternatively, states participating in a multistate plan would have until June 30, 2018, to submit a plan.

Nature Index 2014 Global

November 18, 2014 Comments off

Nature Index 2014 Global
Source: Nature

The Nature Index 2014 Global supplement provides a snapshot of results from the new Nature Index, comparing the countries and institutions around the world that contributed to some of the highest quality research during the previous calendar year. The supplement provides analysis based on national news about science policy and funding backed by data from the Nature Index on subject strengths and research output.

The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review

November 17, 2014 Comments off

The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Google Trends is a novel, freely accessible tool that allows users to interact with Internet search data, which may provide deep insights into population behavior and health-related phenomena. However, there is limited knowledge about its potential uses and limitations. We therefore systematically reviewed health care literature using Google Trends to classify articles by topic and study aim; evaluate the methodology and validation of the tool; and address limitations for its use in research.

Methods and Findings
PRISMA guidelines were followed. Two independent reviewers systematically identified studies utilizing Google Trends for health care research from MEDLINE and PubMed. Seventy studies met our inclusion criteria. Google Trends publications increased seven-fold from 2009 to 2013. Studies were classified into four topic domains: infectious disease (27% of articles), mental health and substance use (24%), other non-communicable diseases (16%), and general population behavior (33%). By use, 27% of articles utilized Google Trends for casual inference, 39% for description, and 34% for surveillance. Among surveillance studies, 92% were validated against a reference standard data source, and 80% of studies using correlation had a correlation statistic ≥0.70. Overall, 67% of articles provided a rationale for their search input. However, only 7% of articles were reproducible based on complete documentation of search strategy. We present a checklist to facilitate appropriate methodological documentation for future studies. A limitation of the study is the challenge of classifying heterogeneous studies utilizing a novel data source.

Conclusion
Google Trends is being used to study health phenomena in a variety of topic domains in myriad ways. However, poor documentation of methods precludes the reproducibility of the findings. Such documentation would enable other researchers to determine the consistency of results provided by Google Trends for a well-specified query over time. Furthermore, greater transparency can improve its reliability as a research tool.

Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach

November 15, 2014 Comments off

Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Understanding U.S. agricultural stakeholder views about the existence of climate change and its causes is central to developing interventions in support of adaptation and mitigation. Results from surveys conducted with six Midwestern stakeholder groups (corn producers, agricultural advisors, climatologists, Extension educators, and two different cross-disciplinary teams of scientists funded by USDA-NIFA) reveal striking differences. Individuals representing these groups were asked in 2011-2012 to “select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate change.” Three of five answer options included the notion that climate change is occurring but for different reasons (mostly human activities; mostly natural; more or less equally by natural and human activities). The last two options were “there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not” and “climate change is not occurring.” Results reveal that agricultural and climate scientists are more likely to believe that 30 climate change is mostly due to human activities (50 to 67%) than farmers and advisors (8 – 12%). Almost a quarter of farmers and agricultural advisors believe the source of climate change is mostly natural causes; and 22-31% state there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether it is occurring or not. This discrepancy in beliefs creates challenges for communicating climate science to agricultural stakeholders in ways that encourage adaptation and mitigation. Results suggest that engagement strategies that reduce threats to worldviews and increase public 36 dialogue could make climate information more relevant to stakeholder groups with different belief structures.

CRS — Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced? (October 7, 2014)

November 12, 2014 Comments off

Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As a result of enforcement actions and settlements for noncompliance with federal pollution control requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that, during FY2013, regulated entities committed to invest an estimated $7.0 billion for judicially mandated actions and equipment to control pollution (injunctive relief), and $22.0 million for implementing mutually agreed-upon (supplemental) environmentally beneficial projects. EPA estimated that these compliance/enforcement efforts achieved commitments to reduce or eliminate 1.3 billion pounds of pollutants in the environment, primarily from air and water, and to treat, minimize, or properly dispose of 148 million pounds of hazardous waste. Noncompliance with federal pollution control laws remains a continuing concern. The overall effectiveness of the enforcement organizational framework, the balance between state autonomy and federal oversight, and the adequacy of funding are long-standing congressional concerns.

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