Ecosystems

Earth System Interventions for Sustainability

Brand in 2020, via Cmichel67 at Wikimedia.

We actively shape major Earth systems, with increasingly powerful technologies. We should face up to it.

Stewart Brand–a contender for the most interesting living person in the world–famously opened the Whole Earth Catalogue in 1969, “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” Importantly (and often misunderstood), he meant not that we are gods, but instead that technologies have given humanity powers that had previously been exclusive …

CONTINUE READING

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 …

CONTINUE READING

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 …

CONTINUE READING

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 …

CONTINUE READING

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 …

CONTINUE READING

Deforestation and the Climate Crisis in a Time of Pandemic

Forest fire via NASA Earth Observatory

Despite the pandemic-induced global economic contraction, deforestation increased last year, with significant increases in the destruction of primary tropical forests.

  Earlier this week, the World Resources Institute released its first assessment of global forest loss for 2020, offering a chance to take stock of what happened to the world’s forests during the pandemic.  The news is not good. Despite a shrinking global economy, deforestation increased around the world in 2020. In temperate regions, some …

CONTINUE READING

The $25 Million Question: How Sonoma County Can Spend Vegetation Management Funds to Bolster Wildfire Resilience

by Ethan Elkind, Ted Lamm, & Katie Segal

How would you spend $25 million to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire through vegetation management? Sonoma County leaders found themselves facing this question and enlisted UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) for help. Today, CLEE is releasing a report with specific recommendations for Sonoma County, which we …

CONTINUE READING

Next Steps to Save the Global Environment

A lot will need to be done to undo Trump’s harm to global cooperation. Here’s a start.

Trump’s hostility domestic environmental regulation is notorious.  He  also stalled or backpedaled on the international front.  Here are seven steps that President Biden could take to remedy the situation. Rejoin the Paris Agreement.  The U.S. needs to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement.  It also needs to update its climate target, because we can do a …

CONTINUE READING

Engineering Biological Diversity

In a new paper, I introduce the international governance of synthetic biology, gene drives, and de-extinction for conservation.

In addition to climate change — the primary topic of my academic writing — biodiversity loss is the other major global environmental challenge. Like climate change, efforts over the last three decades keep failing to meet agreed-upon objectives. And like climate change, scientists and others are considering novel technologies that would intervene in natural systems …

CONTINUE READING

Gene Drives, Biodiversity Conservation, International Law, and Emerging Politics

gene drive inheritance

My latest article is published by Global Environmental Politics

A set of new biotechnologies are being developed that will force many of us, especially those concerned about biodiversity loss, to re-examine how we understand the relationship between biotechnology and conservation. These are “gene drives,” which would be used to genetically modify, reduce, or eliminate populations of species. My paper “Governing New Biotechnologies for Biodiversity …

CONTINUE READING

TRENDING