Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • TX SB225 is being heard in the Texas Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee this afternoon (April 3, 2017); it would fast-track water permitting and limit public participation. Action: email the members of the committee to oppose this bill (Alliance for a Clean Texas).
  • TX HB2662 will be heard in the Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee tomorrow (April 4, 2017) and would allow for increased radioactive waste dumping in Texas. Action: email the members of the committee to oppose this bill (Alliance for a Clean Texas).
  • There are now nearly 4 times as many solar energy jobs as there are coal-mining jobs, but most of these jobs are being created in largely democratic states, not in the largely republican states that have lost coal jobs (NPR).

Federal Agencies

  • Disproportionate cuts to science agencies and research programs are proposed in the budget for FY 2017 including 5% of NSF’s budget. If passed, this will decrease the number of NSF grants awarded in the second half of the year (AIBS).
  • The “honest” science bill (H.R.1430), which proposes that the EPA consider only publicly available and reproducible science in decision making, has been passed along party lines in the House despite a letter of concern written by a number of scientific societies and universities (AIBS).
  • The House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing to “keep NSF at the forefront of innovation”. As seen in recent years, there was discussion about dictating allocations to specific NSF directorates, leaving out geosciences and social sciences (AIBS). Note that the geosciences directorate funds a great deal of climate change research and the social sciences directorate has funded gun violence studies, among others.

Public Health

City of Austin

  • The City Council agreed to turn the police DNA lab over to the Texas Department of Public Safety, with Austin and Travis County splitting the costs. The lab was closed last June over concerns about its analyses (Statesman).
  • Read a summary of the latest overall US climate policy and the city of Austin’s efforts in a new Austin EcoNetwork blogpost.
  • Austin Mayor Steve Adler stated his commitment to cities leading climate action through the C40 Cities group and in a letter to Donald Trump this week as a member of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (Medium, Austin American Statesman).

Climate Change

  • President Trump signed an executive order which begins to roll back some of President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change, including the Clean Power Plan (NY Times).
    • One objective was to bring back coal jobs, a goal stated as unrealistic by many energy economists (The Atlantic); another goal was to increase energy independence.
    • However, some large companies have pushed back, stating that they will hold true to their promises to use renewable energy and decrease emissions (Bloomberg).
    • Following the executive order, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rolled back the temporary pause on new coal-mining leases in federally owned lands (The Hill). 40% of coal production takes place on federal lands.
  • Scepticism regarding anthropogenic climate change is expected to play an increased role in Trump Administration policy (Scientific American).
  • There is growing evidence that worldwide jet stream patterns are changing as a result of anthropogenic climate change (Washington Post).
  • The Heartland Institute, a think tank that does not accept anthropogenic climate change, has sent tens of thousands of copies of a book called “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” to science educators around the US (PBS).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Many positions within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy have remained vacant. It is unclear whether these national security, energy, science, and international affairs advising positions will later be filled, or if they are intentionally be left vacant.  The president believes this office to be redundant with other expertise in the government (NY Times).
  • March Mammal Madness has had sweeping success in educating students about biodiversity and science through fictional battles between animals based on ecology, behavior, and physiology of each competitor (NPR).
  • Dr. Jonathan Foley, director of the California Academy of the Sciences, has created a timeline showing progression of events in what he calls the “War on Science” (the-macroscope.com).

 

Events this week (central time)

  • Tuesday April 4, 6-8pm, Austin Water is holding a workshop to learn about and give input on Water Forward, the plan for Austin’s water for the next 100 years.
  • Tuesday, April 4, 1:00pm: Engaging Congress on Science Policy, AAAS live chat. Engage through AAAS facebook or AAAS twitter; early questions welcome with the  #AAASLive hashtag
  • Wednesday, April 5, 7-9pm at Pickle Research Campus. Geoscience Advocates of Texas will hold a panel discussion, “Implementing Science-Based Policy in Texas” (Facebook Event).
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