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March 2, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Recalculating the Cost of Climate Change

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

"The social cost of carbon" isn't exactly a household phrase. It's an estimate of the harm caused by emitting a ton of carbon dioxide over the many decades it remains in the atmosphere. That's an important factor in calculating the costs and benefits of climate regulations. For an arcane concept, it has certainly caused a lot of controversy. The Obama administration came up with a set of estimates, which Trump then slashed by 90 percent.

In an early executive order, Biden created a task force to revisit the issue. Last week, the task force issued its first report. It's an impressive effort given that Biden is barely a month into his presidency. The document provides a clear overview of the ways in which climate science and climate economics have advanced since the Obama estimates and makes the case for rejecting the Trump administration's revisions. At least one federal court has already rejected those revisions, as well.

In no uncertain terms, the report rejects two moves made by the Trump administration as economically unsound. First, the Trump administration refused to consider any of the impacts of climate change outside the …

Feb. 24, 2021 by Robert Verchick
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Since I began serving on Louisiana’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, charged with finding a way to zero out net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, there is one question I get from people more than any other: “C’mon, are you serious?”

It’s not that Louisianans don’t see the need. Sea-level rise could soon swallow our coast, and hurricanes souped up by climate change are now the new normal.

The problem is how we see ourselves. Louisiana, I’m reminded, is an oil-and-gas state. Whatever were we thinking?

My quick response is Louisiana is really an energy state, with more sun and offshore wind than most of our peers.

My longer answer is that I really don’t know how serious we are. But I’ve started following a trio of issues that could tip the scale …

Feb. 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber originally wrote this commentary for The Appeal.

Introduction

Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 was the largest civil settlement in the nation’s history and a transformative moment in the industry’s control. The accord reached by 46 states, five United States territories, and the District of Columbia required tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars annually in compensation for the public health crisis their products had created.

Today, an even bigger crisis looms, with increasing demands for accountability. Over a dozen federal cases have now been filed against oil companies, seeking damages for their role in causing climate change. With one exception, the cases have been brought by states or local governments that claim they and their citizens are suffering harm from climate change. (The exception is a case brought by Pacific Coast fishing companies for harm …

Jan. 27, 2021 by Hannah Wiseman
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When President Trump took office in 2017, the Department of the Interior quickly moved to lease nearly all offshore lands for oil and gas development. The map was astounding; for decades, there had been relatively limited drilling in offshore waters, and many state officials and advocates were shocked to see a proposal for such extensive leasing of offshore federal lands. Indeed, notoriously conservative Rick Scott of Florida entered into a handshake deal with former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to avoid drilling near the state. Trump's Interior Department also attempted to lease vast swaths of onshore public lands for fossil fuel development.

President Biden has predictably followed a different approach, announcing his intent to place a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal onshore and offshore lands. This is a sensible solution.

The United States is already working to transition to more low-carbon energy production, and oil …

Jan. 13, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Donald Trump's hostility domestic environmental regulation is notorious. He also stalled or backpedaled on the international front. Here are seven steps that President Biden could take to remedy the situation.

  1. Rejoin the Paris Agreement. The U.S. needs to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement. It also needs to update its climate target because we can do a lot more than we thought possible even four years ago to reduce emissions. Technology has improved, renewable prices have fallen, and the car industry is prepared to embrace electric vehicles.

  2. Rejoin the WHO. Leaving the World Health Organization (WHO) in the middle of a pandemic was crazy for many reasons — among them, its effect on the environment. As I wrote in a post at the time, WHO does important work in many countries on controlling dangerous levels of air …

Nov. 20, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Without a Democratic majority in the Senate, President Biden will have to rely on administrative action to do the heavy lifting. It's clear that EPA has a central role to play in climate policy, but EPA does not stand alone. Other agencies also have important roles to play. Fortunately, the Biden transition team seems to have come to this realization.

A multi-agency approach is especially important because bold actions by EPA will face a skeptical audience in the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. Thus, a diverse portfolio with many different actions from many agencies is prudent. Moreover, EPA is much more in the political spotlight, so any bold action on its part is sure to be met with a political firestorm. Other agencies may fly more under the radar.

The final reason for multi-agency action is that …

Oct. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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Amidst the president and First Lady testing positive for COVID-19, an embarrassing spectacle of a presidential "debate," and a pandemic that has now claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States and 1 million worldwide, the West Coast wildfires have lost the attention of the national news cycle. But California and nearby states are still very much ablaze.

As I write, 70 active large fires are raging in 10 western states. More than a third of these are in California, where more than 2 million acres of land are currently burning (an area larger than the state of Delaware). Four of the five largest fires in the state’s history started in the last two months.

These historic fires have already killed at least 35 people, forced thousands to evacuate, and exposed hundreds of thousands to extremely hazardous levels of fine particulate matter, or …

Aug. 24, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home some lessons about governance. Those lessons have broader application — for instance, to climate governance. We can't afford for the federal government to flunk Crisis Management 101 again.

Here are five key lessons:

  1. Effective leadership from the top is indispensable. Major problems require action by multiple federal agencies. These agencies need help coordinating; they may also need to be pushed into changing priorities and revamping procedures to deal with a major new issue. This is going to be very much true of climate policy. The trick is to provide leadership without hampering front-line agencies.

  2. Agency expertise is also indispensable. We've seen how decision-making in the White House has too often ignored the expertise of public health experts. The result is bad policy. Trump is extreme in this …

June 18, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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A blog post published last month by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a collaborative partnership focused on Bay restoration, addressed the many ways that the climate crisis will affect farms in the region. Data from the program shows temperatures on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore, home to a high concentration of industrial poultry farms, increased between 2 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, between 1901 and 2017. By 2080, temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are projected to increase by 4.5 to 10 degrees, posing a serious risk of heat stress to farmworkers and livestock.

As the post discusses, rising temperatures can hurt farms in several ways. Warmer temperatures make for a longer growing season, which may temporarily promote higher crop yields but can also stress water resources and result in additional fertilizer application, which is not what the doctor ordered for the Bay’s nutrient …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 2, 2021

Recalculating the Cost of Climate Change

Feb. 24, 2021

Baton Rouge Advocate Op-ed: Louisiana Should Get Serious About Its Climate Crisis

Feb. 1, 2021

The Climate Change Lawsuits Against Big Oil, Explained

Jan. 27, 2021

Fossil Fuels and Public Lands: The Benefits of a Biden Lease Moratorium

Jan. 13, 2021

Next Steps to Save the Global Environment

Nov. 20, 2020

'Whole of Government' Climate Policy

Oct. 5, 2020

We Need to Better Protect Communities from the Climate Crisis, COVID-19, and Wildfires