Climate Change

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 Hidden Green-Infrastructure Bill

Every year, Congress provides lavish funding for clean energy and climate adaptation. No one notices.

Biden’s green-infrastructure bill is headline news.  Republicans are up in arms. Yet every year there’s already a green-infrastructure bill.  Hardly anyone notices. Republicans vote for it without a fuss.  Why?  It’s part of the annual funding bill for the military. The Defense Department remains the biggest single consumer of energy in the country, and it …

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Anti—Anti-#ClimateEmergency

COP25

Whether to declare a climate emergency is debatable. But some critics have gone way overboard.   

Should Biden declare a national climate emergency?  There are certainly arguments that, on balance, it would be better not to take that step.  Some opponents argue that declaring a climate emergency would be horribly anti-democratic, polarizing, and counterproductive.  Those arguments seem to me seriously overstated.  I’d like to go through the major arguments against declaring …

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What Have We Learned from Recent Disasters?

Disasters are getting bigger, badder, and less predictable. We need to adjust.

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 …

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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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Miami’s New Chief Heat Officer Is a Model for California Cities

Local leaders should embrace the approach

Last month, Miami appointed the country’s first Chief Heat Officer charged with addressing the impacts of extreme heat. Heat is already the leading climate-related cause of death and health impacts, responsible for thousands of US deaths and emergency room visits each year and countless hours of lost productivity and educational attainment. Recent research indicates that …

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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 Biden’s Climate-Related Financial Risk Order Relates to State Policy

The federal government takes a big step, but state leaders still have a role to play

On Thursday the White House issued an Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk that outlines a key plank in the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing climate change. Whereas the Trump Administration sought to actively block consideration of environmental factors in investment decision-making, the Biden Administration is directing financial and climate regulators to develop strategies …

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