Lessons of the Little Ice Age

by Daniel Farber | February 18, 2020

Originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Little Ice Age wasn't actually an ice age, but it was a period of markedly colder temperatures that began in the 1200s and lasted into the mid-1800s, with the 1600s a particular low point. It was a time when London winter fairs were regularly held on the middle of a frozen Thames river, glaciers grew, and sea ice expanded. That episode of climate disruption may give us some insights into how current global warming may impact society.

Weather changes in the Little Ice Age were less unidirectional and less globally uniform than current climate change. Different places hit their lowest temperatures at different times, and there were often large gyrations in temperatures from year to year. One cause was that sun's radiation decreased for unknown reasons – there were decades with no sunspots at all. There were also an unusual number of huge volcanic eruptions, which caused some of the worst periods. Other causes are still being debated.

Climate denialists are fond of using the Little Ice Age as evidence of "natural fluctuations" in climate. But we know that this isn't true of current climate change – if anything, natural forces would be making the planet cooler again if we weren't dumping so much carbon in the atmosphere. Moreover, it appears that the magnitude of the temperature shift was smaller than what we have ...

Connecting the Dots Between Rulings on Climate Change and School Busing

by Matthew Freeman | February 12, 2020
When I was a 7th grader living in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., my school system was one of many around the nation to launch a program of school busing to desegregate its schools. After 18 years, the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education finally traveled a handful of miles down the road from the Supreme Court and arrived in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The program was anything but voluntary as far as the school system was ...

Webinar Recap: What Climate Migration Means for Labor and Communities

by Katie Tracy | February 05, 2020
Last week, more than 100 advocates, academics, and reporters joined the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) for a webinar with three leading experts on climate migration and resilience. Presenters discussed the biggest challenges that communities and workers are facing due to the climate crisis. As the climate crisis brings about more frequent and intense weather events, from wildfires to disastrous flooding, some families have been forced to flee to new communities. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law at the University of ...

Despite Recent Setbacks, Juliana and Other Climate Suits Deserve their Day in Court

by Karen Sokol | January 28, 2020
On January 17, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a much-awaited decision dismissing Juliana v. United States, a climate case that gained more traction in the courts than anyone had expected, given, as U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken stated in her opinion denying the motions to dismiss in the case, it was "no ordinary lawsuit."    Aiken's statement is true in many respects, including the nature of the right asserted by the plaintiffs – 21 ...

Climate Chaos and the Courts: Disappointment (Despite Some Encouragement) in Juliana v. United States

by Joel Mintz | January 27, 2020
From time to time, a judicial decision from a federal court has the potential to have a profound impact on American society and government policy. Such a case is Juliana v. United States, in which a group of 21 young people, together with an environmental organization and "a representative of future generations," brought suit against numerous federal agencies and officials seeking a judicially mandated plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and a drawdown of excess atmospheric carbon. Though it ...

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 ...

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 ...

Climate Change

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