Table of Contents
Environmental Issues Health and Medicine Earth Sciences Policy and Research Issues Space Events and Open Meetings

Environmental Issues

MEETING: Strategic Advice on the US Climate Change Science Program

The National Academies' Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Committee will provide independent advice on the strategy and evolution of the US Climate Change Science Program on Thursday, June 7 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. This meeting is open to the public. A draft agenda and information about the project are posted at the accompanying links.

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Wind-Energy Use Growing in US, But Guidelines Lacking

Although use of wind energy to generate electricity is increasing rapidly, government guidance to help communities and developers plan wind-energy projects is lacking, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report, which assesses environmental benefits and drawbacks, estimates that by 2020, wind energy will offset about 4.5 percent of the CO2 that would otherwise be emitted by other electricity sources.

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Highways Through Habitats: The Banff Wildlife Crossings Project

The April 2007 issue of the Transportation Review Board's bimonthly magazine, TR News, features an article that explores Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, which has been a testing site for innovative passageways to mitigate the effects of roads on wildlife. The Trans-Canada Highway bisects the park, but a range of engineering mitigation measures—including a variety of wildlife underpasses and overpasses—has helped maintain large mammal populations for the past 25 years and has allowed the gathering of valuable data about wildlife crossing structures.

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Assessing the Performance of Engineered Waste Containment Barriers

President Carter's 1980 declaration of a state of emergency at Love Canal, NY recognized that residents' health had been affected by nearby chemical waste sites. The 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act had just ushered in a new era of waste management disposal to protect the public from harm. It required that modern waste containment systems use "engineered" barriers to isolate hazardous and toxic wastes and prevent them from seeping into the environment. These containment systems are now employed at thousands of US waste sites, and their effectiveness must be continually monitored. This National Research Council report assesses the performance of waste containment barriers to date.

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Health and Medicine

VA Should Revise the Way it Evaluates, Compensates Vets for PTSD

The US Department of Veterans Affairs needs to revise its methods of evaluating former military personnel for service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and of determining appropriate compensation, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. The report also addresses questions about when symptoms can manifest and about handling claims related to sexual assault during military service.

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Two-Pronged Approach Needed to Tackle Tobacco Problem

To further curb smoking in the United States requires not only strengthening current tobacco control measures but also creating a stronger role for federal oversight of the production, promotion, and sale of tobacco products, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Among other steps, the report recommends a combination of higher excise taxes, indoor smoking bans nationwide, and regulation of marketing and distribution.

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Mining Safety and Health Research

The US mining sector has the highest fatality rate of any industry in the country. Advances made over the past three decades in mining technology, equipment, processes, procedures, and workforce education and training have significantly improved safety and health. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Safety and Health Research Program (Mining Program) has played a large role in these improvements. This report assesses the relevance of the NIOSH Mining Program research and makes suggestions to further increase its effectiveness.

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Earth Sciences

Subglacial Lakes Should Be Studied with Care

Radar measurements have revealed a vast network of lakes, rivers, and streams beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. The next stage of exploration requires direct sampling of the aquatic systems, but if sampling is not done cautiously, the environmental integrity and scientific value of these environments could be compromised, says a new National Research Council report. Carefully managed studies should proceed, guided by research protocols that are internationally agreed upon.

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Policy and Research Issues

Nation Needs to Focus on Plasma Science

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Science should reorient its research programs to promote plasma science research and create a focal point for federal efforts in that field, says a new report from the National Research Council. Breakthroughs in plasma science have the potential to enhance national and economic security, energy production, and general scientific knowledge.

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Surface Samples Key to Understanding Mars Astrobiology

Collecting rock and soil samples should be the highest-priority scientific objective for Mars exploration, according to a new report from the National Research Council. The greatest increase in our understanding of Mars and the possibility of life on that planet will come from the acquisition and study of a range of samples.

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Events and Open Meetings

EVENT: Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion

Darwin is credited with demonstrating that organisms evolve and diversify through time. Even more important than the theory of biological evolution is his discovery of natural selection, the process that accounts for the design of organisms and their features. But the design of organisms is not intelligent, as would be expected from an engineer. It is imperfect and worse: defects, dysfunctions, oddities, waste, and even sadism pervade the living world. This could not be the product of an intelligent designer, unless this designer was intentionally deceitful and malevolent. Dr. Francisco J. Ayala will deliver this presentation, part of the new "Distinctive Voices" series, on June 6 at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA.

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