environmental politics

Greening the Land of Lincoln

Illinois passes pathbreaking energy law.

Last week, Illinois’s governor signed into law a major piece of climate legislation. The law deserves more attention than it has received.  Sadly, however, Illinois seems to be something of a neglected stepchild in the media. That’s a pity, because there are some important lessons in Illinois’s experience, both for the Midwest and the country …

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The Last Four Years — and the Next Four

How did our predictions about Trump hold up? What should we expect for Biden?

In September 2017, Eric Biber and I published a threat assessment after the first 200 days of the Trump Administration. For those who have buried their memories of that time, those were days of shock and despair about the future of environmental protection (and much else). It seems time to bring our report up to …

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Environmentalism and the Supreme Court

Some cases belong to the environmentalist legal canon, others to an anti-canon of reviled precedents.

Every field has its texts that form part of its intellectual canon, and others that form a kind of anti-canon of rejected ideas.  The same is true in environmental law. The issue goes beyond which side wins. From the pro-environmental side of things, some Supreme Court rulings form guideposts to rely on, whereas others represent …

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What if someone just does it?

A scenario exercise on unauthorized use of solar geoengineering

Note: This post is co-authored with Jesse L. Reynolds, who recently completed an Emmett Institute Geoengineering Governance Fellowship As the climate crisis grows more urgent, unconventional technological responses are getting increased attention and controversy. We’ve written previously on Legal Planet about these technologies and their promise and risks. The most high-stakes and controversial of these …

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Supervillains of the Enviro-Verse

🏴‍☠️ For your amusement: a rogues gallery of anti-Green villainy. 🏴‍☠️

Movements are defined as much by who and what they oppose as what they favor. To understand environmentalism, you have to know how it defines its opponents.  Reality, of course, is always nuanced, but nuance isn’t much fun. Although I was originally going to provide a more serious treatment, I decided instead to have a …

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The Recall

Here are the replacement candidates’ views on climate.

With the California recall election coming up a month from now, it’s time to take a look at the candidates. The environment hasn’t been a signature issue for incumbent, Gavin Newsom, but he has strongly supported climate action.  Now let’s take a look at who might replace him. It’s hard to know who, out of …

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Towards Optimal Climate Policy, Part II

The future of effective climate policy requires balancing equity, efficiency, political feasibility, and technological innovation

In the prior blog post in this two-part series, I talked about how current debates on climate policy that are focused on equity and efficiency are inadequate. Today, I’ll explain how we might advance political feasibility through climate policy, how that is connected to technological innovation, and how we must necessarily balance between all four …

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Public Opinion and the Limits of Climate Policy

There’s a simple reason why it’s so hard to take bold climate actions nationally.

Gallup has studied environmental attitudes in America for several decades.  Their historical compilation is very revealing about our present political situation. It sheds light on why it’s been so hard to develop momentum for real change at the national level, and also about why there’s so much more of a push for change within the …

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Towards Optimal Climate Policy, Part I

Moving the debate beyond equity and efficiency

As Congress debates two large pieces of legislation – both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a partisan reconciliation package – a key question is the extent to which either piece of legislation (assuming it is enacted) addresses climate policy. And the recent flooding in Europe, the wildfires in the western US and Russia, and more …

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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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