Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Legal Questions About President Trump's Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

On June 9, 2017 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a "Legal Sidebar" report and analysis entitled President Trump's Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement Raises Legal Questions.
The questions are:
Pt. 1
  • Will the United States Follow the Multi-Year Process for Withdrawal in Article 28?
  • Can the United States Immediately Withdraw from the Paris Agreement?
  • To What Extent Does the Trump Administration Consider the Paris Agreement Binding Under International Law?
  • Will the United States Remain in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?
Pt. 2
  • What is the United States’ Role in Future Climate Change Meetings Organized Under the Paris Agreement?
  • What are the Prospects for Legal Challenges to the Withdrawal?
  • What Legal Risks did the President Seek to Avoid by Announcing the Exit?
See the answers at

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trends in Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research & Development

 National Laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Naval Research, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia) released a report in June 2017 entitled Trends in Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research & Development — A Physics Perspective LA-UR-17-21274. According to the abstract, the report "reviews the accessible literature, as it relates to nuclear explosion monitoring and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT, 1996), for four research areas: source physics (understanding signal generation), signal propagation (accounting for changes through physical media), sensors (recording the signals), and signal analysis (processing the signal). Over 40 trends are addressed "exploring the value and benefit (of each) to the monitoring mission." The report also presents "key papers that advanced the science, and promising research and development for the future."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

FBI Director Appointment and Tenure

Given that the firing of FBI Director James Comey is a hot topic in the news right now, condensed background information can be found in a new Congressional Research  Service (CRS) report that "provides an overview of the development of the process for appointing the FBI Director, briefly discusses the history of nominations to this position, and identifies related congressional hearing records and reports."  The May 10, 2017 report, FBI Director: Appointment and Tenure, by Henry B. Hogue, Specialist in American National Government, is available as a pdf.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States

In January 2017 NOAA published the technical report Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States. Key findings include:

  • For almost all future GMSL (global mean sea level) rise scenarios, RSL (relative sea level) rise is projected to be greater than the global average along the coasts of the U.S. Northeast and the western Gulf of Mexico.  
  • Under the Intermediate and Low GMSL rise scenarios, RSL is projected to be less than the global average along much of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska coasts 
  • Under the Intermediate-High, High and Extreme GMSL rise scenarios, RSL is projected to be higher than the global average along almost all U.S. coasts outside Alaska.
The report also mentions consequences of RSL rise that are already occurring such as increasing tidal-flood frequencies in coastal communities. Using as a definition of flood-frequency the elevation threshold of about 0.8 m (2.6 feet) above the highest tide with a local 20% annual chance of occurring, annual frequencies of damaging flooding with less than 14 inches of local RSL rise "will increase 25-fold by or about (±5 years) 2080, 2060, 2040 and 2030 under the Low, Intermediate-Low, Intermediate, and Intermediate High subset of scenarios, respectively."

See the full report at

NOAA also has a new mapping tool to visualize community-level impacts from coastal flooding or sea level rise (up to 6 feet above average high tides). Try the new beta version.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Energy-Saving Landscapes

Just in time for summer the Energy Department has published Energy Saver 101: Everything You Need to Know About Landscaping.  The web page covers how to shade, create windbreaks, conserve water, and landscape for different climates.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response

On April 7, 2017 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  by Carla E. Humud, Coordinator Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs; Christopher M. Blanchard, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs; and Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation, In addition to the overview, the 33 page report includes sections on issues for Congress; conflict synopsis; recent military, political, and humanitarian developments; U.S. policy and assistance; and an outlook.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

U.S. Climate Change Regulation and Litigation: Selected Legal Issues,

Given President Trump's March 28, 2017 executive order modifying climate change policies, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a climate change report on April 3, 2017 discussing legal challenges to Obama Administration climate change regulations pending before courts. U.S. Climate Change Regulation and Litigation: Selected Legal Issues by Linda Tsang, Legislative Attorney, covers a brief history of U.S. climate change regulation; reviews the types of regulation and legal actions pursued in the national debate over GHG emissions; examines selected legal issues and next steps in related litigation; and addresses what these legal and regulatory developments mean for Congress.

The 2017 Long Term Budget Outlook

The Congressional Budget Office has made available online "The 2017 Long Term Budget Outlook." The report paints a bleak picture noting "If current laws remained generally unchanged, the United States would face steadily increasing federal budget deficits and debt over the next 30 years—reaching the highest level of debt relative to GDP ever experienced in this country." The report includes links to data, supplemental information and related publications and is divided into the following sections:

  • Why Are Projected Deficits Rising?
  • What Might the Consequences Be If Current Laws Remained Unchanged?
  • How Does CBO Make Its Long-Term Budget Projections?
  • How Uncertain Are Those Projections?
  • How Large Would Changes in Spending or Revenues Need to Be to Reach Certain Goals for Federal Debt?
  • How Have CBO’s Projections Changed Over the Past Year?