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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: August 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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Natural Hazards

  • Floodplain mapping should include climate variation, group says

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report on August 13 that criticizes the failure of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to take account of climate change in risk assessment. The report is part of a larger effort by UCS to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to account for climate impacts on flooding in its policies. The report comes before the planned initiation of increased premiums for risky buildings, which will be done by the NFIP on October 1. It is among a number of changes that are contained in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 signed into law on July 1 by President Obama. 

The legislation requires FEMA to establish a "technical mapping advisory council" to overhaul floodplain maps, but it is unclear whether this panel will advise the use of climate projection models in their assessment of future risks. The UCS report underlined the fact that FEMA flood maps are used by local land planners, engineering firms, and developers around the country for decisions such as site selection and building strength. The report urges FEMA to incorporate “scientific projections of sea level rise and its impacts, including coastal erosion and magnification of flooding risks from higher high tides and storm surges” in order to “set insurance rates and guide building codes and floodplain development decisions.”

  • Report by the National Academies identifies potential of induced seismicity in energy technologies

This August the National Research Council (NRC) released a report, sponsored by the Department of Energy, that examines the relationship between induced seismicity and energy technologies.  The report concludes that “hydraulic fracturing has a low risk for inducing earthquakes that can be felt by people, but underground injection of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing and other energy technologies has a higher risk of causing such earthquakes … In addition, carbon capture and storage may have the potential for inducing seismic events.” The report also concludes that “technologies designed to maintain a balance between the amounts of fluid being injected and withdrawn, such as most geothermal and conventional oil and gas development, appear to produce fewer induces seismic events than technologies that do not maintain fluid balance.”

The full report can be found at







Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; Sophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern; and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: The American Meteorological Society, the Arctic Council, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, the House of Representatives, National Academies Press, National Park Service, Nature Geoscience, Scottish Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Space Policy Online, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.



Compiled September 9, 2013


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