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Sept. 23, 2021 by Joel Mintz

The Hill Op-ed: Biden's Idealistic UN Message on Climate Change

Addresses by national leaders to the United Nations General Assembly are often broad expressions of lofty ideals, and President Joe Biden's speech Tuesday fell squarely into that category. It covered an extraordinary panoply of global challenges and policy concerns, including controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding and strengthening global alliances and regional initiatives, curbing terrorism, protecting human rights (including the rights of women and workers) and lifting up democracy. Biden also committed the United States to advancing human dignity, combating corruption and seeking peace in areas of conflict around the world.

Of particular importance were Biden's remarks regarding the global climate change crisis. Observing that "we stand at an inflection point in history," Biden outlined a stark choice between "meeting the threat of climate change" or suffering "the merciless march of ever-worsening droughts and floods, more intense fires and hurricanes, longer heatwaves and rising seas." Attempting to lead by example, while also appealing to a domestic audience, Biden stressed the climate-related aspirations and actions of his administration. He noted that he had previously announced a U.S. national goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent to 52 …

Sept. 9, 2021 by Darya Minovi
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On August 29, Hurricane Ida pummeled Louisiana’s coastline with winds as high as 150 miles per hour and a storm surge of up to nine feet, flooding communities and destroying homes. The Category 4 storm displaced thousands of people and left 1 million without power — all as the coronavirus surge overwhelms hospitals across the state.

Amid this chaos, Louisianans faced yet another hazard — the risk of exposure to toxic pollutants from explosions, flares, and accidental releases at disabled, damaged, or flooded industrial facilities.

A week after the storm made landfall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Response Center (NRC), which collects reports on oil, chemical, radiological, biological, and etiological discharges into the environment, had received more than 170 incident reports related to Ida. Many of these were in Louisiana, and 17 were air releases. Yet little is known about the effects as 13 …

Aug. 30, 2021 by Joel Mintz
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

Scientific concerns about the impacts and risks of global climate change are scarcely new. In 1988, those concerns became sufficiently widespread in the scientific community that the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee that included hundreds of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, to study the emerging climate problem and its implications. Since its creation, this panel has issued five full extensive reports. These assessments were soundly criticized by some independent climate scientists as understating the significance and dangers of climate change. However, earlier this month, the IPCC seems to have rectified that purported problem.

In the first segment of its Sixth Assessment, issued earlier this month, the IPCC report states that it "provides a full and comprehensive assessment of the physical science basis of climate change that builds upon the previous …

Aug. 18, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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The Interdisciplinary Panel on Climate Change report released Aug. 9 declared that evidence is now unequivocal that human activity is driving global warming, and immediate steps must be taken to mitigate profound changes. Karen C. Sokol, professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, says two essential international policies must be taken — ending fossil fuel production and providing communities with the resources to adapt.

Since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its massive report on Aug. 9, the report’s “key takeaways” have been widely covered. One of the scientists who authored the report powerfully distilled its import down to one key takeaway.

"[W]e know enough,” Dr. Joeri Rogelj of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change said. “Let’s get on with working towards addressing this challenge that will define humanity over the next …

Aug. 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first installment of its latest report assessing the state of scientific knowledge about the climate crisis. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put it in a press release, the report is nothing less than “a code red for humanity.”

“The alarm bells are deafening,” Guterres said, “and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The good news is that the science indicates that there is still time to respond by taking drastic and rapid action to shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and to keep people safe in the face of the dangerous changes in the climate system that have already taken place. That is, we must …

Aug. 9, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez
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In his first week of office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, "Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," that responds to climate change with an emphasis on environmental justice. Notably, the order creates a government-wide "Justice40 initiative," which sets a goal for disadvantaged communities most impacted by climate change and pollution to receive at least 40 percent of overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy.

In attempts to provide key foundational principles for the initiative, the White House recently released a draft guidance document that details how federal agencies should advance the programs covered by the Justice40 Initiative. While the interim guidance provides some direction for the scope of the initiative, the commitment to direct 40 percent of spending to disadvantaged communities is not so straightforward.

The hope of Justice40 is that frontline communities, the ones most burdened …

July 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a package of four clean energy bills. These bills move the state to the forefront of climate action. They ban new fossil fuel plants and set aggressive targets for the state's two major utilities, requiring emission cuts of 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. This is not only a major step forward for the state; it should also clear the path to closer collaboration among Washington State, Oregon, and California on climate issues.

In signing the bills, Brown observed, "As we have all been experiencing, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is here. In Oregon, and across the West, we are feeling its impacts every day."

The bill setting the state's aggressive targets passed the Oregon Senate on …

July 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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"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 …

July 6, 2021 by Dan Rohlf
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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 …

June 9, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. California wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. The great Texas blackout. The list goes on.

These mega-events dramatize the need to improve our disaster response system. The trends are striking: escalating disaster impacts, more disaster clustering, more disaster cascades, and less predictability. We need to up our game. Lisa Grow Sun and I discuss the implications in a new paper, but here are a few of the key takeaways.

Escalating impacts. From 1980 to 2020, there were an average of seven billion-dollar events per year. (Interestingly, nearly half of them were in Texas.) But from 2015-2020, the average was 16 per year. 2020 had a record-breaking 22 billion-dollar events. Why? It's partly higher GDP and population, so more people and wealth are at risk. More people and infrastructure are located in high-risk areas, especially coasts …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 23, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: Biden's Idealistic UN Message on Climate Change

Sept. 9, 2021

Double Disaster in Ida's Wake: Will EPA Finally Ensure Industrial Facilities Prepare for Climate Change?

Aug. 30, 2021

The Hill Op-Ed: UN Glasgow Summit May Be Our Last Chance to Prevent Self-Created Climate Disaster

Aug. 18, 2021

Bloomberg Law Op-ed: IPCC Report Shows Urgent Need for Two International Climate Policies

Aug. 13, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: The Policy Significance of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act

Aug. 9, 2021

How Big of a Deal Is Biden's Justice40 Initiative?

July 30, 2021

Oregon Takes a Big Step Forward