Environmental Science

When “Stay In Your Lane” Is Wrong

Technical policy questions often involve ethical political questions that the public must have a say in

As vaccination for the coronavirus in the United States ramps up, I want to take a look back to a policy dispute over the initial plans for vaccine distribution at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 – in part because that fight (like “follow the science,” which I blogged about recently) also …

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“NIABYs” Obstruct Important Climate Change Research

Not in my backyard

Some activists say “not in my backyard,” but strident opponents of solar geoengineering argue “not in anyone’s backyard.”

A peculiar type of activism is manifesting with regard to solar geoengineering. This proposed set of technologies to reduce climate change has been subject to only a few outdoor experiments. One has been in the pipeline for almost a decade: The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) would involve the launch of a balloon into the …

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Expertise versus Politics Under Biden

Experts will no longer be pariahs under Biden. But will their voices be heard?

One of the abiding issues in governance is the balance between democratic leadership and experts.  We don’t want government solely by technocrats.  Nor do we want government steered solely by ideology and politics, as under Trump.  Biden will be a vast improvement, but there’s still some question about whether he’ll get the balance right. I …

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We Cannot Keep Global Warming within 1.5°C without Geoengineering

A new report from German green left groups heroically try do so, but fail

I emphasize the importance of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and solar geoengineering research because keeping global warming within the internationally agreed-upon 2°C goal through reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone is extremely difficult, and limiting it to the 1.5°C aspirational target is now essentially impossible. All options to reduce climate change that are consistent with …

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Restoring Agency Norms

It’s not just the White House. We also have to repair the way agencies operate.

Donald Trump prided himself on his contempt for established norms of presidential action. Whole books have been written about how to restore those norms. Something similar also happened deeper down in the government, out in the agencies like EPA that do the actual work of governance. Trump appointees have corrupted agencies and trashed the norms …

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Is the Paris Agreement’s Ambitious 1.5°C within Striking Distance?

Climate Action Tracker projections

A new analysis highlights the dangerous seduction of long-term targets

A new briefing (and PDF) from Climate Action Tracker opens with, “The recent wave of net zero targets has put the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C within striking distance.” Big, if true. But is it? In the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, countries agreed to keep global warming within 2°C and to “pursu[e] efforts” to keep …

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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 …

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Trump’s Biggest Anti-Environmental Fail

He did his best to destroy EPA completely. But his devastating budget proposals got nowhere.

Trump was awful for the environment. But he wanted to be even worse. If Trump had had his way, only shreds of key environmental agencies would now be left. Although Trump has certainly succeeded in weakening them, the cores of the agencies remain intact.  Without them, Biden’s task would be much harder. Trump’s budgets unvaryingly …

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The IPCC Misses the Mark on Solar Geoengineering

Cover of IPCC's special report on 1.5°C warming

The Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change poorly portrays the “institutional and social constraints to deployment related to governance”

Not long ago, I re-read the top-level messages from the Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC) on solar geoengineering’s governance issues. The Summary for Policymakers of most recent broad report, Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), says, in full: Solar radiation modification (SRM) [i.e. solar geoengineering] measures are not included in any of the available assessed pathways. …

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40 Legal Scholars Urge EPA to Withdraw Proposed Ozone NAAQS

EPA’s newest ozone rulemaking has failed to meet even the deferential standard of arbitrary and capricious review.

This blog is co-authored with Sean Hecht. On October 1, 2020, on behalf of 40 environmental and administrative law scholars affiliated with 33 universities in 18 states, Sean Hecht and I filed a comment letter urging EPA to withdraw its decision to keep the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone at the current …

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