Unfinished Business A Comparative Assessment Of Environmental Problems Overview Report – 1987

 

This is a pivotal report in US Environmental Law. It looked at whether the EPA was spending too many resources on low level toxic exposures, at the expense of other environmental risks, including climate change. It later became a cudgel in the fight to require cost benefit analysis for all environmental protections. The report is in five parts, the overview and four technical reports.

EPA, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems Overview Report (1987)

EPA, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems – Appendix I Report of the Cancer Risk Work Group (1987)

EPA, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems – Appendix II Report of the Non-Cancer Risk Work Group (1987)

EPA, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems – Appendix III Ecological Risk Work Group.(1987)

EPA, Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of Environmental Problems Appendix IV Welfare Risk Work Group (1987)

2017 – Draft of the US Climate Change Report

2017 – Draft of the US Climate Change Report

A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public but was obtained by The New York Times, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years.

 

California Communities Confronting Rising Sea Levels Sue Fossil Fuel Companies

Marin and San Mateo Cos., City of Imperial Beach Go to Court to Hold Largest Fossil Fuel Polluters Accountable

San Mateo County Full ComplaintMarin County Full ComplaintCity of Imperial Beach Full Complaint

(Redwood City, CA, San Rafael, CA, and Martinez, CA) – Faced with mounting costs to respond
to threats to their communities from rising sea levels, Marin and San Mateo Counties, along
with the City of Imperial Beach, today filed complaints in California Superior Court to hold
accountable 37 oil, gas, and coal companies for the ongoing harm they knew their fossil fuel
products would cause by significantly increasing carbon dioxide pollution and contributing
to global warming and sea level rise. The complaint states:

Defendants have known for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their
fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels…. With
that knowledge, Defendants took steps to protect their own assets from these threats
through immense internal investment in research, infrastructure improvements, and
plans to exploit new opportunities in a warming world.

Instead of working to reduce the use and combustion of fossil fuel products, lower the
rate of greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the damage associated with continued high
use and combustion of such products, and ease the transition to a lower carbon
economy, Defendants concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for
greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever increasing
use of their products at ever greater volumes.

NRDC Report: How To Break The Cycle Of Repeated Flooding With Climate-Smart Flood Insurance Reforms

Seeking Higher Ground: How To Break The Cycle Of Repeated Flooding With Climate-Smart Flood Insurance Reforms (2017)

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was designed to help Americans recover from flood disasters, but it can also unintentionally trap homeowners who would prefer to move somewhere safer. Instead of moving, many policyholders find themselves rebuilding their homes again and again. Across the United States, more than 30,000 “severe repetitive loss properties” (SRLPs) have been covered under the NFIP. These properties have flooded an average of five times, according to FEMA data acquired by NRDC through a Freedom of Information Act request.

More and more Americans are living in areas that are vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise.4,5,6 In the face of rising flood risks and damages, the NFIP should provide interested homeowners the option of relocating. This issue brief proposes flood insurance reforms that would make it possible for the owners of repeatedly flooded homes to receive a buyout of their property after a flood, removing the uncertainty that surrounds FEMA’s existing buyout efforts. Under this proposal, homeowners would be able to voluntarily sign up for a buyout before the next flood occurs. If a flood then substantially damages their home, FEMA would quickly provide funding that enables the local government to purchase the flood-prone property and convert it to open space while freeing the owner to relocate.

This year, Congress is debating the future of the NFIP. This presents a critical opportunity to make buyouts of flood-prone properties a more realistic option for more homeowners. With floods and flood damages on the rise, now is the time for climate-smart reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Original Link to the NRDC Site

 

NEPA Lawsuit Argues that Immigrants to the US Increase Climate Change

This lawsuit by an anti-immigration group alleges that since Americans have among the highest carbon footprints, allowing immigrants into the US will increase GHG emissions and climate change. This means that immigration has environmental impacts and thus immigration policy changes require an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA.

Scientists And Environmentalists For Population Stabilization v DHS

Climate Change Communication and Denial

A primary issue in addressing climate change is that many people either deny its existence or deny or downplay man’s role in driving it. The usual answer is that we need more education about climate science. Cultural cognition research questions this presumption, finding that many climate change skeptics/deniers understand the underlying science as well as those who accept man’s role in climate change. These papers report research on how and when education about facts can change minds when it may only harden existing attitudes. This is new work and is evolving with time. These are links to public domain copies of the papers that can be used in class.

City of Del Mar Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan

City of Del Mar Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan

The Del Mar Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan serves as the City of Del Mar’s long-range planning guide to address future sea-level rise and its effects on storm surge and coastal flooding and erosion. This Adaptation Plan will provide the basis for developing new sea-level rise policies that will be integrated into the City’s Local Coastal Program (LCP) via a LCP Amendment. The Adaptation Plan draws on the City of Del Mar’s Coastal Hazards, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment (ESA 2016, Coastal Hazards, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment – Del Mar, Ca ), guidance provided by the City’s Sea-Level Rise Stakeholder Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), and the California Coastal Commission’s (2015) Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance for addressing sealevel rise in LCPs.

 

THE ROAD TO ACTION: Financial regulation addressing climate change

THE ROAD TO ACTION: Financial regulation addressing climate change (original link)

Our report finds that investors, asset managers and banks urgently need a way to identify and measure how companies are responding to the risks of climate change.

The cost of inaction: Recognising the value at risk from climate change, a July 2015 report written by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) and sponsored by Aviva, identified the need for a framework to govern the disclosure of climate-related financial risk.

Since that report was published, several significant events have taken place including the historic agreement on a global warming limit at the Paris Climate Conference (officially known as the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21), its early adoption by 55 countries and the European Union and the US administration’s subsequent decision to withdraw its support from the agreement.

The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax

The Climate Leadership Council: The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends (2017)

There are many traditional conservatives who understand and believe in climate change. Consistent with their small government beliefs, they see a carbon tax as the best approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In this report, the Climate Leadership Council lays out the argument for a gradual increasing carbon tax, starting at $40 a ton. (This would be about $0.40 a gallon for gasoline.)  The proceeds of the tax would be used to defray the economic impact on lower income individuals, as well as to fund other societal priorities.

Additional conservative carbon tax resources:

The Niskanen Center

 

A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid

A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid

Scientists are engaged in an increasingly bitter and personal feud over how much power the United States can get from renewable sources, with a large group of researchers taking aim at a popular recent paper that claimed the country could move beyond fossil fuels entirely by 2055.

In 2015, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues argued that between 2050 and 2055, the United States could be entirely powered by “clean” energy sources and “no natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed.”

That would be a massive shift from the current power makeup, as in 2016, the United States got only 6.5 percent of its electricity from hydropower, 5.6 percent from wind and 0.9 percent from solar. Nonetheless, the paper excited proponents of renewable energy, and has been embraced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, celebrity backers such actor Mark Ruffalo and many environmental groups.

But Jacobson’s idea was always contentious. And now, no fewer than 21 researchers have published a study in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (which also published Jacobson’s original study in 2015) arguing that the work “used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.” …

The original article:

Mark Z Jacobson et al., Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100\% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes, 112 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 15060–15065 (2015)

This study addresses the greatest concern facing the large-scale integration of wind, water, and solar (WWS) into a power grid: the high cost of avoiding load loss caused by WWS variability and uncertainty. It uses a new grid integration model and finds low-cost, no-load-loss, nonunique solutions to this problem on electrification of all US energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) while accounting for wind and solar time series data from a 3D global weather model that simulates extreme events and competition among wind turbines for available kinetic energy. Solutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for heat (in soil and water); cold (in ice and water); and electricity (in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hydropower, and hydrogen), and using demand response. No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed. The resulting 2050–2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels. These results hold for many conditions, suggesting that low-cost, reliable 100% WWS systems should work many places worldwide.

The criticism of the original article:

Christopher T. M Clack et al., Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017)

A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.