Region: International

Calculating the  Extinction Cost of Carbon

Or, how many megatons do we need to cut to prevent one extinction?

Economists often talk about the social cost of carbon, which basically translates the harm done by a ton of CO2 into dollars. The dollar metric is less useful as applied to ecological impacts like species extinctions than impacts of humans.  It may be better to skip the dollar conversion, and just ask how much a …

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Why I Was Wrong About Methane

I didn’t think cutting methane was a high priority. Now I do. Here’s why.

I didn’t use to think that eliminating methane emissions should be a priority. True, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. But it’s also a short-lived one, which only stays in the atmosphere for twenty years or so. In contrast, CO2 emissions cause warming for 2-3 centuries or more. So methane emissions seemed to be something …

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The Turning Tide

Last week featured some remarkable developments relating to climate policy.

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 …

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Another Historic Climate Court Ruling in the Netherlands

A court orders Shell to cut its emissions, including of its consumers. But will this stand after appeal?

In recent years, The Netherlands has become the leading site of climate change litigation. Contrary to expectations (including my own!), its district, appellate, and supreme courts decided in favor of Urgenda, an upstart environmental organization, ordering the government to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now the same district court has gone further, again in favor of environmental groups …

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Nature As A Carbon Sequestration Solution

New CLEE/Emmett Institute report analyzes policy solutions to accelerate investment

New UC Berkeley/UCLA Law report discusses policy solutions to accelerate investment in nature-based climate solutions in California. Register for a free webinar on Wednesday, June 16 from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM Pacific Time with an expert panel to learn about the top findings. This post is co-authored by Katie Segal and Ted Lamm. Some …

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War and the Environment

War brings devastation to people’s lives. And to the planet itself.

This post was delayed due to a technical problem at Legal Planet, but it was originally scheduled for Memorial Day — an apt date to think about how wars, along with their other tragic costs, impact the environment. We are now in the process of ending our “Forever War” in Afghanistan. The country has been …

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How Harmful Was Trump’s COVID Response?

We know it was bad, but how much of the U.S. death rate can be attributed to him rather than circumstances?

The U.S. COVID response went badly in 2020. How much was because Trump was Trump? That is, if Trump had been a moderately competent but imperfect leader, facing a diverse population with a significant resistance to public health measures, how many lives would have been saved? That’s not a question that anyone can answer with …

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Biden and the Environment: The First 100 Days

Biden has set up a lot of future actions. But he’s already got some notches on his belt.

Tomorrow marks 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 …

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Offering “Carrots” to Protect the Amazon

Brazil flag

Brazil asks for a billion dollars to slow deforestation. Would this be cooperation or extortion?

In March, US President Joe Biden invited the leaders of 40 countries to a virtual climate change summit, which takes place today and tomorrow. During the lead-up to this, many countries announced commitments of varying specificity and firmness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (I hope to write soon on the European Union.) Brazil’s position is …

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Designing Policy to Advance Direct Air Capture of Carbon Dioxide

Direct air capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide will be central to climate policy this century, but how can we advance it through policy?

It is becoming increasingly likely that if the world is to avoid warming beyond 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius that we will have to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rather only rapidly decarbonizing global economies. Without carbon dioxide removal, the rate of decarbonization that would be required to meet a 1.5 or 2 …

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