November 30, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


WHITE HOUSE CLIMATE ASSESSMENT STRESSES THE IMPACT CLIMATE CHANGE IS ALREADY HAVING ON THE U.S.

The Trump administration recently released the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), Volume II: Impacts, Risks and Adaptation in the United States. The administration is congressionally mandated to release this report, which is overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and examines the impact of climate change on the U.S. since 2000. The NCA was last published in 2014.

The report is the result of collaboration between scientists from 13 federal departments and agencies. The message was unequivocal: climate change and its effects are already affecting the U.S and the chances of intense national disasters only stand to grow if measures aren’t taken. The report explains how global warming is “transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The assessment argues that steps to combat climate change must be taken “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

The continental U.S. has warmed by 1.8°F over the last century, with coastlines facing sea levels nine inches higher on average. However, by 2025, the temperature could continue to increase a further 2.3°F. This increase in average temperature will have negative effects that extend beyond just more extreme temperatures. The increased warmth will impact the crop yields for key crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. The assessment warns that “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

The report specifically remarks on the future of the energy sector, noting that the displacement of coal by natural gas and the increased adoption of renewable energy among many states has had an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, these state and regional measures are still not enough to counteract the negative impacts of climate change, noting that “While these adaptation and mitigation measures can help reduce damages in a number of sectors, this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, would be needed to avoid the most severe consequences in the long term.”

To view the report in full, click here: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/


FIRST BIPARTISAN CLIMATE LEGISLATION IN A DECADE IS INTRODUCED IN THE HOUSE

Hot on the heels of the administration’s National Climate Assessment, a small bipartisan group of House members introduced a carbon tax bill this week. The bill, to be titled the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is the first piece of bipartisan climate legislation to be introduced in 10 years.

Despite the symbolic timing of the legislation, there is very little likelihood of it progressing this congress. Rather, the legislation is the seed planting of a climate strategy that will be pursued once the new Congress starts in January. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) was joined by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) in introducing the legislation. Among the provisions, Bloomberg notes that the legislation seeks to implement a carbon fee of $15 per metric ton to the oil, gas, and coal industries, but rebate all of the revenue as a dividend to households to shield them from increased fossil fuel costs related to the carbon fee.

“More than a dozen federal agencies just warned us that if we don’t take dramatic action, climate change will knock 10 percent off of our GDP by the end of this century,” Rep. Deutch explained in a statement to Bloomberg Environment. “Putting a price on carbon can help change the behavior of polluters. We hope our bipartisan bill will spur action on climate change before it’s too late.”


NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION REVERSES BIO DIRECTORATE SUBMISSION RESTRICTIONS FOR PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that it is reversing the decision to limit researchers to only one proposal submission per year to the biology directorate’s three core tracks in which they are listed as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI.

In August of this year, the NSF’s BIO directorate released new solicitations restricting the number of proposals PIs could submit, citing a high number of qualified submissions but limited funds as the reason. A statement released by the NSF at the time explained “We sought an objective way to limit proposal submissions to carefully considered, unique research ideas, while removing barriers to collaboration by allowing unlimited involvement on proposals with potential to receive budgets.”

This announcement was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction, along with a precipitous drop in submissions. Consequently, the NSF has decided to reverse this decision, as announced in a recent statement. “Having listened to community concern and tracked the current low rate of submission, and following extensive internal consultation, BIO is lifting all PI or co-PI restrictions on proposal submission for FY 2019, effective immediately.”

To view the decision in full, click here: https://oadblog.nsfbio.com/2018/11/15/submission-limits/


HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP REQUEST JUSTIFICATION BEHIND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY’S LATEST REGULATORY ROLLBACKS

Following up on Capitol Update’s earlier report of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to reinstate a policy decreasing the number of power plants required to undergo New Source Review, leading members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have written a letter to Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing their concern and requesting further explanation. “EPA has engaged in the systematic dismantling of critical climate initiatives and public health protections,” they note. “Furthermore, EPA continues to champion policies that would result in massive increases in greenhouse gas emissions with no regard for the associated climate or public health impacts.”

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ); Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO); and Subcommittee on Environment Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY). In addition to sharing their concerns, the members request Acting Administrator Wheeler provide them with a swathe of documents and information pertaining to specific regulations that show the analysis and thought process behind the regulatory decisions made to date.

The letter requests answers to all queries, along with the necessary documents no later than December 4.

To view the letter in full, click here: https://democrats-energycommerce.house.gov/sites/democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/files/documents/EPA.2018.11.20.%20Letter%20re%20Climate%20Change.%20EE.OI_.pdf


NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, MEDICINE AND ENGINEERING HOSTING RELEASE OF ITS LATEST STUDY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING IN THE 21ST CENTURY

The National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering (NASEM) recently announced that it will be hosting an event to celebrate the release of its latest study, Environmental Engineering in the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges on December 5. The event will host of panel of speakers discussing finding from the report. Panelists include Domenico Grasso of the University of Michigan, Dearborn; Dan Greenbaum from Health Effects Institute; Kimberly Jones from Howard University; Bob Perciasepe from Center for Climate and Energy Solutions; Steve Polasky from University of Minnesota; and Julie Zimmerman from Yale University. The event will take place at the National Academy of Sciences, but will also be available via live webstream.

The report examines the current challenges facing society and how engineering can play a role in alleviating them and is modeled on the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges in Engineering. The Grand Challenges is an initiative comprised of what the NAE has deemed the top 14 challenges and opportunities for engineering today. The challenges were selected from hundreds of suggestions provided by engineers, scientists and policymakers to the NAE. The full list of Grand Challenges are:

  • Make Solar Energy Economical
  • Provide Energy from Fusion
  • Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
  • Manage the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Provide Access to Clean Water
  • Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure
  • Advance Health Informatics
  • Engineer Better Medicines
  • Reverse-Engineer the Brain
  • Prevent Nuclear Terror
  • Secure Cyberspace
  • Enhance Virtual Reality
  • Advance Personalized Learning
  • Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery

For more information and to register for the December 5 event, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/environmental-engineering-for-the-21st-century-addressing-grand-challenges-tickets-52367541727


NEW REPORT PROVIDES RECOMMENDATIONS TO STRENGTHEN THE LINK BETWEEN HIGHER EDUCATION AND RECENT GRADUATE WORKFORCE PREPAREDNESS

The Manufacturing USA Institute, LIFT, recently released its report detailing the findings from its Advancing University Engineering and Manufacturing Education: The New Innovative, and Re-Imagined World of Employer-Engaged “Work-and-Learn” workshop that was held in Washington, DC earlier this year.

The workshop looked at relationship between higher education institutions and the tools with which they equip their students to enter the workforce. “A quick scan of university programs in the U.S. would likely find that most universities offer some level of work-and-learn experiences to students as part of, or as a supplement to, their engineering education. If work-and-learn models are indeed already reasonably prevalent in engineering education, then why do industry leaders and students alike report concern over recent engineering graduates’ lack of preparedness for the workplace?”

The report examines this question, but also presents four imperatives to ensure students are entering the workforce prepared for the task ahead. These include:

  • Engineering graduates should have deeper understanding of how their role intersects with other processes and individuals in the workplace.
  • All engineering students should participate in high-quality and innovative work-and-learn experiences during their undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Engineering curriculum must be responsive to evolving industry needs, including the needs of small, medium, and large employers
  • Work-and-learn models should be more widely implemented in university engineering programs and not reliant on a small group of “champion” professors or administrators

To view the report in full, click here: https://lift.technology/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2-Engineering-Work-and-Learn-Imperatives-for-Innovation-1.pdf

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