Disasters

Uncertainty in the Age of Coronavirus

There’s a lot we don’t know at this point. How should we deal with that?

Knowledge about the coronavirus is limited but growing. In the meantime, how should we cope with this uncertainty?  I can’t give you psychological advice, but I can say something about how to think about this uncertainty. How to make decisions under uncertainty is something we know a lot about from the environmental sphere. Uncertainty is …

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Is a Pandemic a Major Disaster?

Cuomo has asked for major disaster relief. But there’s a serious legal hurdle to that.

Yesterday, I wrote about presidential powers in a pandemic. I mentioned the possibility of declaring the pandemic a major disaster under the Stafford Act.  Today, we learned that Gov. Cuomo of New York has made such a request. [Note: two days after this was written, FEMA granted the request.] What does the law have to …

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Presidential Power in a Pandemic

The President does have considerable power, but there are serious limitations.

Now that Trump has belatedly declared a national emergency, what powers does he have to respond to the coronavirus pandemic?  There has been a lot of talk about this on the Internet, some of it off-base. it’s important to get the law straight. For instance, there’s been talk about whether Trump should impose a national …

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What the Administration Failed to Learn from Past Disasters

There are some basic rules about how to respond to emergencies. They were ignored.

An epidemic and a hurricane require different responses. But the organizational challenge of confronting an emergency is a constant.  Here are some basic rules the Trump Administration failed to heed.  Ensure in advance that sufficient supplies will be quickly available.   When Hurricane Katrina hit, the government did have supplies, but they were located hundreds …

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The Right Wing’s Views of Coronavirus and Climate Change

There’s a common theme: “nothing to worry about, folks.”

It’s interesting to see what conservative think tanks are saying about the coronavirus and compare it with their views on climate change.  There are some common themes — both problems tend to get downplayed, along with any possible need for major government action.  Like Trump himself, the conservative think tanks seem unable to process scientific …

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Lessons of the Little Ice Age

What can we learn from the climate disruptions of the previous millennium?

The Little Ice Age wasn’t actually an ice age, but it was a period of markedly colder temperatures that began in the 1200s and lasted into the mid-1800s, with the 1600s a particular low point. It was a time when London winter fairs were regularly held on the middle of a frozen Thames river, glaciers …

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A Continent on Fire Ignores Climate Change

Conditions in Australia keep getting worse. The government offers platitudes.

Australia is remarkably exposed to climate change and remarkably unwilling to do much about it. Conditions keep getting worse. Yet climate policy in Australia has been treading water or backpedalling for years, as I discussed in an earlier post. Let’s start with the temperature.  The Guardian reports that in the year up to July 2019, …

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Charting the Progress of the Latest Chapter in American Climate Change Litigation

State and Local Governments’ Common Law-Based Lawsuits Against the Energy Industry Are Steadily Gaining Traction

The latest chapter in American climate change litigation has been launched by local governments–and one state–across the U.S. against domestic and international fossil fuel companies.  These lawsuits have been brought under one of the oldest and most venerable legal doctrines–state common law.  They seek compensation from the energy industry for the myriad, adverse effects of …

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Climate Change and the Insurance Sector: An Overview

The Insurance Industry Grapples With Changing Risks in a Changing Climate

(This post is part of a series on the issue of climate change and insurance that my colleague Ted Lamm and I are writing, inspired by a symposium that the law schools co-organized with the California Department of Insurance earlier this year. You can find more information on the symposium here. Ted’s prior related post …

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Building Climate Resilience through Insurance

New insurance products may offer innovative adaptation solutions

(This post is part of a series on the issue of climate change and insurance that my colleague Sean Hecht and I are writing, inspired by a symposium that the law schools co-organized with the California Department of Insurance earlier this year. You can find more information on the symposium here.) The autumn of 2019 is bringing …

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