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Joblessness, Inequality the New Normal as Geopolitical Trends Climb Global Agenda

November 10, 2014 Comments off

Joblessness, Inequality the New Normal as Geopolitical Trends Climb Global Agenda
Source: World Economic Forum

Deepening income inequality and jobless growth head the Top 10 trends for 2015, according to the Outlook on the Global Agenda, which is published today. These long-standing economic challenges are joined in this year’s survey by growing political and environmental concerns.

The trends are based on a survey of almost 1,800 experts from the Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils as well as other communities within the World Economic Forum on what they believe will preoccupy leaders over the coming 12-18 months.

The Top 10 Trends for 2015 are:

  1. Deepening income inequality
  2. Persistent jobless growth
  3. Lack of leadership
  4. Rising geostrategic competition
  5. Weakening of representative democracy
  6. Rising pollution in the developing world
  7. Increasing occurrence of severe weather events
  8. Intensifying nationalism
  9. Increasing water stress
  10. Growing importance of health in the economy

The prominence of inequality and unemployment at the top of the list signifies that they are viewed even more severely than in previous years, with stagnating wages contributing to a vicious cycle of entrenched inequality through suppressed growth and employment prospects.

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Weather-driven energy intensity increase led to higher energy-related emissions in 2013

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Weather-driven energy intensity increase led to higher energy-related emissions in 2013
Source: Energy Information Administration

U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased in 2013 by 129 million metric tons (2.5%), the largest increase since 2010 and the fourth-largest increase since 1990. Emissions trends reflect a combination of economic factors (population multiplied by per capita output [GDP/population]), energy intensity (energy use per dollar of GDP), and carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed).

In the decade prior to 2013, energy intensity decreased on average by 2.0% per year; given that it increased by 0.5% in 2013, this meant there was a 2.5% swing compared to trend. Energy intensity changes can reflect weather variations that directly affect energy use for heating and cooling as well as changes in the composition of economic activity. Heating degree days, a measure of heating requirements, increased about 19% between 2012 and 2013. As compared to the 2003-12 trend, the increase in energy intensity added about 134 million metric tons.

Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Attribution of extreme events is a challenging science and one that is currently undergoing considerable evolution. In this paper, 20 different research groups explored the causes of 16 different events that occurred in 2013. The findings indicate that human-caused climate change greatly increased the risk for the extreme heat waves assessed in this report. How human influence affected other types of events such as droughts, heavy rain events, and storms was less clear, indicating that natural variability likely played a much larger role in these extremes. Multiple groups chose to look at both the Australian heat waves and the California drought, providing an opportunity to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies. There was considerable agreement about the role anthropogenic climate change played in the events between the different assessments. This year three analyses were of severe storms and none found an anthropogenic signal. However, attribution assessments of these types of events pose unique challenges due to the often limited observational record. When human-influence for an event is not identified with the scientific tools available to us today, this means that if there is a human contribution, it cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability.

NOAA: Another warm winter likely for western U.S., South may see colder weather

October 20, 2014 Comments off

NOAA: Another warm winter likely for western U.S., South may see colder weather
Source: NOAA

Below average temperatures are favored in parts of the south-central and southeastern United States, while above-average temperatures are most likely in the western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and New England, according to the U.S. Winter Outlook, issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Using Forecast and Observed Weather Data to Assess Performance of Forecast Products in Identifying Heat Waves and Estimating Heat Wave Effects on Mortality

October 6, 2014 Comments off

Using Forecast and Observed Weather Data to Assess Performance of Forecast Products in Identifying Heat Waves and Estimating Heat Wave Effects on Mortality
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives (CDC)

Background:
Heat wave and health warning systems are activated based on forecasts of health-threatening hot weather.

Objective:
We estimated heat–mortality associations based on forecast and observed weather data in Detroit, Michigan, and compared the accuracy of forecast products for predicting heat waves.

Methods:
We derived and compared apparent temperature (AT) and heat wave days (with heat waves defined as ≥ 2 days of daily mean AT ≥ 95th percentile of warm-season average) from weather observations and six different forecast products. We used Poisson regression with and without adjustment for ozone and/or PM10 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 10 μm) to estimate and compare associations of daily all-cause mortality with observed and predicted AT and heat wave days.

Results:
The 1-day-ahead forecast of a local operational product, Revised Digital Forecast, had about half the number of false positives compared with all other forecasts. On average, controlling for heat waves, days with observed AT = 25.3°C were associated with 3.5% higher mortality (95% CI: –1.6, 8.8%) than days with AT = 8.5°C. Observed heat wave days were associated with 6.2% higher mortality (95% CI: –0.4, 13.2%) than non–heat wave days. The accuracy of predictions varied, but associations between mortality and forecast heat generally tended to overestimate heat effects, whereas associations with forecast heat waves tended to underestimate heat wave effects, relative to associations based on observed weather metrics.

Conclusions:
Our findings suggest that incorporating knowledge of local conditions may improve the accuracy of predictions used to activate heat wave and health warning systems.

Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Heat Illness and Death Among Workers — United States, 2012–2013
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Exposure to heat and hot environments puts workers at risk for heat stress, which can result in heat illnesses and death. This report describes findings from a review of 2012‒2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) federal enforcement cases (i.e., inspections) resulting in citations under paragraph 5(a)(1), the “general duty clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. That clause requires that each employer “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (1). Because OSHA has not issued a heat standard, it must use 5(a)(1) citations in cases of heat illness or death to enforce employers’ obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace. During the 2-year period reviewed, 20 cases of heat illness or death were cited for federal enforcement under paragraph 5(a)(1) among 18 private employers and two federal agencies. In 13 cases, a worker died from heat exposure, and in seven cases, two or more employees experienced symptoms of heat illness. Most of the affected employees worked outdoors, and all performed heavy or moderate work, as defined by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (2). Nine of the deaths occurred in the first 3 days of working on the job, four of them occurring on the worker’s first day. Heat illness prevention programs at these workplaces were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for the acclimatization of new workers. Acclimatization is the result of beneficial physiologic adaptations (e.g., increased sweating efficiency and stabilization of circulation) that occur after gradually increased exposure to heat or a hot environment (3). Whenever a potential exists for workers to be exposed to heat or hot environments, employers should implement heat illness prevention programs (including acclimatization requirements) at their workplaces.

U.S. Forest Service — New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs

August 27, 2014 Comments off

New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing that as the cost of fighting forest fires has rapidly increased over the last 20 years, the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent and mitigate fire damage, have substantially shrunk. The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas.

“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup and insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America’s forests,” Vilsack said. “In order to protect the public, the portion of the Forest Service budget dedicated to combatting fire has drastically increased from what it was 20 years ago. This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies.”

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