President Joe Biden is breaking the status quo: He has pledged to write a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change. Unlike any other president, he has outlined specific and aggressive targets to reduce carbon emissions and has backed them up with a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.
In the meantime, our climate continues to change rapidly and dramatically, raising the ever more urgent question: Will the politics of climate change shift in time to curb its worst effects?
We think it will.
First, low-income people of color are leading a growing movement for environmental justice.
Communities along Georgia's coast, including Tybee Island, Brunswick and Savannah, are feeling the ravages of climate change — from wildfires to high energy prices to coastal erosion — and residents are agitating for change. Fortunately, Georgia enjoys significant wind potential off its coast, according to a new study by Environment Georgia. Offshore wind power is renewable and can curb climate change, and Biden fully supports it.
Wind energy also promises to help communities in "sacrifice zones" — areas with poor air and water quality or economic disinvestment, often through unwanted land use. Without it, communities like those in Albany, which are overburdened by toxic …
"When you are at the verge of the abyss, you must be very careful about your next step, because if the next step is in the wrong direction, you will fall."
So warned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a recent interview on NBC Nightly News. He was calling on the world's wealthiest nations to meet their obligations under the Paris climate accords to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and to help developing countries to transition and to adapt to threats that can no longer be averted. Wealthy nations simply must meet these obligations to achieve the Paris goal of holding global temperature rise to a sustainable level.
Guterres' remarks came as the nations prepared to meet at an economic meeting held last month known as the G-7 summit. Shortly before the meeting, the International Energy Agency, which was created in 1974 to monitor global …
To read the policy brief related to this post, click here.
Four years ago, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas, causing severe flooding in the Houston area and leading to a loss of electrical power throughout the region. During the blackout, a local chemical plant lost its ability to keep volatile chemicals stored onsite cool, and a secondary disaster ensued: A series of explosions endangered the lives of workers and first responders and spurred mass evacuations of nearby residents.
This infamous incident was a classic "double disaster" — a natural disaster, like a storm or earthquake, followed by a technical disaster, like a chemical release or explosion.
Also known as "natech" disasters, these events pose a severe and growing threat to public and environmental health — and to workers …
While most people around the country were enjoying summer, residents of the Pacific Northwest used to joke about "Junuary" — the cloudy and often rainy June days before the sun made its relatively brief appearance in the region after the Fourth of July. But as I wrote this post last week in Portland, Oregon — a city set in a temperate rainforest ecosystem of towering trees and ferns — it was 116 degrees outside, the third consecutive day over 100 degrees and the second in excess of 110. The only time I've personally experienced a comparable temperature was nearly two decades ago when I visited Death Valley National Park with my family. Now Death Valley had come to me.
Life changes at these temperatures in the Northwest. Much of our infrastructure was not designed to withstand such extreme conditions. Portland's light rail system ceases to function, of course forcing more …
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for all people to dissolve the reliance on finite energy sources, and to assume a sustainable future, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the demands of humankind requires that they should declare an end to fossil fuel dependence.
Six in ten Americans support dramatic reduction of the country’s fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. While this isn’t a unanimous declaration, it represents a truth that policymakers and big corporations have been resisting: The majority of Americans believe there is urgency in addressing climate change and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a necessary component of climate action.
To establish our independence from fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet, but a multitiered …
This month, environmental justice advocate Sharon Lavigne won the world's largest prize for environmental advocacy for blocking a chemical giant from building a roughly $1.3 billion plastic manufacturing plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a majority-Black community. Funded by the late Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the annual Goldman Environmental Prize is awarded to six people around the world who protect and enhance the environment in their communities
At the outset, Wanhua Chemical, the company behind the proposed facility, seemed likely to prevail. Wanhua is the world's largest producer of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), showing its dominance in the global market.
But Lavigne did not falter. Through courage and persuasion, she defeated the petrochemical titan, which wielded power over local and state governments to the detriment of community members. For far too long, the petrochemical industry has targeted low-income communities and communities of color, believing it can …
This is the second of of a two-part post. Part I is available here.
In the first part of this post, I briefly touched on the chaotic history of the EPA and Army Corps' definition and regulation of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. I also pointed out that this definition and its varying interpretations across courts and administrations can have significant impacts on water pollution prevention and the protection of our nation's waterways. With the Biden administration tackling a redo of the "waters of the United States" rule, court challenges are sure to follow. In this post, I'll explore three approaches to the rule that might help it survive judicial review.
This is the first of of a two-part post. Part II is available here.
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that the regulations defining “waters of the United States” under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (better known as the Clean Water Act) are once again going to change.
The importance of that announcement is best demonstrated through a quick recap of the chaos that has dominated this element of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. In the 1980s, the EPA and Army Corps finally agreed on a regulatory definition of “waters of the United States,” a phrase that Congress had used in its 1972 overhaul of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to define “navigable waters.” The phrase is also one of the key jurisdictional terms defining the waters to which the restructured law applies.
“Waters of …
A few years ago, the prospects of offshore wind energy seemed lofty, but the industry is finally taking off. As part of his efforts to combat climate change, President Joe Biden has pledged to double offshore wind production by 2030. This commitment stems from the enormous benefits and potential that wind energy can provide as we transition to clean, sustainable energy.
Harnessing something as intangible as wind may seem like an unlikely source of energy, but it’s downright powerful, thanks to the design and capacity of offshore wind farms. A single rotation of General Electric’s most powerful turbine, Haliade-X, can power a household in the United Kingdom for two days. Results may differ slightly in the United States because the average U.S. household uses about three times more electricity than the average U.K. household.
Last month, the Biden administration approved the Vineyard Wind …
In addition to cleaning up our environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must also clean up the mess the Trump administration left behind.
The Biden EPA recently took an important step in this direction by finalizing its plan to rescind a Trump-era rule that would drastically overhaul how it analyzes the rules it develops to implement the Clean Air Act. If implemented, Trump's "benefits-busting" rule would have sabotaged the effective and timely implementation of this popular and essential law, which protects the public from dangerous pollution that worsens asthma and causes other diseases. The rescission is slated to take effect next week.
On June 9, the EPA held a public hearing to gather feedback on rescinding the rule, which CPR has been tracking for several years. CPR Member Scholars Rebecca Bratspies and Amy Sinden joined me in testifying in support.
A New and Better Approach …