Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Geoengineering: Maybe, and Only as Part of a Larger Plan


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11/14/17 – A congressional subcommittee recently held hearings on the potential of geoengineering to keep climate change in check. But two dozen prominent thinkers in the field cautioned in a letter to the lawmakers that though this approach may hold promise, “Any consideration of a federally funded and coordinated research program into geoengineering must be in […]

Climate Changing, Humans Responsible, Action Possible


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  11/7/17 – Contrary to statements by President Trump and many of his advisers, the global climate has warmed considerably over the past century and it is “extremely likely” than human activities are the “dominant cause,” according to a major new report. But even as wrangling continues, there are practical climate-related policy and technology options […]

Taxing Vehicle Miles: A Better Way to Fund Highways


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  11/2/17 – The Trump administration is reportedly considering raising federal motor fuel taxes, perhaps by seven cents per gallon, to pay for its infrastructure investment plan. But a sustainable-energy analyst recently argued in Issues that it would be better to institute a tax based on vehicle miles traveled, which would more accurately track with […]

War of the Words


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11/1/17 – The increasing span of social media is raising dramatically the ability of adversaries of the United States to spread “weaponized narratives” aimed at undermining public faith in the nation’s culture and institutions, a scholar who studies the ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies recently observed in Issues. Now comes new data on […]

Expanding Ocean Observations to Aid Climate Forecasting


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10/31/17 – The US government should mount a comprehensive effort to study the ocean on a sustained basis over 10 years to gain information essential for monitoring and forecasting changes in Earth’s climate, says a new report from an influential science advisory group. In the same spirit, a policy analyst has argued in Issues for paying […]

Looking Beyond Leaner Bacon


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10/30/17 – Scientists in China have now used the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas 9 to produce pigs that can better regulate their body temperatures by burning fat, resulting in leaner animals that can survive better in cold weather. But in a cautionary note, two researchers argued recently in Issues that society should not focus narrowly on […]

Canada Welcomes Skilled Immigrants


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  10/29/17 – In a bid to catalyze new high-tech companies, Canada is now marketing itself as more welcoming than the United States for skilled foreign workers looking to set up shop. Issues has examined this international action from various angles, exploring the outsized role of immigrants as entrepreneurs and inventors in the United States and detailing […]

Counting What Matters in Science


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  10/19/17 – The reward system in biomedical research can lead scientists to overlook potential biases—often unconscious—and fool themselves into believing a study’s splashy but flawed findings, a longtime science reporter recently argued in Issues, adding that such distorted studies “pervade the biomedical literature” and contribute to what’s become known as the “reproducibility crisis.” Extending […]

NAFTA Works, but Can Work Even Better


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10/17/17 – Two former high-ranking officials in the United States and Mexico recently argued for keeping—and strengthening—the North American Free Trade Agreement, which may be edging toward collapse, saying it has boosted the US economy and transformed the three-nation region into a global powerhouse. A trade policy expert made this case earlier in Issues, while […]

Misguided Arguments about Carbon and Climate


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  10/14/17 – As part of its drive to overturn the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency recently released significantly lower estimates of the so-called social cost of carbon dioxide, a measure widely used to weigh the value of actions aimed at stopping climate change. Arguments about the numbers ensued. But in Issues, […]

Study Finds Vaping Safer Than Cigarettes


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10/12/17 – If every cigarette smoker switched to using e-cigarettes, the result would be “tremendous health benefits” and a “significant gain in years of life,” according to a new study said to be the first to examine the health outcomes of such a switch. The findings align with an idea proposed in Issues that states should “move […]

Old MacDonald Had a Factory


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  10/11/17 – Raising livestock in large numbers for food is an ethical failing and environmental disaster, a columnist recently argued in the Guardian, a British newspaper, adding that the solution will come “only with the advent of cheap artificial meat.” With such a day in mind, two Arizona-based analysts have said in Issues that […]

What’s Driving Measles Outbreaks?


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  10/9/17 – The steady increase in measles outbreaks in the United States is most likely due to people who choose not to vaccinate their children, a major new government study has found. But increasing vaccination rates will not be achieved “simply by pointing to the scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective,” a […]

Fighting Troublesome Algae Blooms


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  10/8/17 – A thick bloom of algae now covers a huge area of western Lake Erie, nourished by nutrients running off of agricultural and urban lands, and such algal explosions are projected to become increasingly common in waterways across much of the United States. In Issues, three researchers have presented a range of options […]

US Automakers Plan Electric Future


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  10/3/17 – General Motors “believes in an all-electric future,” an official said in announcing plans to greatly expand its lineup of electric vehicles, and Ford said it plans to do likewise. But to fully capitalize on the potential of electric vehicles for reducing climate-altering carbon emissions from the transport sector, an analyst recently explained […]

Addressing Core Questions of Criminal Justice and Race


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  10/2/17 – The controversy that erupted when many professional football players protested during the national anthem is misguided, an opinion writer says in the New York Times, adding that “we need a public argument clearly tethered to the two big policy questions raised by police misconduct and the broader crime and incarceration debate.” Addressing these […]

Aussies Launching Official Space Agency


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  9/27/17 – Though Australia has been active in space for decades, and was among the first countries to launch a satellite, it has never had a national space agency—until now. In announcing the new agency, an official said it would help the nation keep up with the “global space industry” that is “growing rapidly.” […]

Congress Probing Hostile Social Media Posts


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9/26/17 – Congress is investigating Russia’s alleged use of social media to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign, and Facebook has handed over more than 3,000 ads believed to have played a role. Attacks on the United States using such “weaponized narratives” are likely to expand, a researcher who studies emerging technologies recently explained in […]

Gene Editing Entering New Stage


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9/20/17 – Two new scientific achievements illustrate the wide-ranging potential of the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9: the first-ever manipulation of a key gene in human embryos that yielded fundamental insight into how single cells transform into complex babies, and the laboratory creation of colorful butterfly wings that may offer clues in evolutionary biology. The advances also […]

Arguing for Fuel Economy Standards


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  9/19/17 – Three environmental groups are now suing the US government for delaying higher fines for automakers whose new vehicles don’t meet fuel economy standards. The delay seemingly aligns with federal plans to consider lowering the standards for the 2021-2025 model years. But two leaders of a major energy study maintain in Issues that […]

An Engineered Chestnut Tree


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  9/17/17 – In a report on efforts in Maine to grow a classically hybridized and healthy strain of the blight-devastated American chestnut tree, a Portland-based newspaper also examines the prospects of genetically modified versions that carry a useful gene taken from wheat. In Issues, a philosopher considers the genetically modified candidates from her camp, […]

Seizing the “Teachable Moment” of Flooding


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9/12/17 – As Texas and the Southeast still reel from hurricane waters, the primary focus remains on meeting residents’ immediate needs. But from a broader perspective, an environmentalist has explained in Issues his hope that flood events can serve as a “teachable moment” that spurs people and governments in coastal communities to fundamentally rethink how […]

Chinese Surge in Artificial Intelligence


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  9/8/17 – A major US investment bank reported recently that China will soon catch up with the United States in developing and applying artificial intelligence to drive economic progress. In Issues, a scholar at a leading Chinese university has suggested that his country’s recent and continuing progress in various areas of science and technology […]

Taxing Robots


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  9/5/17 – A city official in San Francisco has called for a tax on robots that automate jobs and put people out of work, saying that “it’s important to think now about how people will earn a living as more U.S. jobs are lost to automation.” In Issues, an economic analyst surveyed the kinds […]

Follow Nature’s Lessons on Floods


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  9/5/17 – As floodwaters still plague Houston after Hurricane Harvey, two water-resource specialists say that a report on the Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Midwest showed policy makers how to mitigate or prevent severe flooding, but the advice went largely unheeded. In Issues, another pair of experts commenting five years after that […]

Paroling Some Violent Offenders Makes Sense


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  9/3/17 – To meaningfully reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States, more attention should be paid to paroling inmates convicted of violent crimes “who may have been dangerous in the past” but “are no longer a threat to public safety,” a criminal justice scholar argues in the Atlantic. Two expert analysts […]

Red Alert: Weaponized Narratives


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  9/1/17 – Recent conflicts in the United States stirred by extreme right-wing protestors have been featured on social media recently as a Russia-based network cranked out alarmism and disinformation, according to a group that monitors such messages. In Issues, a scholar of emerging technologies says use of “weaponized narratives” is increasingly common, providing an […]

President Seems Willing to Ax NAFTA


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  8/25/17 – Even as negotiators have barely started talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump declared at a recent rally in Arizona that he doubted the United States can reach a deal with Mexico and Canada. But in Issues, an expert on international economics has argued that NAFTA has been a boon […]

Manufactured Meat Beefing Up


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  8/24/17 – Two leading entrepreneurs are among investors backing a California-based start-up company that plans to make and sell meat on an industrial scale from self-producing animal cells, eliminating the need to raise and slaughter livestock or poultry. Looking toward such commercialization, two specialists in sustainable engineering explored in Issues how factory-grown meat “might […]

Call for Action on Controlling AI Weapons


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  8/22/17 – In a recent examination in Issues of whether artificial intelligence should be regulated, a technologist and a social scientist argued that the case for regulation is clear in one specific area: the development of autonomous weapons that employ AI to decide when to fire, how much force to apply, and on what […]