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June 9, 2021 by Daniel Farber

What Have We Learned from Recent Disasters?

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. And over and above those trends, there's climate change — leading to a sharp increase in extreme weather events with more yet to come.

Clustering. As the number of large-scale disasters increases, the odds increase of two or three happening during a short period of time. By the time Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico …

June 7, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Some events last week sent a strong signal that the tide is turning against fossil fuels. Each of the events standing alone would have been noteworthy. The clustering of these events dramatizes an important shift.

To paraphrase Churchill, this may not be beginning of the end for fossil fuels, but at least it is the end of the beginning of the campaign against them.

Two of the events involved striking decisions in lawsuits in other countries involving fossil fuels. A federal court in Australia ruled that the government had a "duty of care" toward its young people to protect them from climate change. Accordingly, it could be found guilty of negligence if it failed to take their interests into account when considering a request to expand a coal mine. The court said that "it is difficult …

May 20, 2021 by Brian Gumm
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Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 3: Banking on the Planet. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.

A couple weeks ago, Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live, a gig typically reserved for A-list movie stars, Grammy Award winners, and stand-up legends. But Musk has risen to fame through his electric vehicle and clean energy company Tesla.

Musk and Tesla have become a social, political, and cultural force in our country, driving an interest in environmental business, investing, and innovation. Through his company, Musk has put renewable energy on the map. His creations may be notoriously expensive, exclusive, and well beyond the reach of many Americans, but the movement he’s leading is growing. And mainstream investors are starting to put money behind it.

When it comes to innovation and clean energy, there’s …

May 6, 2021 by Brian Gumm
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Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 2: Capture the Enemy. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.

Companies using fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal are facing heavy pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. If they don't, they could get hit with financial penalties or be completely shut down. In response, these corporations have come up with a treatment of sorts — it's called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS for short.

The idea is that the industry can continue operating as it always has, but as a caveat, it will install a system to strip carbon from emissions. The carbon will be funneled through pipelines deep into the ground, where it will be buried forever. As a result, plants can keep running, businesses rally on as usual, there's less pollution in the …

May 4, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

A week after taking office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order “on tackling the climate crisis” that aims to face the challenge comprehensively and equitably. Biden has quickly appointed and seen confirmed a team of leaders who are committed to all aspects of this mission. Our country is finally on the cusp of meaningful climate action. The climate action train is so popular that even fossil fuel companies, which have historically sought to derail it, are now saying they’re on board

We should, of course, welcome all sincere collaborators; the fossil fuel industry is not among them.

Yes, major oil and gas companies are finally, if reluctantly, beginning to publicly acknowledge the climate crisis, and some even claim to “support” the Paris Agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

These claims are a central part …

April 29, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

April 30 marks President Biden's first 100 days in office. He's appointed a great climate team and is negotiating an infrastructure bill that focuses on climate change. With luck, those actions will produce major environmental gains down the road. There are also some solid gains in the form of actions that have already come to fruition. Here's where things stand.

Executive orders. Former President Trump seemed to delight in issuing anti-environmental executive orders. All of those are gone now, replaced with Biden's environment-friendly substitute. In one important move, Biden restored former President Obama's estimate of the social cost of carbon, which Trump had slashed.

Foreign affairs. Here the big news is that Biden has taken the United States back into the Paris agreement and has submitted a commitment cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels …

April 28, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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It’s heartening to see that not all of the noise generated by the 2020 presidential campaign has dissipated in these post-election times.

President Biden pledged last week to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 — making good on a big campaign promise and possibly nudging some of us out of the still-skeptical category.

When I think about climate, I think about equity. Low-income people spend more of their paychecks on energy and transportation costs. Those sweet rebates on electric vehicles? They don’t go to people who can’t afford a new car, much less an electric one. As CPR Member Scholar Maxine Burkett notes, environmental degradation creates “sacrifice zones” — and communities of color pay the price. We simply cannot address climate change without addressing racism, and environmental racism in particular.

When I think about climate, I also think about jobs. Jobs that don …

April 22, 2021 by Brian Gumm
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The Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast returns for Season Five. This season, guests and host Rob Verchick will focus on issues related to energy. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to Episode 1: Fight the Powers That Be.

In 2020, the world banded together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2021, the world continues to change, and we seem to be progressing forward. In turn, the spotlight shifts to another great calamity: climate change. The environmental crisis has made headlines with the Biden administration making climate mitigation and renewable energy top priorities.

With these advancements, researchers, corporations, innovators, and activists around the world are being tasked to follow suit. To stay united and take on another challenge: the transition to clean energy. But what does that entail exactly? How does a shift to renewables affect the average American household?

Scientists and …

April 5, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in a lawsuit against the oil industry. New York City had sued oil companies for harms relating to climate change. The appeals court ordered the case dismissed, on the ground that any harm relating to fossil fuels is exclusively regulated by the Clean Air Act. The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs in similar cases, though how much of a setback remains to be seen.

The court's analysis is complicated and involves some fairly esoteric legal arguments. I'll try to avoid the fine points. In the end, the court's argument comes down to two points. The first point relates to fuels used in the United States. The court argues that by authorizing EPA to regulate carbon emissions, the Clean Air Act indirectly eliminates …

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

Coal- and gas-fired power plants are a major source of U.S. carbon emissions. The Obama administration devised a perfectly sensible, moderate policy to cut those emissions. The Trump administration replaced it with a ridiculous token policy. The D.C. Circuit appeals court tossed that out. Now what?

It wouldn't be hard to redo the Obama policy based on all the changes in the power industry since he left office, which would result in much more rigorous emissions controls. The problem is that the ultra-conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to be very skeptical of the legal basis of any plan that, like Obama's, requires states to expand use of renewable energy.

Opponents of Obama's plan made two legal arguments, which both came up again in the litigation over the Trump rule …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
June 9, 2021

What Have We Learned from Recent Disasters?

June 7, 2021

The Turning Tide

May 20, 2021

Financing the Clean Energy Transition: A Connect the Dots Podcast Episode

May 6, 2021

Connect the Dots Season Five Continues with Exploration of Carbon Capture

May 4, 2021

The Hill Op-Ed: Climate Action Supporters: The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Not Your Friend

April 29, 2021

Biden and the Environment: The First 100 Days

April 28, 2021

Climate, Equity, and Worker Justice: Two Job Openings at CPR