The Supreme Court’s Plan to Block Climate Action We Haven’t Even Taken Yet
On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the first of an expected wave of cases challenging governmental action to address the climate crisis. The court’s grant of four petitions seeking review in this case—two by coal companies and two by states—portends that the six conservative justices will erect significant barriers to meaningful climate policy and will continue to interfere with democratic governance in disregard of the rule of law.
Author(s): Karen Sokol
Enron's Collapse 20 Years Later -- Lessons Not Learned
In December 2001, the wunderkind energy company Enron collapsed spectacularly, destroying $67 billion in assets held by mutual funds, retirees and individual stock investors. Some commentary 20 years later has focused on how Enron heralded the first of companies making money by “disruption"—even as some of this disruption also led to negative impacts on society. There is no doubt that, like Facebook, even Enron’s legitimate money-making enterprises had some negative spillovers as a side effect of wealth creation by innovation. But the problem isn’t with the idea of seeking innovation or testing disruptive ways of doing things; the problem is that government regulators, then and now, have been starved of their ability to effectively channel market forces and private innovation to wealth creation while avoiding negative externalities. Truly supporting the private sector, innovation, and wealth creation, requires more government regulation, not less.
Author(s): Victor Flatt
Learning Lessons to Protect Workers Through Pandemics
Although vaccination rates continue to rise and coverage on COVID-19 is fading away from prominent news dashboards, our rates are still higher than in summer 2020. While we still adapt to living and working with COVID-19, we must prepare for future public health emergencies so we do not lose another year figuring out our response.
Author(s): M. Isabelle Chaudry, Emily Ranson
Biden's Idealistic UN Message on Climate Change
Addresses by national leaders to the United Nations General Assembly are often broad expressions of lofty ideals, and President Joe Biden's speech Tuesday fell squarely into that category. It covered an extraordinary panoply of global challenges and policy concerns, including controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding and strengthening global alliances and regional initiatives, curbing terrorism, protecting human rights (including the rights of women and workers) and lifting up democracy. Biden also committed the United States to advancing human dignity, combating corruption and seeking peace in areas of conflict around the world.
Author(s): Joel Mintz
The New Orleans Power Outage Shows How Urgently a Climate-resilient Power Grid Is Needed
Ask just about any New Orleanian to name the most exasperating thing about the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and you’ll get the same answer. It isn’t the floodwater. Or the roof damage. It’s something more familiar but equally as threatening to life, health and property: power failure. The problem started soon after Ida made landfall, when all eight of our region’s high-voltage transmission lines failed. In one instance, a 400-foot-tall transmission tower supporting power lines spanning the length of more than 10 football fields across the Mississippi River crumpled like a foil candy wrapper.
Author(s): Robert Verchick
A Legal Pillar of Environmental Justice Is Now Under Attack
A few weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers made a startling announcement: It would give Sharon Lavigne and her neighbors in St. James Parish, La., a chance to tell their stories. The fact one of the world’s largest chemical companies has fought for years to keep Lavigne quiet tells you how commanding her stories are. Those stories may stop this particular company from building a multi-billion dollar chemical plant surrounding her neighborhood. for this, we can thank a simple law, signed by President Nixon in 1970, called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Unlike other environmental laws, NEPA doesn’t tell agencies what choices they must make — like where to erect a levee or whether to permit a plastics plant. But it does insist their choices be informed. So, before the Army Corps can approve a company’s wetlands development permit it has to study whatever effects that chemical plant might have on the health of people in that community and on the properties they own. Corporate polluters recognize the power of process, too. For decades, they have waged a stealthy campaign to rig key procedural rules in their favor. Not surprisingly, NEPA is one of the main targets in this campaign. Corporate interests are using fast-moving infrastructure legislation as a vehicle for dismantling crucial procedural safeguards afforded by NEPA, wrongly claiming that the law stands in the way of a green energy grid, expanded mass transit, and other aspects of a green economy.
Author(s): James Goodwin, Robert Verchick
UN Glasgow Summit May Be Our Last Chance to Prevent Self-Created Climate Disaster
Scientific concerns about the impacts and risks of global climate change are scarcely new. In 1988, those concerns became sufficiently widespread in the scientific community that the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a committee that included hundreds of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, to study the emerging climate problem and its implications. Since its creation, this panel has issued five full extensive reports. These assessments were soundly criticized by some independent climate scientists as understating the significance and dangers of climate change. However, earlier this month, the IPCC seems to have rectified that purported problem. Given this, how should we proceed? By way of example and quiet diplomacy, the United States must use its influence to encourage other nations to meet their climate responsibilities.
Author(s): Joel Mintz
IPCC Report Shows Urgent Need for Two International Climate Policies
The Interdisciplinary Panel on Climate Change report released Aug. 9 declared that evidence is now unequivocal that human activity is driving global warming, and immediate steps must be taken to mitigate profound changes. Karen C. Sokol, professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and CPR Member Scholar, says two essential international policies must be taken — ending fossil fuel production and providing communities with the resources to adapt.
Regulatory Analysis Is Too Important to Be Left to the Economists
The surging COVID-19 delta variant is sending thousands of people to the hospital, killing others, and straining several states' hospital systems to their breaking point. The climate crisis is hurting people, communities and countries as we write this piece, with apocalyptic wildfires, crippling droughts and raging floodwaters. Systemic racism continues unabated, leading to vast economic and environmental injustices. It's beyond time for urgent action, but to get there, the federal government must reform the opaque, biased method it uses to evaluate our nation's public health, economic and environmental protections.
Author(s): Sidney Shapiro, Melissa Lutrell
The Policy Significance of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act
On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first installment of its latest report assessing the state of scientific knowledge about the climate crisis. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put it in a press release, the report is nothing less than “a code red for humanity.” The good news is that the science indicates that there is still time to respond by taking drastic and rapid action to shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and to keep people safe in the face of the dangerous changes in the climate system that have already taken place. That will be expensive, and a group of senators led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation based on the well-established legal and moral principle that those who cause damage should pay for it.
Author(s): Karen Sokol