Decades ago, industry scientists fought to get their bosses to pay attention to climate change.
Decades ago, their own scientists told car companies and oil companies about climate change, information the companies chose to ignore. The scientists were voices crying out in the corporate wilderness. Sadly, they were ignored at the time, but companies are starting to pay the price for that in lawsuits. Those scientists advocated for the truth, …CONTINUE READING
New climate legislation sets a high bar for other states.
On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a package of four clean energy bills. These bills move Oregon to the forefront of climate action. These laws ban new fossil fuel plants and set aggressive targets for the state’s two major utilities, requiring emission cuts of 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035 and 100% by 2040. …CONTINUE READING
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 …CONTINUE READING
China and the EU took important steps forward this week.
This week has seen some big climate moves on opposite sides of the world. The EU has proposed a major new climate plan. Meanwhile, China is ready to go live with its emissions trading system. The U.S. is at risk of being left behind. The EU’s proposal is impressive. The goal is to cut net …CONTINUE READING
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
There are small but hopeful signs of progress in overcoming legislative gridlock.
Over a decade ago, the Waxman-Markey carbon trading bill died in the Senate. President Obama then had to rely entirely on administrative actions to address climate change. Republicans united in a solid wall of violent opposition to climate action. There are some hopeful signs that things may not be quite so tough for President Biden. …CONTINUE READING
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 …CONTINUE READING
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 …CONTINUE READING
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 …CONTINUE READING
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 …CONTINUE READING