CPR Member Scholar Flatt Launches Important Discussion on Legal Ethics and Climate

by James Goodwin | January 15, 2020

It's not just wildfires in Australia or our rapidly warming oceans (to the tune of five Hiroshima bombs every second). Climate change affects every aspect of our world, and it's forcing us reevaluate all of the human institutions we've built up over years, decades, and centuries. One such institution that CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt has begun investigating is the legal profession itself.

Members of the legal profession are bound by a code of professional ethics that applies in the state in which they practice, and this code spells out their professional responsibilities to their clients, to the legal system, and to broader society. As Flatt explains in an article in the current issue of the Environmental Law Institute's Environmental Forum, it's time to review these rules of professional responsibility through the lens of climate change. In particular, his article looks at the climate implications of Rule 1.6 from the American Bar Association's (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Ethics, which governs attorney-client confidentiality. (Most states have adopted or based their respective legal codes on the ABA's Model Rules.)

Section (b) of Rule 1.6 outlines several exceptions to the general rule of confidentiality. Flatt argues that one of these exceptions has particular significance for attorneys that represent the fossil fuel industry. One exception either permits or even requires (depending on the state) lawyers to reveal otherwise privileged ...

A Continent on Fire Ignores Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | January 06, 2020
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission. Australia is remarkably exposed to climate change and remarkably unwilling to do much about it. Conditions keep getting worse. Yet climate policy in Australia has been treading water or backpedaling for years, as I discussed in an earlier post. Let's start with the temperature. The Guardian reports that in the year up to July 2019, Alice Springs (in the interior) had 55 days above 104°F. On New Year's Eve of 2018, it set ...

The Decade in Review

by Daniel Farber | December 23, 2019
Like many humans, the Twenty-First Century’s teenage years were stormy. Reposted by permission from LegalPlanet. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” That pretty much sums up the ten years from January 2010 to January 2020. As the decade began, Barrack Obama was in the White House and the Democrats controlled Congress but were one vote short of a filibuster-proof majority in the House. Under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, the Waxman-Markey bill had passed the House, ...

Exxon's $75 Million Methane Leak

by Dave Owen | December 18, 2019
Reposted by permission from the Environmental Law Prof Blog. This morning E&E News reported that researchers from the Netherlands and the Environmental Defense Fund had quantified a massive natural gas leak at an Exxon-subsidiary-owned well in Ohio.  According to the study, the well leaked around 60,000 tons of methane. That made me wonder: what might the carbon tax bill for a leak like that be?  The answer, of course, is $0, because neither the United States as a whole nor the state of Ohio ...

2019 in Renewable Energy

by Daniel Farber | December 09, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission. Despite the efforts of the Trump administration, renewable energy has continued to thrive. Key states are imposing rigorous deadlines for reducing power generation from fossil fuels. Economic trends are also supporting renewables. In the first half of 2019, Texas produced more power from renewables than coal. Texas may be content to rely on market forces, but other states are taking a more active hand in shaping their energy futures. Here are the new ...

The Essential Role of State Courts in Addressing Climate Harms

by Karen Sokol | November 21, 2019
This post was originally published by Expert Forum, a blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission. In her opening statement on the second day of the House public impeachment hearings, former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch recounted how President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani undermined the State Department's ability to "promote stated U.S. policy against corruption." "If our chief [diplomatic] representative is kneecapped," she said, "it limits our effectiveness to safeguard the vital national security interests of ...

If You Care about the Climate Crisis, Here's What You Need to Know about Maryland's Clean Water Act Permit for Agricultural Pollution

by David Flores | November 19, 2019
Last month, former CPR policy analyst Evan Isaacson wrote in this space about Maryland's proposal to revise and reissue its Clean Water Act pollution permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). He made a convincing case that those who love the Bay need to advocate for effective and enforceable CAFO regulations. Traditionally, air pollution permits have been and will continue to be a critical component of climate policy in the United States, controlling emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants. But strong ...

On California, Climate Justice, and the Crucial Role of State Courts

by David Flores | November 12, 2019
As Californians endure yet another round of devastating wildfires, they are rightly wondering if blazes of such frequency and reach are the new normal. The hard truth is that they may very well be. The fingerprints of climate change are all over this disaster, as they have been all over recent hurricane damage, and the trendline is unmistakable. With that in mind, a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform takes a look at the situation in the Golden ...

A Dozen Strategies for the Struggle With Big Oil

by Daniel Farber | October 28, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Reposted by permission. The oil industry is enormous – something like 2 to 3 percent of global GDP. Individuals firms like ExxonMobil earn tens of billions of dollars each quarter. Controlling climate change will mean drastic curtailment in the coming decades of the industry’s major products. There’s no way that the industry will accept this lying down, and it’s a formidable opponent. To be successful, we will need a combination of strategies, aside from the rightness ...

Trump's Decision to Hamstring California's Climate Authority Is Illogical and Uninformed

by Alejandro Camacho | October 07, 2019
Originally published in The Revelator. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. For five decades California and the federal government have worked together in an innovative exercise in federalism aimed at achieving cleaner air. California has played an important role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, particularly from motor vehicles. But now, contrary to law and in a massive departure from past practice, President Donald Trump has announced that his administration is pulling the rug ...

Striking for Environmental and Social Justice in Roanoke

by David Flores | September 26, 2019
On September 23, I attended the Climate Emergency: Tri-State Pipeline Strike in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. While affiliated with the Global Climate Strike week of action, the event in Roanoke was another milestone in the years-long and continuing struggle to prevent construction of natural gas pipelines through parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.                       The day prior, my family and I attended a “Circle of Protection” event atop verdant Bent ...

On Strike for Climate Justice and Workers' Rights

by Katie Tracy | September 19, 2019
Tomorrow (September 20), I'm standing up for workers' rights by marching to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of the Global Climate Strike. I'll be walking in solidarity with the students and youth organizing the strike to spread the message that climate action is imperative.                       Addressing the growing climate crisis and creating jobs are two necessary actions often pitted against each other, as if only one were possible ...

Trump's Legal Challenges to the California Car Deal

by Daniel Farber | September 09, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Prompting rage by President Trump, California and several carmakers entered into a voluntary agreement on carbon emissions from new cars that blew past the administration's efforts to repeal existing federal requirements. Last week, the Trump administration slapped back at California. Although there's been a lot of editorializing about that response, I've seen very little about the legal dimensions of the administration's actions. I'd like to shed a little bit of light on those. The administration ...

Hurricane Dorian May Brush Virginia, Bringing Danger of Toxic Floodwaters

by David Flores | September 05, 2019
In August, Virginians remembered the devastation wrought by Hurricane Camille 50 years earlier. After making landfall on the Gulf Coast, that storm dumped dozens of inches of rain in western portions of the Commonwealth and killed more than 150 people in flash floods and landslides. Today, Virginians along the Atlantic coast and in the Hampton Roads region have Hurricane Dorian on their minds, with potentially life-threatening flooding, property destruction, and toxic floodwaters being serious hazards. The National Weather Service is ...

The Hill Op-ed: Congress Should Support Clean Energy Research and Development

by Joseph Tomain | August 22, 2019
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill. For the past couple of years, President Trump's federal budget proposal has called for the elimination of a crucial Department of Energy program — the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The agency’s mission is to fund high-risk/high-reward energy research — that is, research that has transformative potential for the nation’s economic and energy needs but that is deemed too expensive or too risky for energy companies to fund on their own. Congress, though, has wisely resisted the president’s proposal, and continued to fund ARPA-E. But the White ...

The Hill Op-ed: We Need a Climate Plan for Agriculture

by Laurie Ristino | August 16, 2019
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill. A special report released on Aug. 8 by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shines a stark light on how agriculture is both uniquely impacted by and a key driver of climate change, contributing up to 37 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The report highlights the pressing need to reverse land degradation and forest conversion caused by food, feed and fiber production, as well as the significant climate mitigation opportunities of shifting to plant-based diets, especially in ...

A Letter to My Fellow Boomers about Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | August 15, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Polls show that a great many members of our generation oppose taking action against climate change. I want to try to explain to that group why you should rethink your views. Let me start by explaining why climate action would benefit you yourself and then widen the focus to include your grandchildren and their kids. Efforts to cut climate change right now aren't likely to have a big effect on climate in the next decade ...

ACE or Joker? Trump's Self-Defeating Climate Rule

by Daniel Farber | July 25, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. To hear President Trump talk, the point of deregulation is to reduce the burden of regulation on industry. But weirdly enough, that doesn't turn out to be true of Trump's effort to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replace it with his own Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. Both rules regulate carbon emissions from power plants (though Trump's rule covers only coal plants). According to his own EPA, however, the Trump administration's approach will ...

Climate Change

Human-caused climate change poses a profound threat to the future health of the planet and all that live on it. We know what causes it, and how to slow it down. But we have barely  begun to make real policy progress, in the face of heavily bankrolled opposition from the energy industry and its allies. CPR Member Scholars are focused on mitigating and preventing climate change, and adapting to what climate change we are too late to prevent.

A Continent on Fire Ignores Climate Change

Farber | Jan 06, 2020 | Climate Change

The Decade in Review

Farber | Dec 23, 2019 | Climate Change
Recommended Resources:
Climate Change
Time for Real Action on Global Warming

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