Breaking Waves: Ocean News

07/31/2014 - 15:28
(Click to enlarge) The view of Earth during NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. (Credit NASA) The Senate Budget Committee met on Tuesday and received testimony on the economic and budgetary consequences of climate change. Witnesses included a climate change scientist and an economic consultant, as well as representatives from the business, military, and government sectors. Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) opened the hearing saying the “added cost of climate change impacts are not adequately accounted for in current, long-term budget outlooks” and that the cost of inaction is far more costly than mitigation. Dr. David Montgomery of NERA Economic Consulting recommended rather than focusing on mitigation, we should be focusing on adaption. He also suggested the best way to control emissions is to put a price on carbon, not through government regulations. Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, an Adjunct Professor at the Copenhagen Business School and Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center estimated that by 2100, the cost of inaction will be 1.8% of the U.S. GDP, unrealistic action (every country in the world has strong climate change policies) will cost 1.4% of U.S. GDP, and realistic action will cost 3% of the U.S. GDP. His proposed solution was to make green technologies so cheap that everyone in the world will want to buy them. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) later commented that if this is the solution, research budgets should not be getting cut. Sherri Goodman, Executive Director of CNA Military Advisory Board, spoke briefly about climate change impacts to the Arctic. She stated we are not prepared to deal with the increasing risk for man-made environmental crisis in the Arctic as it opens up to more human activity, namely , an oil spill. In response to a question from Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Alfredo Gomez of the Government Accountability Office suggested the federal government should help local and state governments by providing them with technical assistance to better protect their own resources. Additionally, Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) expressed concern about the negative impact of climate change mitigation efforts to the economy. Mindy Lubber of Ceres countered this by saying “It is not a choice between protecting the climate and protecting the economy. Without a stable climate, we cannot build an economy that is stable”. Later that afternoon, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a hearing entitled “Examining the Threats Posed by Climate Change”. Although witnesses from local government, the reinsurance industry, and the oyster farming industry were present, much of the discussion focused on Dr. Bjorn Lomborg (who was also a witness at the morning hearing) and Raymond Keating of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. Dr. Lomborg reiterated his ideas from the morning hearing that the cost of realistic action would be far greater than the cost of inaction. Mr. Keating strongly asserted the cost of climate regulations would be disproportionately higher for smaller businesses. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] brought Broward County Commissioner Kristen Jacobs into the conversation by asking about the real impacts of climate change South Florida is facing. Commissioner Jacobs stated sea level rise is causing significant salt water intrusion in the area, threatening freshwater supplies and impacting water management. She also noted climate change issues are bipartisan in South Florida, saying “it is not the kind of conversation you’re seeing up here in Washington and I think that’s because we’re dealing with it”. In order for local governments like hers to continue directly dealing with climate change, she encouraged the continuation of partnerships with federal agencies like NOAA provide financial and technical assistance.
07/31/2014 - 15:20
(Click to enlarge). U.S. Capitol Building. (Credit: (Architect of the Capitol) The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee released its draft version of the America COMPETES Act. The bill would reauthorize programs and funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE Science) through FY 2019. NSF and NIST would receive an average annual increase in funding of 6.7%, which is greater than the 4.9% annual increase proposed in the House version (FIRST Act). The America COMPETES Act would not dictate funding down to the NSF directorates, a feature of the House version resulting in cuts to the geosciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences funding. Additionally, the draft Senate bill does not include changes to the NSF peer review process included in the House version. The FIRST Act has been approved by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Ocean Leadership has submitted a joint comment letter with other organizations on the draft COMPETES Act, which can be viewed here.
07/31/2014 - 15:15
(Click to enlarge) A cleanup worker on June 4, picking up an absorbent snare filled with oil on Queen Bess Island in Plaquemines Parish, La. (Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press) The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing this week entitled “Revisiting the RESTORE Act: Progress and Challenges in Gulf Restoration Post- Deepwater Horizon”. Witnesses represented federal, state, and local government perspectives. While not serving on the Committee, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA) provided oral statements, addressing the direct impacts of the oil spill felt by Louisiana. In his opening statement, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed his concern about the slow progress of Gulf restoration, particularly at the federal level. As a final rule from the Department of Treasury regarding the investment and use of funds from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund has yet to be published, funds to states and local governments cannot be expended. The final rule was scheduled to be released in January 2014. RESTORE Council Executive Director Justin Ehrenwerth provided the Committee an update on the Comprehensive Plan in draft by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. This Council, comprised Governors of the affected states and representatives from 6 federal agencies, is responsible for managing the 30% of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds expenditures that will be directed towards ecosystem restoration. Last week, the Council approved the proposal submission and evaluation process for restoration projects and expects to begin soliciting for projects next month. The Council will be releasing an interim Comprehensive Plan later this summer, which will allow states to access funds for planning purposes. The lack of planning funds available was cited at the primary impediment to starting restoration work, according to Gover Robinson, Escambia County Commissioner. Committee members expressed concern, however, that the Council’s Plan is not in accordance with the statutory language of the RESTORE Act and questioned the delay in finalizing the Plan. Senator Rubio queried Thomas Kelsch of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation about the importance of avoiding duplication and inefficiency in the planning of restoration projects given the multiple sources of funding. Mr. Kelsch assuaged that concern, confirming the plea agreement required the Foundation to consult closely with the state resource agencies, and the overlap and coordination between members of the RESTORE and NRDA Trustee Councils would help avoid any duplication of projects. Senator Bill Nelson later echoed the frustration of Senator Rubio regarding the delay in getting federal funds to the states and localities in need. He stated that while the majority of the money is not available yet from the civil trial, there is some money available from other sources, such as the Transocean criminal lawsuit, that states could use in preparation for when the civil suit money is available. In closing, Senator Nelson said to the panelist and the Department of Treasury the “message from us to you is to get on with it”, regarding the need to finalize both the RESTORE Council’s Comprehensive Plan and the Department of Treasury’s proposed rule.
07/31/2014 - 15:07
(Click to enlarge) White House Office of Science & Technology Policy logo. (Credit: White House) Despite the FY15 appropriations process likely to drag into the winter, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology have released their annual science and technology priorities memo for FY 2016. Similar to last year, this year’s list prioritizes clean energy, climate research, and STEM education. A notable addition to this year’s priority list is Earth observation data.
07/31/2014 - 15:00
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07/31/2014 - 15:00
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07/31/2014 - 14:42
(Click to enlarge). The U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Architect of the Capitol) Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has announced the House of Representatives will consider a continuing resolution (CR) in September to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year (FY) 2015 year begins on October 1st. The resolution would likely expire in early December, just after midterm elections and during the lame duck session of Congress. The House will be in recess until September 8th, after which they will have 10 days to pass the resolution upon their return. The CR is necessary to keep the government open as the House has passed only seven of the 12 annual spending bills and the Senate has yet to pass any of the must-pass bills.
07/31/2014 - 13:29
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07/31/2014 - 10:23
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07/31/2014 - 10:01
Park officials, wildlife advocates and Native American groups are eager to restore wild bison to more of their native habitat Continue reading...