Month: October 2014

Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup Releases Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives

On September 22, 2014, Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives was released as an informational resource for Tribes, agencies, and organizations across the United States interested in understanding Traditional Knowledges in the context of climate change.

The Third National Climate Assessment issued in May 2014 contained a chapter dedicated to the impact of climate change on tribal peoples. In light of the increasing recognition of the significance of Traditional Knowledges in relation to climate change, a self-organized, informal group of indigenous persons, staff of indigenous governments and organizations, and experts with experience working with issues concerning Traditional Knowledges felt compelled to develop a framework to increase understanding of issues relating to access and protection of Traditional Knowledges in climate initiatives and interactions between holders of Traditional Knowledges and non-tribal partners.

The Guidelines were originally developed to inform the Department of Interior’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science in May 2014. To learn more, visit:

House to vote on bill requiring EPA to share scientific basis for regulations

Read the full story in The Hill.

The House will vote on legislation preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations, unless all scientific data to support implementation is publicly available.

Sustainable Student Farm sure knows how to “turnip”

Read the full story in Smile Politely.

I first stumbled upon the Sustainable Student Farm stand on Thursday afternoon on my way to class. I was almost overwhelmed with the variety of produce being sold. I started at it and bought a bag of spinach, mini peppers, green onion and an acorn squash because it just looked so cool. While checking out I chatted with Matt Turino. He was also a big fan of the fresh produce that the stand offered and as a volunteer there are more opportunities for obtaining fresh produce. With fads of today dealing with eating more organically, I have been curious to hop on the bandwagon and start eating right. But SSF has a view on sustainability that goes beyond what most people think.

Georgetown Climate Center Releases State Adaptation Progress Tracker

Many states have started taking actions to prepare their communities for climate change, and some have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. The Georgetown Climate Center has developed an online tool that tracks how much progress each state is making towards its climate adaptation efforts, and also provides state profile pages that include a detailed breakdown of each state’s adaptation work and links to local adaptation plans and resources.

To learn more, visit:

How to Breathe New Life Into Sustainability To Build Your Brand And Business

Read the full story in Forbes.

Sustainability is a bittersweet term in that it embodies one of the most transformative forces in business today and yet at the same time its very familiarity has led to some world-weariness with the topic. Some say that is because so much has been written about sustainability in the last few years that it has suffered the same fate as the word, ‘green’. Others suggest that the persistent tension between marketing and sustainability has led to insufficient alignment between the two, inadequate impact as a result, and disillusionment as a symptom. Finally, some have suggested that as sustainability becomes mired in tools, metrics, and data, this transformational topic has lost some “sex appeal” to keep it top of mind. In truth, if sustainability has lost any urgency as a topic or initiative inside a company the fault lies with ourselves as we have failed to invest our efforts with the fresh energy and ideas that critical, long-term change demands.

White House Announces Priority Agenda to Enhance Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is announcing a Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda that represents a first of its kind, comprehensive commitment across the federal government to support the resilience of our natural resources.

This agenda identifies a suite of actions that the federal government will take to enhance the resilience of America’s natural resources to the impacts of climate change and promote their ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

The agenda, which was called for in the President’s Executive Order on Climate Preparedness, was developed jointly by federal agencies and is informed by the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and other stakeholder engagement.

For more details on this announcement, see the White House Fact Sheet. The full agenda can be accessed at:

Africa’s Lions May Be Deemed Threatened in U.S.—Will It Help?

Read the full story in National Geographic.

The African lion—thousands of miles away but beloved by Americans—might become protected under U.S. law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.

The proposed new rule would list lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. If approved, the law would make it illegal to kill or hunt captive lions in the U.S. without a permit or for a U.S. citizen to sell lions or lion parts across state or international borders. The sale of lions or lion parts within a U.S. state will remain under state jurisdiction.


Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist

Read the full post at Grist.

Two years ago, Camille Parmesan, a professor at Plymouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, became so “professionally depressed” that she questioned abandoning her research in climate change entirely.

Parmesan has a pretty serious stake in the field. In 2007, she shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for her work as a lead author of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2009, The Atlantic named her one of 27 “Brave Thinkers” for her work on the impacts of climate change on species around the globe. Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg were also on the list.

Despite the accolades, she was fed up. “I felt like here was this huge signal I was finding and no one was paying attention to it,” Parmesan says. “I was really thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” She ultimately packed up her life here in the States and moved to her husband’s native United Kingdom.

Electric-car drivers trading gas for solar power

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight.

Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The panels aren’t cheap, and neither are the cars. A Ford Fusion Energi plug-in sedan, for example, is $7,200 more than an equivalent gas-powered Fusion even after a $4,007 federal tax credit.

Chemical Assessments: Agencies Coordinate Activities, but Additional Action Could Enhance Efforts

Chemical Assessments: Agencies Coordinate Activities, but Additional Action Could Enhance Efforts

What GAO Found

The federal agencies GAO reviewed—the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—undertake distinct chemical toxicity assessment activities that differ in type and purpose and are driven in part by statutory requirements; the 10 states GAO reviewed largely rely on federal agencies’ assessment activities. For example, ATSDR’s toxicity assessment activities include evaluating hazards at contaminated sites and NIOSH’s activities include identifying potential health risks to workers. Agency officials from all 10 of the selected states told GAO that they have used assessment information produced by these federal agencies in the last 5 years. Officials from 6 of the 10 states told GAO they rely on federal assessments, and the remaining 4 said that they may produce their own assessments in some cases—for example, when a chemical is of interest to the state but is not a national priority.

The chemical toxicity assessment activities at these five federal agencies are fragmented and overlapping, but GAO did not find evidence that these activities are duplicative. Their activities are fragmented because they address the same broad area of national need—providing information on the toxicity of chemicals. The five agencies’ activities overlap because some of them have similar goals—such as identifying the extent to which a chemical may cause cancer—or some target similar beneficiaries—such as the general public. GAO did not find evidence of duplication, however, because the agencies did not engage in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries. For example, although both NIOSH and EPA develop chemical toxicity assessment information, NIOSH assesses the potential risks that chemicals pose to working-aged adults in occupational settings, such as over the course of a 40-hour workweek, and EPA assesses risks that chemicals pose to a broader population, including children, typically over the course of an entire lifetime.

Officials from all five federal agencies and 3 of the 10 states told GAO that they have coordinated their chemical toxicity assessment activities and also identified challenges. For example, some agency officials identified constraints on sharing confidential business information because of legal restrictions on dissemination of such information across agencies. The Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) coordinates science and technology policies across the federal government. All executive department and agencies, whether or not they are represented on the NTSC, are to coordinate science and technology policy through it. Given that NSTC has previously facilitated federal coordination on cross-cutting topics, such as nanotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the environment, and given its purpose, an official from OSTP stated that NSTC could serve an interagency coordinating function to address certain cross-cutting challenges. By having an interagency body to address these, and any future cross-cutting challenges, the five selected federal agencies would be positioned to better coordinate their assessment activities in the most effective and efficient manner.

Why GAO Did This Study

With thousands of chemicals in commercial use in the United States, decision makers rely on toxicity assessment information to examine the risks these substances may pose. Several key federal agencies—including ATSDR, EPA, NIOSH, NTP, and OSHA—as well as state agencies, assess the toxicity of chemicals.

GAO was asked to review chemical toxicity assessment activities. This report (1) describes the chemical toxicity assessment activities selected federal and state agencies undertake; (2) assesses the extent to which these federal agencies’ chemical toxicity assessment activities are fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative; and (3) assesses the extent to which these federal and state agencies coordinate their chemical toxicity assessment activities and challenges in doing so. GAO selected five key federal agencies that assess chemicals, and a nonprobability sample of agencies in 10 states that provide a range of assessment activities. GAO reviewed federal agency documentation and compiled summaries of chemical toxicity assessment activities and compared them with one another. GAO interviewed officials from these agencies, representatives from industry, and other stakeholders.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Director of OSTP encourage the NSTC to support relevant federal agency officials’ efforts to address, as appropriate, the agencies’ cross-cutting coordination challenges. OSTP did not provide official written comments, but instead provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.

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