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This week’s developments range from the exasperating to the exciting. Andy’s picks on the government shutdown and more.

Government Shutdown

The greeting that welcomes grant seekers at the National Science Foundation website. The NSF home page address has been changed to “outage.”

Tom Friedman in The New York Times   How gerrymandering and other political factors led to this impasse, with worse to come.

Celia Wexler of Union of Concerned Scientists  A summary of anticipated impacts on science agencies, including:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is turning away chronically ill patients for new experimental trials, though they’re continuing to treat current patients.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unable to plan for flu season.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is suspending routine food inspection.
  • Independent scientists cannot access online data from several agencies, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Federal advisory panels have suspended operations. These panels form the basis of scientific advice to the government, for instance on whether or not to approve new drugs.
  • Researchers are out of luck if they run out of grant money from the National Science Foundation or need help from the agency to implement their work.


Student shutout on fossil fuel divestment

Harvard President Drew Faust. via Wikimedia Commons

President Drew Faust of Harvard University released a long and cogent explanation of why the school will not remove fossil fuel investments from its portfolio. Go Fossil Free, an initiative of, is leading the effort at Harvard and other campuses. In a reply to Dr. Faust, Jay Carmona, the Divestment Campaign Manager for, said:

This is the fight we’ve been waiting for. Getting a clear rejection from a board of trustees or college president only serves to clarify the fight that’s underway on campus. Students are not backing down–they’re getting more fired up by the day.




A first in the world of renewable energy

According to analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), solar power capacity installed around the world this year will beat wind for the first time driven by stronger policy support in key markets.

Photovoltaic plants will add about 36.7 gigawatts globally in 2013 and wind farms 35.5 gigawatts, or almost 25 percent less than last year, the research company said today in a statement. Solar capacity will rise about 20 percent from 2012. Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar analysis:

The dramatic cost reductions in photovoltaics, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes.



The International Program on the State of the Ocean released its latest report, concluding:

Decreasing oxygen levels in the ocean caused by climate change and nitrogen runoff, combined with other chemical pollution and rampant overfishing are undermining the ability of the ocean to withstand these so-called ‘carbon perturbations’, meaning its role as Earth’s ‘buffer’ is seriously compromised.


Government Shutdown Update . . .

Message in a virtual bottle

Many government workers on furlough are spending their off-time performing their regular duties. That doesn’t necessarily mean business as 100% usual. EarthDesk follower JD Cronin alerted us to clever folks at NOAA who spiced their weather report with a plea to Congress  (see deciphered version below). These “non-essential” federal employees who prepare us for the work day, alert us to hurricanes and super storms, and monitor weather systems that endanger ships at sea, are not being paid while “essential” federal employees, such as members of Congress, are. Their message in a virtual bottle may have had some effect. The House today approved back pay to federal workers, but, alas, when the shutdown ends.