Skip to main content

Applied sciences and engineering/Energy resources/Fuel/Fossil fuels

It has been a record year for weather-related disasters in the United States, from historic drought in Texas to record-breaking floods in North Dakota, and the risk of such extreme events is likely to keep rising, experts said at a recent Capitol Hill briefing that AAAS helped organize.

No new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States since the 1970s, and yet, in that span of time, reactor technology has made considerable strides. For nuclear engineer Eric Loewen, the progress is embodied in a reactor design called PRISM, short for Power Reactor Innovative Small Module. The reactor would be compact and easy to mass-produce, and where the problem of radioactive waste has long weighed against new reactor construction, PRISM would actually run on nuclear waste.

Two recent international studies are poised to change the way scientists view the crucial relationship between Earth’s climate and the carbon cycle. These reports explore the global photosynthesis and respiration rates—the planet’s deep “breaths” of carbon dioxide, in and out—and researchers say that the new findings will be used to update and improve upon traditional models that couple together climate and carbon.

The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is real dropped slightly from 80% in 2008 to 75% late last year, still a robust majority that reflects a continued agreement with the conclusions of climate science, a leading specialist on survey research told a Capitol Hill briefing co-sponsored by AAAS.

President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposal includes significant new investment for research into energy, health, space, and basic sciences, with funding drawn away from long-time research and development priorities such as defense and homeland security, AAAS’s budget analyst said on Capitol Hill.