Time for Real Action on Global Warming
Man-made climate change poses a severe threat to the future health of the planet and all that live on it. A quick review of the basics: human-caused pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and other emissions is collecting in the atmosphere, trapping heat from the sun and gradually warming the planet. The impact is already observable in a variety of ways: warmer average temperatures, more severe weather patterns, changes in migratory patterns of various animals as they seek cooler temperatures, abandoned habitat of many animal and plant species as conditions change, melting glaciers, and more. Down the road – and not that far down the road at current rates of polluting emissions – the effects will grow more severe: rising sea levels will reclaim land, displacing people and forever altering ecosystems; disruption of snowmelt cycles and melting glaciers will likely cause severe water shortages; warmer ocean water will give added punch to hurricanes; changing weather patterns and ocean temperatures will likely devastate existing ecosystems, kill coral reefs, and introduce new insects and other pests to cities and farms alike; and more. Indeed, all of these trends are already beginning.
The good news about climate change is that we have technologies on hand to take an enormous bite out of the current load of greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrid cars and other cleaner vehicles, together with cleaner energy generation hold great promise. And conservation of energy – appliances and vehicles that require less fuel – can make a huge difference, as well.
Mitigation and Prevention. One focus of CPR scholarship has been public policy aimed at preventing and mitigating climate change -- that is, trying to prevent it, to the extent possible, or mitigate its impact. During most of the Bush Administration, the President's allies in Congress blocked legislation, while his appointees in the Executive Branch argued alternately that climate change wasn't human-induced, that it would be too costly to do anything about, and that the EPA lacked authority to do anything. In 2007, the Supreme Court took the legs out from under the latter argument, in a case brought 12 states and several local jurisdictions arguing that EPA had not only the authority but the obligation to regulation carbon dioxide emissions. (Their brief to the Court was written by then-CPR Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling, now an EPA official in the Obama Administration.) The Court held for the states, setting in motion a regulatory process to limit emissions.
That process will no doubt be significantly affected by legislation now working its way through Congress. The bill under consideration would establish a "cap-and-trade" mechanism that would create a market for carbon emission allowances. Polluters would be allowed to emit certain levels of greenhouse gases. If they produced less, they would be able to sell to some other polluter the right to create emissions up to their cap. CPR Member Scholars have blogged the bill and its progress through Congress, following changes in the bill and their likely impact on global warming. Read more about CPR Member Scholars work on mitigation and prevention.
Climate Change Preemption. Another focus of CPR Member Scholars' work has been to draw out the issues surrounding industry efforts to make sure that any federal climate change law includes a provision preempting -- that is to say, undercutting -- state and local climate change policies. The Member Scholars have argued that preemption would undo the only significant progress on climate change made by any level of government in the United States, would run counter to the longstanding approach on environmental laws of establishing federal standards as a "floor" upon which stronger state and local standards might be built, and would hobble overall efforts to address climate change by tying the hands of the governmental entities best equipped to address such critical climate change issues as urban sprawl, zoning matters, renewable energy portfolio requirements for utilities and more. Read more about CPR Member Scholars' work on climate change preemption.
. A relatively new area of CPR scholarship relates to policy aimed at how we adapt to the effects of climate change that we can no longer prevent. CPR Member Scholars are now developing a paper on the subject to be published in the near future.
Some recent highlights:
- Climate Change and Regulation. Read President has authority to act on regulatory issues, by David Driesen, published in the January 28, 2013 Syracuse Post-Standard.
- Six Myths about Climate Change and the Clean Air Act.. Industry and opponents of action on climate change have taken to arguing that the Clean Air Act is somehow an "inappropriate" vehicle for regulating. Amy Sinden and Dan Farber explode the myths they weave in Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act, CPR White Paper 1105, April 2011. Also read the blog post.
- Adapting to Climate Change in the Puget Sound Region. CPR Scholars are engaged in a unique project to help the Puget Sound region map out an adaptation strategy to climate change. Learn about their work, and read their most recent publication on the subject, Climate Change and the Puget Sound: Building the Legal Framework for Adaptation, CPR White Paper 1108, by CPR Member Scholars Robert L. Glicksman and Catherine O’Neill, and CPR Policy Analyst Yee Huang; and CPR Member Scholars William L. Andreen, Robin Kundis Craig, Victor Flatt, William Funk, Dale Goble, Alice Kaswan, and Robert R.M. Verchick. Read the news release.
- LA Times Op-Ed on Prop 23 in California. Read "Proposition 23 and the damage it would do to California: Setting aside the state's climate change law would damage the state's green economy and imperil California's commitment to fighting greenhouse gas emissions," by CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber and Richard Frank, October 4, 2010 in the Los Angeles Times.
- Houston Chronicle Op-Ed on Events that Change the Political Landscape. Read "Did a single week reverse energy fortunes forever?," by Victor Flatt, May 10, 2010, in the Houston Chronicle, on the confluence of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the approval of the Cape Wind project by the federal government.
- Arizona Daily Star Op-Ed on Cap and Trade. Read "Cap and trade is preferable to hodgepodge regulation," by Kirsten Engel and David Driesen, October 10, 2009 in the Arizona Daily Star.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Houston Chronicle Op-Ed on Waxman-Markey. Read "Climate bill good first step in long and arduous trip," an op-ed by CPR Member Scholars Victor Flatt and William Buzbee, in the April 25, 2009 Houston Chronicle, on improving the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. Also in the May 5, 2009 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Tough caps would likely curb pollution and cool warming."
- CPRBlog Entries on Boxer-Kerry's Journey Through the Senate. CPR Member Scholars starting blogging as soon as the bill was introduced. Read what they've said. Or read their CPRBlog entries on Waxman-Markey, from the day it was introduced in the House through passage in June 2009 and beyond.
- Proposed Executive Orders for the Obama Administration. In November 2008, the Center for Progressive Reform transmitted to the Obama Transition Team a slate of seven Executive Orders addressing a series of critical issues, including climate change, transparency in government, environmental justice, children's exposure to toxics, citizens' right to sue corporations whose products cause them harm, and stewardship of public lands. Read a web article about the proposals, and read the white paper itself, Protecting Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen. Or read the news release.
- A CPR Perspective. Read the CPR Perspective, International Justice and Climate Change.
- Global Warming Publications. Read CPR Member Scholars' various publications on global warming topics, including Adaptation, Book Reviews, Boxer-Kerry, Cap and Trade, Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Coal-fired Power Plants, the Copenhagen Conference, Costs, Economics, Effects on Trade, Environmental Justice, Federalism Issues, Global Warming in general, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Legislation, Liquefied Natural Gas, Litigation, Modeling Issues, Natural Resources/Conservation Issues, the Obama Administration, Offset Programs, Preemption, Regulation, Technology, Testimony, Water Law, and Waxman-Markey.