Federal Agencies Increasingly Linking Climate Change and Extreme Weather

In the continuing debate about climate change among politicians (scientists almost universally agree that it is happening), one issue that has recently emerged is linking climate change to increased chances and/or increased severity of storms. So we wondered, is the idea that climate change is influencing storms gaining traction?

A search covering 2013 shows the two terms “extreme weather” and “climate change” from late 2013 shows some general interest:

2013ClimateExtreme

If you have a voxgov account, see the search here.

The big spikes correspond to amendments to bills, which included mentions of the issue mostly pushed by liberal legislators (in this case, mostly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)). In 2014, interest grew as you can see by the top range of the graph and the spike in agency interest in October:

2014ClimateExtreme

Another big spike occurred in the end of October 2015:

2015-6climateextreme

As you can see by looking at the Y-axis of the graphs, the raw number of mentions is getting larger as time goes on: from a high of 82 in 2013 to 139 in 2015. In addition, we can also see an increase in Federal Agencies using the terms together, from a low number in 2013 to over a 125 mentions around October 20th, 2015.

So who is saying it?

Out of the Federal Agencies the largest, unsurprisingly was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of the President, and the Departments of Energy and State. The big shift seems to have happened in 2009 when mentions jumped to 143 from 56 the previous year, and picked up speed after 2012 – almost doubling in 2013 and 2014.

One of the earlier reports from the NOAA in 2008 highlights the risk of an increase of extreme weather due to climate change, but it stood out back then as one of only 56 other releases that year to mention the two. Now, an article from the NOAA linking recent devastating floods in Louisiana to climate change is one of 11 in the last week (including a handful from the NOAA)

 

Takeaways

The increasing frequency could be a result of growing alarm in the Federal government about climate change, further scientific evidence linking extreme weather and climate change, or acknowledgement that arguments highlighting this link are effective at attracting attention. Either way, this trend only further highlights the government’s, and scientist’s, alarm over the threats posed by climate change.

By looking at this trend we not only see what the government is saying, both over time and in snap shots, but how it is saying it. Given this trend, we can reasonably expect government language, planning, research and spending related to the correlation between extreme weather and climate change to only increase in the future. This is useful (though frightening) to our daily lives, but can also help companies and institutions that deal with the government plan ahead. It is likely that further regulations will be enacted to control the sources of climate change, and policies to mitigate the effects, such as extreme weather and the associated consequences of it, are also likely to come out of the federal government in the future. In this report, for instance, we can see recent releases from the EPA drawing links between aircraft emissions and negative health effects of climate change and a presidential proclamation about disaster preparedness that specifically mentions disasters related to extreme weather and climate change. In addition to this trend, we can also see how a little poking around using search in the ever-expanding voxgov database can reveal trends as they rise to prominence, and provide insight about both the past, and the future of the government.


Gowdy vs. Clinton: What are they saying about Benghazi?

Thursday, October 22, 2015, marks the fourth in a series of House Select Committee meetings on Benghazi. The main focus of the hearing will be the testimony of Hillary Clinton, who was the Secretary of State when the September 11, 2012, attack on the Libyan U.S. Diplomatic Outpost happened.

Using voxgov’s database of over 20.5 million official U.S. Federal Government documents, the following word clouds were created. The word clouds show the keywords from the Benghazi-related discussions of Committee Chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, over the last six months.


Gowdy vs. Clinton: Word Cloud

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With over 20,500,000 official government releases currently in the system and more than 100,000+ primary source government documents added each week, voxgov is an excellent source of U.S. Federal Government communications, data, documents, and releases, including content from all three branches of government.Monitor Government Communications for Political, Economic and Social Advantage with www.voxgov.com.


After Umpqua shooting, new infographic of Congressional gun-related dialogue

On October 1, 2015, there was a mass shooting on the Umpqua Community College campus in Oregon. Ten people were killed, including the shooter, and nine people were injured. voxgov.com analyzed data from its database of over 20.5 million government documents, including news releases, official statements and social media posts to track the conversation related to guns in the week after the shooting.

The below graphs show the percentages of legislators discussing issues related to guns, such as “gun control” and the “Second Amendment” broken down by gender and party. For example, on the issue of “gun safety,” 16 out of 156 Democratic males in Congress mentioned “gun safety” at least once over the period October 1-8, 2015. In addition, 8 out of 76 Democratic females mentioned the term. This breaks down to 11 percent of Democratic males mentioning “gun safety” as well as 10% of Democratic females. Zero Republican males or females mentioned the term “gun safety” during the period studied.


Umpqua Shooting Response
 

The above numbers were calculated by dividing the number of male or female individuals speaking about the given term once or more in each party, by the total number of men or women in their party. Those totals are:


Male (D) Female (D) Total Male (R) Female (R) Total
156 76 232 273 28 301
67% 33% 100% 91% 9% 100%


Two observations gathered from studying the data:

1)  Female legislators speak about the issues related to guns, such as “gun safety,” “mass shootings,” the “Second Amendment,” etc. more than males, based on percentages.

2) The one area for which Republicans spoke more than the Democrats was on  “mental illness.”
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With over 20,500,000 official government releases currently in the system and more than 100,000+ primary source government documents added each week, voxgov is an excellent source of U.S. Federal Government communications, data, documents, and releases, including content from all three branches of government.

Monitor Government Communications for Political, Economic and Social Advantage with www.voxgov.com.


Center for Research Libraries Review of voxgov

Collection Content

“..While the voxgov platform was first released in 2014, it includes retrospective materials gathered since at least 2002 (the developers indicate that some materials date back to twenty years prior to launch). As new source entities and resource types are added, the developers seek to “include all associated available archives so they remain complete.” But specific data was not available to CRL on the full extent of pre-2002 material to be added, largely because meaningful data is difficult to obtain before the harvesting is done.” Some legislative documentation currently indexed by the resource in fact dates back earlier than the 1990s.”

 

Delivery

“…The proprietary platform developed for voxgov is impressive, combining complex features with a fairly intuitive display. Keyword searches in a simple box prompt suggested terms and phrases. The advanced search page is also fairly intuitive, and employs Boolean operators as well as allowing application of many of the database’s filter elements prior to searching. There is a “my voxgov” login tool allowing the user to save search strings and otherwise track various subjects or congressional figures in the news.”

 

Strengths & Weaknesses

“…This database is a tool to both view and analyze ephemeral information scattered in various government-produced media outlets, while aggregating, indexing and archiving it on one platform. While it just launched in 2014, the developers have been collecting content over ten years. The sophisticated and elegant interface offers powerful filtering and analysis of results, which will require continued commitment of search and indexing resources to maintain at the current level as the universe of new and archived content potentially expands exponentially over time. The developers report that the indexing and search engine selected for development of voxgov has solid potential for “indexing scalability.”

Read more – CRL review of voxgov


The Equal Pay Debate–Two Sides Sound Off

Equal Pay is a hotly contested issue on both sides of the aisle. One month after Equal Pay Day, a day said to represent how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013, we asked organizations with differing views about the topic of equal pay to pen guest blogs. In these posts, they lay out their opinions about the subject, including whether the gender wage gap exists and if it does, what should be done about it. The American Enterprise Institute is a “private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare” and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) “is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls.” The entries below were as submitted, unfiltered and unedited. All opinions are solely those of the author(s).

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)AEI Logo

Andrew Biggs (Resident Scholar) and Mark Perry (Scholar)

During his re-election campaign in 2012, President Obama claimed that women working full-time are being paid 23% less than men for doing the same work. Last month, the Obama administration recognized so-called “Equal Pay Day,” an annual event designed to bring attention to the “gender pay gap” that, they claim, pays American women only 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. That effort, however, was a public relations debacle, and was described by various commentators as “paycheck poppycock,” a “deceptive crusade,” an “ignoble lie,” the “equal pay canard,” “revolting equal pay demagoguery,” a “statistical fraud” and the “bogus 77 cent differential.”

The reason the 77 cents figure was so widely derided, even by some on the left, is that it does not account for the fact that men work longer hours than women, at more dangerous and financially risky jobs, have greater years of continuous work experience on average, and choose college majors with more value in the marketplace.  Even many White House allies have had to acknowledge the reality that only a small part of the overall male-female pay difference is attributable to labor market discrimination.

How much gender discrimination actually exists? We don’t know for sure, though economists June O’Neil – a former Congressional Budget Office Director – and Dave O’Neill estimate that after accounting for known factors affecting pay, the unexplained pay gap that could potentially arise from discrimination lies between zero and five percent. That’s a lot different than Obama’s claim of 23 percent.

The fallback position for progressives has been to acknowledge that these factors matter, but that “background discrimination” drives women’s choices toward careers with lower pay. To some degree, this simply seems demeaning: surely, an adult woman attending college can understand her choice to major in, say, sociology as well as a male student understands his choice to major in economics.

Recently, the American Association of University Women published a study claiming that a significant gender pay gap exists for new college graduates even after controlling for differences in college majors, occupations and other factors. If true, this would show that the main reason for the male-female pay gap – women’s shorter work hours and time spent out of the labor force after having children – wasn’t the real story. Except that the AAUW study actually leaves a lot out. For instance, the study lumps economics majors together with sociology majors as a single “social science” group. But economics majors have an average starting salary of $50,100, while sociology majors have an average starting salary of $37,400. Economics majors are 70 percent male, while sociology majors are  70 percent female. Failing to control for specific majors creates a gender pay gap where none really exists. The AAUW study is certainly better than the White House’s “77 cents on the dollar” claim, but analyzing Census data and controlling for specific college majors shows almost no gender pay gap for new college graduates.

Some gender discrimination in the labor market certainly does exist. But the best solution isn’t more lawsuits. In fact, the Obama administration’s proposal to shift the burden of proof in gender discrimination cases against employers would make hiring a female employee a potential legal liability for employers, and thus employers would hire fewer women.

What female workers need is a vibrant and competitive workplace, since it is competition that weeds out discrimination. When one employer discriminates against women, a new employer could earn a windfall profit by hiring an all-female workforce and paying them slightly more. That process of profit-oriented competition works to reduce gender and other forms of discrimination in the labor market. Several studies have shown that as industries faced increased competition, through either deregulation or international trade, the gender pay gap shrank. And the pay gap is larger in monopoly markets without competition and smaller in start-ups and small businesses that must be productive in order to survive. Women need more markets, more enterprise, and more opportunity, not more regulation and litigation.

Ironically, even the Obama White House faced scrutiny recently for its own 12% gender pay gap, which is more than twice the 5% gender pay gap for Washington, D.C. It’s unlikely that the 12% gender pay gap at the White House is primarily explained by discrimination, just as it’s unlikely that the 23% national pay gap is primarily explained by gender discrimination.  Women are much better served by the truth and accurate reporting about the gender pay gap than by misleading, exaggerated and false claims about a 23% discrimination-based nationwide pay gap.

AAUW LogoAmerican Association of University Women (AAUW)

Lisa M. Maatz (Vice President of Government Relations)

On April 8, we witnessed an important step in the fight for equal pay for equal work. President Barack Obama signed two executive orders on Equal Pay Day that not only helped move the issue forward but also prompted a national conversation about how salary openness in the workplace can help close the gender pay gap.

At this point, most people recognize that a gender pay gap exists. They debate the statistics used to describe the size of the gap, disagree about what causes it, and differ on solutions to close it. But the overarching message is clear: The gap exists, and those who get the math intend to close it.

So what does the often-critiqued 77-cent statistic actually represent? It is an accurate comparison of the median earnings of all women working full time, year-round with the median earnings of all men working full time, year-round. The gap is dramatic, and it should motivate anyone concerned about basic fairness to dig deeper into its cause, as the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has done. Yes, some politicians and pundits misunderstand this statistic, but that doesn’t change the math or its accuracy.

In Graduating to a Pay Gap, AAUW found that just one year out of college, when workers are virtually equal in age, education, and family responsibilities, a gap of almost seven percent already exists between women’s and men’s wages. This gap exists after we controlled for factors known to affect earnings, such as major, occupation, and hours worked. And our AAUW study compared workers who do the same job — not rocket scientists to cosmetologists. Unbelievably, some people respond to this analysis by saying that seven percent is not a “significant” gender gap. But I’ll bet they don’t want to give up seven percent of their salary! A seven percent gap keeps some women from making ends meet, and the gap’s effects compound over time.

Despite apples-to-apples comparisons like AAUW’s, some people still credit the gap to factors such as education, men working hazardous jobs, and motherhood. AAUW research shows that education is indeed an effective tool for increasing earnings, but it is not a fully effective tool against the gender pay gap. At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings.

Although hazardous work is a legitimate reason for higher wages, women are sometimes unable to secure these higher-paying jobs because of outdated gender stereotypes about women in the workplace. And women aren’t the only parents in the workplace, but they are the only ones penalized for having children. Mothers earn less than women who don’t have children, even when they work full time. But fathers typically earn more than men who don’t have children, suggesting a clear bias about gender roles.

Although theories that try to justify the gender pay gap don’t ring true, they do acknowledge that the pay gap exists. And the public knows it, too — from recent stories about salaries at the White House and in the Ohio governor’s office that found pay gaps in both places. The White House salary data revealed that women and men are being paid the same for equal work but that an overall gap exists because more men hold leadership positions. That is still a problem, but it’s a different problem.

Despite this leadership gap in the White House — a gap AAUW is monitoring closely! — we applaud the president for his recent executive order giving federal contract workers, who make up almost a quarter of the nation’s workforce, the freedom to talk about their salaries without retaliation. The order doesn’t force companies to be transparent about salaries. It just allows employees to have conversations about equal pay for equal work, much like the conversation happening on this site and at dinner tables — as well as in statehouses — all across the United States.

Although the executive orders gave us reason to celebrate on Equal Pay Day this year, the work to close the gap is ongoing. AAUW is still pushing for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a much-needed update to the 51-year-old Equal Pay Act, and we look forward to further executive actions that will help make workplaces more family-friendly after the June 23 White House Working Families Summit. Our members will keep pushing for action at the state and local levels. And you can join the conversation through the AAUW Action Network. The more we talk about pay, the closer we’ll come to eliminating the gender pay gap and its Mad Men-era assumptions about women’s roles.

 

Disclaimer:
From time-to-time we have guest bloggers post on our site. 
The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of voxgov/Dessau Technologies, Inc. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.