Landmark California Law Links Emissions Reductions and Environmental Justice Goals

by Alice Kaswan | September 19, 2016

California's recent climate legislation is noteworthy not only for its toughest-in-the-nation carbon reduction goals – 40 percent below 1990 emissions by 2030 – but also for continuing the state's tradition of linking climate and environmental justice goals. AB 197, which accompanied a carbon reduction bill known as SB 32, prioritizes direct emission reductions likely to improve air quality; increases public access to information about carbon, conventional, and toxic emissions; and establishes a new cross-cutting legislative oversight committee to systematically monitor California's multi-faceted climate programs.

The environmental justice movement has long recognized the connection between climate policies and environmental justice. Advocates have supported stringent carbon reduction targets because poor and marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts like heat waves, drought, and economic disruptions to agriculture and tourism.

Climate policies also have important implications for the traditional pollutants that pose the most immediate threats to public health. Most sources of carbon, including mobile sources, power plants, and industry, simultaneously generate harmful co-pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulates, mercury, and other toxic contaminants. Many communities, particularly poor and of-color communities, continue to experience unhealthy air quality. Given the close correlation between carbon and co-pollutant emissions, climate policies have the potential to significantly reduce conventional pollution and benefit these communities.

California's climate policies have consistently promoted an integrated approach to reducing carbon and improving air quality, but the degree to which the state has fulfilled this objective ...

The Role of the Clean Air Act's Goals in Clean Power Plan Litigation

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The Clean Power Plan has been widely touted as significant because it regulates the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States – the electric power industry. Its significance, however, goes beyond U.S. CO2 emissions because it serves as the linchpin of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid dangerous climate disruption. The rule gave the Obama administration sufficient credibility to persuade the Chinese to pledge limits on their own greenhouse gas emissions for ...

The Clean Power Plan: Unpacking the Generation Shifting Issue

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Clean Power Plan (CPP) relies, in part, on a pollution reduction strategy – generation shifting – that is at issue in the ongoing lawsuit over the rule. Generation shifting involves increasing use of relatively clean natural gas and renewable energy and reducing use of relatively dirty and expensive coal-fired power plants. Although the technique has lowered power plant emissions significantly in recent years, opponents of the CPP have argued in legal briefs that section ...

Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

by Brian Gumm | August 29, 2016
It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes.  In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He ...

'Cultural Cognition' Theory Offers a Path to Climate Change Progress

by Matthew Freeman | August 25, 2016
Over the course of the last few decades, one of the great communications challenges facing progressives has been, and continues to be, how we talk about climate change. The difficulty in persuading politicians and the public about the need for action isn’t just that the effort has run head-long into a massive and well-funded industry campaign designed to sow confusion. It’s also that the policy changes needed to  make a difference fairly drip with disruption of one sort or another ...

It's Well Past Time for OSHA to Act on Heat Stress

by Katie Tracy | August 11, 2016
Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another ...

Justice and Contemporary Climate Relocation: An Addendum to Words of Caution on 'Climate Refugees'

by Maxine A Burkett | August 10, 2016
This excerpt is drawn from a post originally published on Aug. 8, 2016, by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat. The idea that climate change is causing migration and displacement is entering the mainstream, but experts have warned against using the term "climate refugees" to describe what we're seeing in small islands, coastal regions, and even conflict zones like Syria. Geoff Dabelko's 2007 post on climate change and migration was an early and important clarification of this emerging phenomenon. He ...

Climate-Related Catastrophes Require Proactive Solutions and Preparation

by Evan Isaacson | August 10, 2016
Two people died on July 30 after a 1,000-year storm brought devastating flooding to the lovely and historic Ellicott City, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. The 6.5 inches of rain that fell over the course of a few hours damaged or destroyed more than 150 vehicles and scores of buildings, and forced the rescue of dozens of people. It also sent more than 5 million gallons of sewage per day from several different sites into the Patuxent River and out ...

The New NEPA Guidance

by Daniel Farber | August 04, 2016
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new guidance this week on considering climate change in environmental impact statements (EIS). Here are the key points: Quantification. The guidance recommends that agencies quantify projected direct and indirect emissions, using the amount of emissions as a proxy for the eventual impact on climate change. The EIS should also discuss the impacts of climate change, referring to government reports on the subject for conclusions. A formal cost-benefit analysis is not required ...

On Climate Change Preparation, Record of Land Management Agencies Is Mixed

by Alejandro Camacho | July 20, 2016
Whether it's raging wildfires in the West, catastrophic flooding in the East and Upper Midwest, or rising sea levels on the coasts, there is no question that climate change is affecting and will continue to significantly impact our public lands and the resources they both provide and protect. As a nation, we need to be prepared for these changes and find effective ways to adapt.  To develop a snapshot of the scope and efficacy of such efforts thus far, we ...

The Clean Power Plan: Achieving Clean Air Act Goals with Flexibility and Cleaner Energy

by Hannah Wiseman | July 13, 2016
When Congress extensively amended the Clean Air Act in 1970 to form the air pollution laws that we know today, it spoke in no uncertain terms about the breadth of federal authority in this area while also centrally involving states in the effort to clean up the nation's air. Congress directed the EPA Administrator to list the pollutants "which in his judgment" have "an adverse effect on public health and welfare" and are generated from "numerous or diverse" sources – ...

NEPA and Climate Change: Another Basis for Defending the Clean Power Plan

by Joel Mintz | May 26, 2016
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan – the agency's bold attempt to use the Clean Air Act to protect our health and the environment by regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants – has been challenged in court by some 28 states, 205 members of Congress, electric utilities, coal companies and other industries, some labor unions, and a few conservative, nonprofit law firms. In response, EPA's rule has been defended by the agency itself, 18 ...

Join CPR as Our Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst

by Matt Shudtz | May 25, 2016
Are you interested in ensuring that communities impacted by climate change can effectively adapt to changing conditions and that vulnerable populations will be protected and treated fairly in the process? Do you have a background in the legal and policy issues related to both clean water and climate change adaptation? If so, you should consider applying for the new climate change adaptation policy analyst position at the Center for Progressive Reform!  The focus of this position is climate change adaptation, ...

Climate Change Increases Need for Reform of Nonpoint Source Pollution and Stream Flow Approaches

by William Andreen | April 29, 2016
The Clean Water Act has been a success in many ways. The discharge of pollutants from both industrial and municipal point sources has plummeted, the loss of wetlands has been cut decisively, and water quality has improved broadly across the entire nation. Despite all of that progress, many of our waters remain impaired. The primary reason for this lies in the failure of the Clean Water Act to effectively tackle two significant sources of water pollution: nonpoint source pollution (diffuse ...

Good News for North Carolina Coasts

by Eric Panicco | April 18, 2016
Eric Panicco, a candidate for Master of Arts in Sustainability at Wake Forest University, is undertaking an independent study for CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro. On August 3 of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan. It was a historic moment for President Obama, one he commemorated by observing, "We're the first generation to feel climate change, and the last one that can do something about it." Should it survive the inevitable court challenge launched ...

In Advocate Op-Ed, Verchick Explores 'Nonstructural' Adaptation to Climate Change in the Gulf Coast

by Matthew Freeman | April 15, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert Verchick has an op-ed in The New Orleans Advocate this morning about Gulf Coast efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re too late to prevent. A New Orleans resident himself, Verchick and his family suffered through Katrina, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the Gulf Coast is “staring down the barrel of climate change.” He writes that in addition to large-scale infrastructure projects like fortifying ...

New Paper: Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Communities in Face of Climate Change

by Brian Gumm | April 13, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Paper Showcases Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Gulf Coast Communities in the Face of Climate Change Most Americans understand the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe in the future. But many communities are already feeling the effects of our warming planet. Impacts on the Gulf Coast are particularly challenging. In a new paper released today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) highlights recommendations and best practices for protecting and empowering vulnerable communities ...

A Sea Change in Climate Politics?

by Daniel Farber | March 21, 2016
There was a surprise question about climate change at the last Republican debate. What was surprising wasn’t the question itself. Instead, it was the source of the question: Tomás Regalado, the Republican mayor of Miami. It turns out that this wasn’t a fluke. Regalado and the Republican mayor of Miami Beach have spoken out in an op-ed about climate change: “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the rising sea levels are caused by the planet warming, that the burning of ...

Climate Change

Human-caused climate change poses a profound threat to the future health of the planet and all that live on it. We know what causes it, and how to slow it down. But we have barely  begun to make real policy progress, in the face of heavily bankrolled opposition from the energy industry and its allies. CPR Member Scholars are focused on mitigating and preventing climate change, and adapting to what climate change we are too late to prevent.

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