Daubert Cases and Credible Science Issues
Climate Change—Science and Issues
Bitter cold in parts of US in 2015, but overall NASA tells us its Warmer in 2015 than ever before: Despite a winter in the U.S. that created new records for “snow days” even in snow ready Boston this year and was blamed for a decline in economic growth, overall NASA reports that 2015 is headed on a global basis for the unenviable record of “warmest year yet.” A summary of the current data is contained in an article available at The Guardian: Read more.
Canadian national, provincial and local efforts on climate change discussed in new chapter of environmental law treatise. For those interested in how our northern neighbor is faring with climate change efforts, see: Benidickson, Jamie, Climate Change: Canadian Legal and Policy Responses (February 24, 2015). Benidickson, Jamie Environmental Law, 4th (Irwin Law, 2013). Available for download at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2569113
Other Science and Technology Issues
Are Humans Causing An Accelerated Loss of Animal Species? In a recent article co-authored by famed Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb), the authors conclude that human-caused species extinction of animals, particularly vertebrates, is a real problem and that there is a narrow window of time to avert further extinctions. The article, Accelerated modern human-induces species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, is available here.
Dutch Court Rules that Netherlands has Obligation to reduce green-house gases by 25% within five years. A summary of the Dutch decision, which appears to be based in part upon EU legal principles, is available here.
EPA Issues Final Technical Guidance for Evaluating Potential Vapor-Intrusion Risks from Subsurface: On June 16, 2015, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response, more commonly known as OSWER, released its TECHNICAL GUIDE FOR ASSESSING AND MITIGATING THE VAPOR INTRUSION PATHWAY FROM SUBSURFACE VAPOR SOURCES TO INDOOR AIR. The document is intended to provide non-binding guidance for CERCLA or RCRA investigations and may be of value to environmental scientists and consultants in other applications as well. It is available on-line here.
Is Science or the Economic Marketplace Leveling Coal Companies? In a new study by an organization known as The Coal Tracker, the share-prices of five major European utilities with heavy reliance upon coal are reviewed. In perhaps the most telling example, the German utility RWE witnessed a significant drop in share values from 2009-2013, a time when the overall German stock market showed an overall increase of 18%. RWE in its 2014 Annual Report blamed in part subsidies for renewable energy-based projects that impacted the “margins” of its conventional fueled plants. A copy of the Coal Tracker report is available at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/eu_utilities/.
NOAA scientists report that in fact additional data shows that there was no slow-down or “hiatus” in the increase of global temperatures during the last 15 years. Contrary to some early data from the International Panel on Climate Change suggesting a slow-down in the rate of increase in temperatures, the new study suggests that “that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a ‘slowdown’ in the increase of global surface temperature.” The report is contained in the on-line version of Science and available here.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a review of procedures EPA uses to respond to congressional inquiries about scientific issues lacked certain procedural guarantees. GAO recommended that EPA implement additional procedures to be used in requests for information from both its Science Advisory Board and its Clean Air Science Advisory Committee to ensure appropriate responds in the future. A copy of the GAO report is available here.
How Many Breaths do You Take Each Day? New EPA Article on Air and Human Health Impacts: An EPA web article entitled: “How Many Breaths do You Take Each Day”? discusses the impact on human health (focused in the U.S.) of air pollutants. The article, written by Ann Brown, an EPA communications officer, also has a hyperlink to EPA research on air quality and air monitoring research. The article can be accessed at here.
Toxic Release Inventory Update Issued. EPA issues 2013 Toxic Releases Inventory for over 650 chemicals reported to the agency under the Emergency Planned & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The complete report is located here.
Why Doubt Science? A new National Geographic article explores the sources of ever-increasing doubt about science and scientific “certainty.” As the author Joel Aschenbach writes: “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.
In a sense all this is not surprising. Our lives are permeated by science and technology as never before. For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards—but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can’t easily analyze.” A complete version of this article is available here.