Archive

Archive for the ‘science’ Category

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review

April 27, 2015 Comments off

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today issued a draft guide to help communities plan for and act to keep windstorms, floods, earthquakes, sea-level rise, industrial mishaps and other hazards from inflicting disastrous consequences.

NIST is requesting public feedback on the draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure, which Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May unveiled during a workshop at Texas Southern University in Houston today.

The official first version of the guide will be released this fall and updated periodically as new building standards and research results become available and as communities gain experience using the guide and recommend improvements.

Increasing Concentrations of Property Values and Catastrophe Risk in the US

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Increasing Concentrations of Property Values and Catastrophe Risk in the US (PDF)
Source: Karen Clark & Company

Residential, commercial, and industrial property values in the US continue to increase faster than GDP growth and the general rate of inflation. According to KCC estimates, insured property values increased by nine percent from 2012 to 2014.

In aggregate, building values now exceed $40 trillion, and when contents and time element exposures are added in, estimated insured property values swell to over $90 trillion. Along with increasing values, there are highly concentrated pockets of exposure, particularly in regions vulnerable to natural catastrophes.

For example, tier one counties along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts account for over 17 percent of total exposure at $16 trillion. Six counties have over $1 trillion of exposure each and on a combined basis, account for more than 12 percent of the US total. One county—Los Angeles—accounts for over three percent of exposed property values.

One implication of increasing concentrations of property value is the higher probability of megacatastrophe losses. A major storm or earthquake has not occurred in a densely populated metropolitan area such as Galveston-Houston, Miami, or Los Angeles for decades.

This study shows that when a large magnitude event occurs in specific concentrated areas, the losses will be multiples of the PMLs (Probable Maximum Losses) the insurance industry has been using to manage risk and rating agencies and regulators have been using to monitor solvency. Insurers typically manage their potential catastrophe losses to the 100 year PMLs, but because of increasingly concentrated property values in several major metropolitan areas, the losses insurers will suffer from the 100 year event will greatly exceed their estimated 100 year PMLs.

free registration required2

Safeguarding biological diversity: EU policy and international agreements

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Safeguarding biological diversity: EU policy and international agreements
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

Biodiversity, the diversity of life on earth at all levels, is declining, mainly as a result of human-induced pressures such as over-exploitation of natural resources, loss of viable habitats, pollution, climate change or invasive alien species. EU biodiversity policy is based on the Birds and Habitats Directives, which served as the basis for the development of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites now covering 1 million square kilometres on land (or 18% of EU land area) and 250 000 square kilometres of marine sites. The policy is driven by the biodiversity strategy setting ambitious aims for 2020 (halting the loss of biodiversity) and 2050 (protecting and valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services), with the addition of a strategy on green infrastructure. The European Commission estimates that the Natura 2000 network delivers benefits worth between €200 and €300 billion per year, against management costs estimated at €5.8 billion per year. The LIFE Programme co-finances some measures related to biodiversity, especially as regards Natura 2000. Funding aimed at protecting biodiversity is also available under the agricultural, regional, fisheries, and research policies. The European Parliament has long been supportive of EU biodiversity protection policy. Developments in EU biodiversity policy include a process of ‘biodiversity proofing’ of the EU budget, improved monitoring, definition of priorities for the restoration of degraded ecosystems, ‘biodiversity offsetting’ of unavoidable residual impacts, and a ‘fitness check’ of EU nature legislation.

CRS — Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (February 11, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The 114th Congress faces many water resource development, management, and protection issues. Congressional actions shape reinvestment in aging federal infrastructure (e.g., dams, locks, and levees) and federal and nonfederal investment in new infrastructure, such as water supply augmentation, hydropower projects, navigation improvements, and efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems. These issues often arise at the regional or local levels but frequently have a federal connection. Ongoing issues include competition over water, drought and flood responses and policies, competitiveness and efficiency of U.S. harbors and waterways, and innovative and alternative financing approaches. The 114th Congress also may continue oversight of operations of federal infrastructure during drought and low-flow conditions, past large-scale flooding issues (e.g., Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Missouri and Mississippi River floods), and balancing hydropower generation, recreational use, and protection of threatened and endangered species. In addition to oversight, each Congress also provides appropriations for major federal water resource agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).

CRS — Wildfire Management: Federal Funding and Related Statistics (February 4, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Wildfire Management: Federal Funding and Related Statistics (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Wildfires can have beneficial and harmful impacts on ecosystems (e.g., by reducing fuel loads, or by damaging communities and timber resources). These impacts are generally measured and discussed based on the priorities of humans in these ecosystems. Federal resources are typically deployed during wildfire season—an annual occurrence of intense wildfire activity typically running from summer into fall—to help manage wildfires and potentially minimize some of the impacts, including the loss of life and property. Approximately 3.6 million acres burned during the 2014 wildfire season, which was less than the 4.3 million acres burned in 2014 and the fewest acres burned since 2010. Acreage burned during the 2014 wildfire season was less than half of the 9.3 million acres burned in 2012, which was the third-largest acreage burned annually since 1960.

Federal funding for wildfire management is provided in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The bill funds wildfire management at the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, which are the two principal entities tasked with federal wildfire management. Federal wildfire response activities involve preparedness, suppression, fuel reduction, site rehabilitation, and more. More than $3.4 billion was appropriated for wildfire management in FY2015. The total wildfire management appropriations for 2014 were more than $3.9 billion and included $600 million for the Forest Service to reimburse wildfire transfers that occurred in FY2013.

Association of Improved Air Quality with Lung Development in Children

April 20, 2015 Comments off

Association of Improved Air Quality with Lung Development in Children
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Background
Air-pollution levels have been trending downward progressively over the past several decades in southern California, as a result of the implementation of air quality–control policies. We assessed whether long-term reductions in pollution were associated with improvements in respiratory health among children.

Methods
As part of the Children’s Health Study, we measured lung function annually in 2120 children from three separate cohorts corresponding to three separate calendar periods: 1994–1998, 1997–2001, and 2007–2011. Mean ages of the children within each cohort were 11 years at the beginning of the period and 15 years at the end. Linear-regression models were used to examine the relationship between declining pollution levels over time and lung-function development from 11 to 15 years of age, measured as the increases in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) during that period (referred to as 4-year growth in FEV1 and FVC).

Results
Over the 13 years spanned by the three cohorts, improvements in 4-year growth of both FEV1 and FVC were associated with declining levels of nitrogen dioxide (P<0.001 for FEV1 and FVC) and of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μm (P= 0.008 for FEV1 and P<0.001 for FVC) and less than 10 μm (P<0.001 for FEV1 and FVC). These associations persisted after adjustment for several potential confounders. Significant improvements in lung-function development were observed in both boys and girls and in children with asthma and children without asthma. The proportions of children with clinically low FEV1 (defined as <80% of the predicted value) at 15 years of age declined significantly, from 7.9% to 6.3% to 3.6% across the three periods, as the air quality improved (P=0.001).

Conclusions
We found that long-term improvements in air quality were associated with statistically and clinically significant positive effects on lung-function growth in children. (Funded by the Health Effects Institute and others.)

CRS — Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues (April 8, 2015)

April 15, 2015 Comments off

Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlaws the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana except for authorized research. More than 20 states have regulatory schemes that allow possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Four have revenue regimes that allow possession, cultivation, and sale generally. The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that conflicts with federal law. Although there is some division, the majority of state courts have concluded that the federal-state marijuana law conflict does not require preemption of state medical marijuana laws. The legal consequences of a CSA violation, however, remain in place. Nevertheless, current federal criminal enforcement guidelines counsel confining investigations and prosecutions to the most egregious affront to federal interests.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,033 other followers