Environmental Science

Stanford’s Sustainability School: A Good Model?

There are pros and cons, but it makes sense to bring the university org. chart into the 21st century.

In my last post, I wrote about universities like Stanford that are creating new programs in sustainability.  Stanford’s move may inspire others to follow.  There are pros and cons, but it seems inevitable that the organization of universities will ultimately take account of one of the biggest problems facing humanity. Administrative reorganizations, whether in government, …

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The Revolution, the Enlightenment and the Climate Crisis

The Founding Era’s belief in facts and science has too often been replaced with political identity as a test of truth.

The Declaration of Independence is a document deeply rooted in the Enlightenment. The Declaration begins with a note of cosmopolitanism, referring to “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” There is then the famous passage declaring “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator …

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Why Energy Conservation Will Remain Crucial

Even after switching to clean power, we’ll still need to limit energy use.

If we switch to renewables, we won’t need to worry about saving energy. Right? Wrong! One reason to save energy is to limit carbon emissions from the energy we  use. That’s going to important until the energy system has been completely cleaned up. But energy conservation is important for reasons that go beyond the direct …

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Future Shock

The latest IPCC report contains crucial new information about how soon and how bad climate impacts will be.

When the IPCC released its latest climate science report a few weeks ago, many commentators observed that the report should heighten our sense of urgency about climate action. Most of that discussion was at a very general level. It’s worth taking a closer look at some key findings and their policy implications. Here, I want …

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Can we govern large-scale green infrastructure for multiple water benefits?

Yolo Bypass Aerial View

by Lidia Cano Pecharroman, Christopher Williams, Nell Green Nylen, and Michael Kiparsky

Green infrastructure is increasingly emphasized as an alternative, novel path for water infrastructure. The possibilities are intriguing: Can we transition from a landscape dominated by siloed grey infrastructure (think concrete and steel, constructed for one or a few key outcomes like water supply or flood control) to one that centers natural processes in water infrastructure …

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The Fuss about Methane

Part 1: Science and weird facts

Methane is getting a lot of attention in climate debates. There was even a “Methane Day” last Tuesday at the climate conference in Glasgow. Several new regulations controlling methane emissions have been adopted recently, including two new rules for the US oil and gas sector announced last week. There’s a new informal international agreement to …

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Speaking Truth to Corporate Power

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, …

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Vaccination, Enlightenment Values, and the Founders

Anti-vaxxers and climate deniers are abandoning America’s founding values.

Ironically, those who most trumpet their allegiance to the Founders often have least in common with their values. The Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment. They shared a belief that reason, free inquiry, and science would better the human condition. They looked to reason as a guide. They sought, in Jefferson’s words, to expunge …

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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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The Ninth Circuit Makes EPA an Offer It Can’t Refuse

Regulate chlorpyrifos or else!

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in America, although it has been banned in the EU.  Last week, the Ninth Circuit took the extraordinary step of ordering EPA pointblank to ban or reduce traces of chlorpyrifos in food. A dissenter accused the majority of misreading the statute in question and abusing its …

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