The IMPACT of CLIMATE CHANGE and Population Growth on the National Flood Insurance Program through 2100
The study finds that over the next 90 years, there will likely be (50-percent chance) a significant increase in coastal and riverine flooding in our nation, which will have a significant impact on the NFIP . The Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) supports the findings in this study and is committed to increase public awareness of flood risk and promote action that reduces risk to life and property. If the risk of flooding increases as descri bed in this report, there will be a need for FEMA to directly incorporate the effects of these changes into va rious aspects of the NFIP. As a nation, we need to acknowledge our risk, establish our roles, and work together to prepare for the future.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Information Technology: Additional Executive Review Sessions Needed to Address Troubled Projects. GAO-13-524, June 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655215.pdf
2. Federal Judiciary: Efforts to Consolidate and Share Services between District and Bankruptcy Clerks’ Offices. GAO-13-531, June 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655213.pdf
1. Chemical Regulation: Observations on the Toxic Substances Control Act and EPA Implementation, by Alfredo Gomez, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-13-696T, June 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655203.pdf
2. Export-Import Bank: Recent Growth Underscores Need for Improved Risk Management and Reporting, by Mathew J. Scirè, director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade, House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-13-703T, June 13.
3. Financial Institutions: Causes and Consequences of Recent Community Bank Failures, by Lawrance L. Evans, Jr., director, financial markets and community investment, before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. GAO-13-704T, June 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655194.pdf
4. Transportation Infrastructure: Limited Improvement in Bridge Conditions over the Past Decade, but Financial Challenges Remain, Phillip R. Herr, managing director, physical infrastructure, before the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Appropriations. GAO-13-713T, June 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/655199.pdf
Source: National Academy of Engineering/National Park Service
America’s national parks provide a wealth of experiences to millions of people every year. What visitors see—landscapes, wildlife, cultural activities—often lingers in memory for life. And what they hear adds a dimension that sight alone cannot provide. Natural sounds can dramatically enhance visitors’ experience of many aspects of park environments. In some settings, such as the expanses of Yellowstone National Park, they can even be the best way to enjoy wildlife, because animals can be heard at much greater distances than they can be seen. Sounds can also be a natural complement to natural scenes, whether the rush of water over a rocky streambed or a ranger’s explanation of a park’s history. In other settings, such as the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, sounds are the main reason for visiting a park.
The acoustical environment is also important to the well-being of the parks themselves. Many species of wildlife depend on their hearing to find prey or avoid predators. If they cannot hear, their survival is jeopardized—and the parks where they live may in turn lose part of their natural heritage. For all these reasons it is important to be aware of noise (defined as unwanted sound, and in this case usually generated by humans or machinery), which can degrade the acoustical environment, or soundscape, of parks. Just as smog smudges the visual horizon, noise obscures the listening horizon for both visitors and wildlife. This is especially true in places, such as remote wilderness areas, where extremely low sound levels are common. The National Park Service (NPS) has determined that park facilities, operations, and maintenance activities produce a substantial portion of noise in national parks and thus recognizes the need to provide park managers with guidance for protecting the natural soundscape from such noise. Therefore, the focus of the workshop was to define what park managers can do to control noise from facilities, operations, and maintenance, and not on issues such as the effects of noise on wildlife, noise metrics, and related topics.
To aid in this effort, NPS joined with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and with the US Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to hold a workshop to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s array of parks. Entitled "Protecting National Park Soundscapes: Best Available Technologies and Practices for Reducing Park- Generated Noise," the workshop took place October 3-4, 2012, at NPS’s Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. Protecting National Park Soundscapes is a summary of the workshop.
Source: American Enterprise Institute
Measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have long dominated public discourse about responses to man-made climate change. However, major institutional and political hurdles dim future prospects for controlling emissions. While adaptation to climate change can accomplish much, flawed institutions are likely to limit its efficacy.
Solar radiation management (SRM) appears to promise at least some capacity to offset the warming caused by the rising atmospheric GHG concentrations. SRM would seek to enhance and manage physical processes that currently reflect sunlight back into space. For example, most researchers have envisioned implementing this concept by adding to the layer of sulfuric acid that is already present in the lower stratosphere. All else remaining equal, global mean temperatures would fall even though GHG levels would not; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that physical processes such as these already offset about 40 percent of global warming. By lessening the rise in temperature, SRM might lessen some of the risks of global warming.
Source: RAND Corporation
Army installations of the future will most likely be shaped and influenced by trends and pressures external to the Army, such as technology changes and land-use pressures. RAND Arroyo Center conducted a study for the Army’s Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management to assess how trends external to Army installations out to 2025 may affect the Army’s ability to provide quality installation services and infrastructure. Trend areas examined include: loss of biodiversity, urbanization and sprawling communities, sustainable buildings, energy, sustainable transportation, water scarcity, sustainable communities, societal trends, sustainable agriculture, online communities, climate change, robotics, and pervasive computing. RAND researchers found that such trends have the potential to cause harm to installation operations including testing, training, and construction activities; to cost or save the Army significant amounts in the future; to hurt or improve Soldier and Family quality of life; to improve installation operations; to help meet future installation requirements; and to improve or hurt environmental conditions. This report provides the final study results, including findings about what the key trends are and how they are likely to affect installations, sources for tracking the trends, and the study team’s recommendations about Army actions to take advantage of positive trends and mitigate the impact of negative ones.
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 444, Pollutant Load Reductions for Total Maximum Daily Loads for Highways presents information on the types of structural and non-structural best management practices currently being used by state departments of transportation, including performance and cost data.
Regulation of Fertilizers: Ammonium Nitrate and Anhydrous Ammonia (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The explosion on April 17, 2013, at the West Fertilizer Company fertilizer distribution facility in West, TX, has led to questions about the oversight and regulation of agricultural fertilizer. Facilities holding chemicals must comply with regulations attempting to ensure occupational safety, environmental protection, and homeland security. In addition to federal regulation requiring reporting and planning for ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, most state and some local governments have laws and regulations regarding the handling of either or both of these chemicals.
The West Fertilizer Company possessed a variety of agricultural chemicals at its retail facility, but policy interest has focused on two chemicals: ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia. Ammonium nitrate is a solid that is primarily used as a fertilizer whose use generally occurs without incident. In combination with a fuel source and certain conditions, such as added heat or shock, confinement, or contamination, ammonium nitrate can pose an explosion hazard. Such accidents have rarely occurred, but have historically had high impacts. For example, the ammonium nitrate explosion in 1947 in Texas City, TX, where two ships carrying ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, destroyed the entire dock area, including numerous oil tanks, dwellings, and business buildings. The bomb used in 1995 to attack the Murrah Federal Building contained ammonium nitrate as a component of its explosives.
Anhydrous ammonia has a variety of uses, including as an agricultural fertilizer. Many agricultural retailers store and use anhydrous am monia. In contrast with ammonium nitrate, anhydrous ammonia is a gas more generally viewed as a threat from its inhalation toxicity. It is regulated to prevent release of the chemical into the atmosphere where it might travel as a cloud and impact workers and the surrounding environment.
Various federal, state, and local agencies collect mission-relevant information about chemical holdings. The West facility had reportedly not complied with all relevant and applicable regulatory requirements. For example, the facility reportedly had not contacted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which should have received information about any ammonium nitrate or anhydrous ammonia stored at the facility. The extent to which agencies shared relevant information about chemical holdings in order to enable effective regulatory oversight is still unresolved.
As congressional policymakers consider the ramifications of the explosion in West, TX, they may face several policy issues. These policy issues include the: • challenges arising from relying on self-reporting of chemical inventories by regulated facilities;
• potential for omission and duplication in existing regulatory reporting;
• long intervals between inspection at many such facilities;
• ability of federal, state, and local go vernment agencies to share information effectively among themselves; and
• public and first-responder access to regulatory information.
Source: Water Policy
Cities around the world are struggling to access additional water supplies to support their continued growth because their freshwater sources are becoming exhausted. Half of all cities with populations greater than 100,000 are located in water-scarce basins, and in these basins agricultural water consumption accounts for more than 90% of all freshwater depletions. In this paper we review the water development histories of four major cities: Adelaide, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego. We identify a similar pattern of water development in these cities, which begins with the exhaustion of local surface and groundwater supplies, continues with importation of water from other basins, and then turns to recycling of wastewater or stormwater, or desalination of either seawater or brackish groundwater. Demand management through water conservation has mitigated, to varying degrees, the timing of water-system expansions and the extent to which cities rely on new sources of supply. This typical water development pattern in cities is undesirable from a sustainability perspective, as it is usually associated with serious ecological and social impacts as well as sub-optimal cost effectiveness. We highlight case examples and opportunities to invest in water conservation measures, particularly through urban–rural partnerships under which cities work with farmers to implement irrigation conservation measures, thereby freeing up water for ecological restoration and use by cities.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. VA Education Benefits: VA Needs to Improve Program Management and Provide More Timely Information to Students. GAO-13-338, May 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654793.pdf
1. Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication through Enhanced Performance Management and Oversight, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO-13-590T, May 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654610.pdf
2. Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Observations on States’ Role, Liabilities at DOD and Hardrock Mining Sites, and Litigation Issues, by David Trimble, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-13-633T, May 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654791.pdf
NOAA presented to the U.S. Coast Guard today a new report that finds that 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo.
The sunken vessels are a legacy of more than a century of U.S. commerce and warfare. They include a barge lost in rough seas in 1936; two motor-powered ships that sank in separate collisions in 1947 and 1952; and a tanker that exploded and sank in 1984. The remaining sites are 13 merchant marine ships lost during World War II, primarily along the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. To see a list of the ships and their locations, visit: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/ppw/.
The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. Knowing where these vessels are helps oil response planning efforts and may help in the investigation of reported mystery spills–sightings of oil where a source is not immediately known or suspected.
Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature
Source: Environmental Research Letters
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2012 Edition
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts
In less than a decade, clean energy transitioned from novelty products to the mainstream of world energy markets. The sector emerged not so much in a linear fashion as episodic—in fits and starts associated with the worldwide economic downturn, continent-wide debt crises, national policy uncertainty, and intense industry competition. Through it all, however, the clean energy sector moved inexorably forward, with overall investment in 2012 five times greater than it was in 2004.
This report examines key financial, investment and technological trends related to clean energy in the Group of Twenty (G-20), the world’s leading economies. It documents the continued growth and dynamism of clean energy investment in these economies. Countries that succeed in attracting investment can realize the economic, security and environmental benefits of the global race to harness clean, renewable energy sources.
Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race: 2012 Edition documents how the old order is changing technologically and geographically. Clean energy is gaining ground in the global energy mix. Even as several pioneering countries have stumbled, new markets have opened, and the center of gravity for clean energy investment has shifted from West to East.
New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Climate Change: Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers. GAO-13-242, April 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653740.pdf
2. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Cost Savings Goal. GAO-13-378, April 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654091.pdf
3. Defense Infrastructure: Communities Need Additional Guidance and Information to Improve Their Ability to Adjust to DOD Installation Closure or Growth. GAO-13-436, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654598.pdf
1. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Billions of Dollars in Savings, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-627T, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654606.pdf
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Migration resulting from environmental change has been a topic of preoccupation since the 1990s, but in practice there has been very little policy development within the European Union on this topic. This brief finds that while such migration is likely to be largely concentrated in areas outside of Europe, there are far-reaching implications for policy.
Source: Energy Information Administration
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions vary significantly across states (Figure 1), whether considered on an absolute or per capita basis. The overall size of a state, as well as the available fuels, types of businesses, climate, and population density, play a role in both total and per capita emissions. Additionally, each state’s energy system reflects circumstances specific to that state. For example, some states are located near abundant hydroelectric supplies, while others contain abundant coal resources.This paper presents a basic analysis of the factors that contribute to a state’s carbon dioxide profile. This analysis neither attempts to assess the effect of state policies on absolute emissions levels or on changes over time, nor does it intend to imply that certain policies would be appropriate for a particular state.
The term "energy-related carbon dioxide emissions" as used in this paper, includes emissions released at the location where fossil fuels are used. For feedstock application, carbon stored in products such as plastics are not included in reported emissions for the states where they are produced.
It is also important to recognize that the state-level carbon dioxide emissions data presented in this paper count emissions based on the location where the energy is consumed as a fuel. To the extent that fuels are used in one state to generate electricity that is consumed in another state, emissions are attributed to the former rather than the latter. An analysis that attributed "responsibility" for emissions with consumption rather than production of electricity, which is beyond the scope of the present paper, would yield different results.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
2. Superfund: EPA Should Take Steps to Improve Its Management of Alternatives to Placing Sites on the National Priorities List. GAO-13-252, April 9.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653647.pdf
Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy: Industry, Occupation, and State-by-State Job Estimates
Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research
This report provides the first-ever estimates of women’s employment in the green economy, state-by-state, by industry, and by occupation. The analysis draws on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey; the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy database; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Green Goods and Services survey. The report examines women’s share of employment in the occupations predicted to see the highest growth in the green economy and includes two alternative state-by-state estimates for growth in green jobs. Focusing on investments in green buildings and retrofits, the report includes a state-by-state analysis of employment in key construction occupations by age, race, ethnicity, and gender. This report was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Employment in a Green US Economy (SEGUE) Program. It is the first of a series of publications investigating strategies for improving women’s access to quality employment in the green economy; future reports will address good practices in workforce development for women in the green economy.
Source: National Research Council
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are responsible for protecting species that are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and for protecting habitats that are critical for their survival. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for registering or reregistering pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and must ensure that pesticide use does not cause any unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, which is interpreted to include listed species and their critical habitats. The agencies have developed their own approaches to evaluating environmental risk, and their approaches differ because their legal mandates, responsibilities, institutional cultures, and expertise differ. Over the years, the agencies have tried to resolve their differences but have been unsuccessful in reaching a consensus regarding their assessment approaches.
As a result, FWS, NMFS, EPA, and the US Department of Agriculture asked the National Research Council (NRC) to examine scientific and technical issues related to determining risks posed to listed species by pesticides. Specifically, the NRC was asked to evaluate methods for identifying the best scientific data available; to evaluate approaches for developing modeling assumptions; to identify authoritative geospatial information that might be used in risk assessments; to review approaches for characterizing sublethal, indirect, and cumulative effects; to assess the scientific information available for estimating effects of mixtures and inert ingredients; and to consider the use of uncertainty factors to account for gaps in data. Assessing Risks to Endangered and Threatened Species from Pesticides, which was prepared by the NRC Committee on Ecological Risk Assessment under FIFRA and ESA, is the response to that request.
Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
From press release:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health. The report states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “The forces impacting honeybee health are complex and USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”
“The decline in honey bee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors, and at EPA we are committed to continuing our work with USDA, researchers, beekeepers, growers and the public to address this challenge,” said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “The report we’ve released today is the product of unprecedented collaboration, and our work in concert must continue. As the report makes clear, we’ve made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population.”