Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • Texas SB 103, which would bar cities in Texas from passing plastic bag bans or charging fees for plastic bags, was heard in the Texas Legislature this week. In response Texas HB 3482 was filed, which would protect the rights of cities to pass bag bans (Texas Tribune). Action: sign the petition to promote HB 3482 (Texas Campaign for the Environment).

Higher Education

  • The Texas Senate Finance Committee had a preliminary vote on plans for university funding in the upcoming state budget. Under the plan, each university would lose 6-10% of funding. A large portion of the removed special items budget would be redistributed to the schools so none would lose more than 10% (Texas Tribune).

Federal Agencies

  • The proposed 2018 budget eliminates NOAA’s $73 million sea grant college program. This program funds conservation research, outreach, and engagement with local communities, businesses, and industry at colleges in the coastal and Great Lakes regions (Inside Higher Ed).
  • Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the house science committee, wants to introduce a new authorization bill for the NSF, even though the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act was passed in January. He argues that the NSF should direct less funding to social and environmental sciences and should publicly release the names of scientists found guilty of misconduct (ScienceInsider).
  • Trump’s proposed budget (Washington Post) would cut the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by 20% ($6 billion) (ScienceInsider). Such a cut could have substantial impacts on the science community, which is already underfunded: for over a decade now, the number of grant applications have increased substantially while NIH funds have remained stagnant (The Atlantic). An opinion piece in the Nation Review calls the budget “unrealistic” and suggests focusing on reforming entitlement programs instead (National Review).

Public Health

  • The Congressional Budget Office released its budget estimates of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), stating that it would reduce the federal deficit, increase the number of people without insurance (because of no individual mandate), and initially increase premiums until 2020 but then would decrease them (although this effect varies by age group) (CBO, National Review, NY Times).
  • You can follow up-to-date information regarding your representatives’ stances on the AHCA on NPR.

Climate Change

  • 17 Republican representatives have introduced the Republican Climate Resolution (Citizens’ Climate Lobby), which recognizes climate change as a national issue and proposes a rising greenhouse gas emission fee (The Hill; The Atlantic).
  • Global carbon emissions stayed flat in 2016, for the third consecutive year, while the global economy grew 3% (Washington Post). However, the amount of emissions is still the highest in history and, if sustained, will lead to climate disaster (Washington Post). NOAA announced new readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory that suggest that CO2 has increased at 2 parts per million for the last 5 years, calling this “unprecedented” (Scientific American).
  • Secretary of Defense Matthis recognized climate change as a concern of the Department of Defense in some unpublished documents from his Senate hearing, stating “I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation” (ProPublica).
  • A change in global air currents caused by a warming Arctic is thought to be contributing to China’s smog problem (Science).
  • An influential Australian climate change think tank has closed due to financial backers feeling they are fighting a losing battle against the fossil fuel industry (Science).
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was found to have used an alias when asking about the risks of climate change while CEO of Exxon Mobil (Bloomberg). Previously, Exxon was found to have been preparing for climate change for decades while promoting misinformation denying its existence (Scientific American).
  • “Record percentages of Americans are concerned about global warming, believe it is occurring, consider it a serious threat and say it is caused by human activity. All of these perceptions are up significantly from 2015,” reports Gallup (March 14, 2017).

Professional Development

  • Social network was found to influence which Chinese scientists were elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (Science).
  • A twitter poll found that it took more than 14 years from the start of graduate school for 30% of professors to obtain tenure (Twitter).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Boaty McBoatface, a British submarine whose name was chosen by an online poll, is making its first journey in the Antarctic to investigate warming waters (NPR).
  • More scientists are running for office; a group called 314 Action is helping (Daily Pennsylvanian, Buzzfeed).
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