Course Information

This class will be held through Zoom on TTH, 1:50-3:20 pm CST. The first day of class is 11 January 2021 and we will continue on Zoom for the first 3 weeks of the course, subject to the LSU COVID protocols. The course materials and assignments will be posted on this site. There are no materials to be purchased. We will use public domain materials primarily, including primary documents such as IPCC reports. Some materials will be posted on Moodle to preserve copyright.

Under the new law school attendance policy, you will need to log into Moodle during the first 10 minutes of class and record your attendance. If you are delayed, you will be able to log in as late. Occasional late attendance will not count against you, but a consistent pattern of late attendance will be a problem. Instructions for marking attendance are here: Moodle: How to use the Attendance activity (Students)

You should leave your audio muted except when you are called on. You should leave your video on, with allowances for brief personal breaks due to local disruptions at your end. We will use Poll Everywhere for polling during the class sessions. You respond through a URL and you do not need to buy a license. The in-class polls will not be graded, but participation will count toward class participation points. Class participation can raise or lower your grade by up to 0.3 points.

February 3

News

TBA

Assignment

Friends of the Earth v. Haaland (27 Jan 2022)

February 1

News

Breaking news: A federal judge canceled major oil and gas leases over climate change.

This is a blockbuster decision. We are going to read it next class to conclude our discussion of NEPA. Start reading it over the weekend, it is fairly complicated.

Decarbonization Tech Instantly Converts Carbon Dioxide to Solid Carbon

While this is a long way from commercial use, it is the type of breakthrough that could make CCS feasible.

Global Witness Exposes The Lie Behind The Carbon Capture Scam

America’s hottest city is nearly unlivable in summer. Can cooling technologies save it?

Assignment

We will finish our discussion from last class. We will then begin a series of classes looking at the main legal tools for mitigating GHGs in the US under the existing statutory framework. This builds the oral arguments in West Virginia v. EPA on Feb. 28. We will then look at global warming as an international problem. We will look at governance issues such as geoengineering in which one country’s actions to mitigate warming may harm others. We will also look at the international treaty and agreement structure from the Montreal Protocol to the Paris Agreement.

There are two major federal regulatory paths in dealing with climate change. One, which we will talk about next, is the direct regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The second is through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is the first of the modern environmental laws. It is not a direct regulatory law. Instead, NEPA requires covered projects to prepare a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of a proposed project.  The objective of NEPA is to assure that the public and government officials make decisions based on complete and accurate information in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). NEPA has a strong citizen lawsuit provision that allows interested parties who meet the standing requirements to challenge the EIS if they can show that the EIS is inaccurate or incomplete. The court can order that the EIS be amended, including doing new studies of environmental impacts if necessary. Once the EIS meets the requirements set in the NEPA regulations and case precedent, there is no right to challenge the decision to build the project. NEPA is the major tool that environmental groups use to try to stop environmentally dangerous projects. While the statute focuses on public information, the delay inherent in court challenges and EIS revisions can delay projects for years. This gives the groups opposing the project time to build political opposition to the project.

We are going to start our NEPA section with a bit of history. In 1962, Rachael Carson, a writer and naturalist, published Silent Spring. The book is credited with starting the modern environmental movement. (By this I mean the movement that focuses on the health effects of pollutants on people, as opposed to the much older movement that focused on preserving natural spaces and the creation of national parks.) This leads to the passage of NEPA in 1970. Watch the short video linked below on Rachael Carson and the impact of Silent Spring.

Then review:

NEPA – Parsing the Statute  – Video –  Narrated PowerPoints (they are the same, just different formats)

This is a brief introduction to the NEPA statute that I recorded so we do not have to spend class time reviewing the basic statute. If you have taken environmental law, you will already be familiar with NEPA.

The courts have begun to require an analysis of the impact of projects on climate change to be included in the EIS. This gives environmental groups a way to attack environmentally unsound projects and assure that the full range of risks to the climate is included in the EIS. At the same time, this will delay the project, giving time to find other ways to stop the project. Interestingly, some of the same issues came up in the earliest NEPA case, which involved the licensing of a nuclear power plant. The plaintiffs wanted an analysis of substituting energy conservation as an alternative to the construction of the plant included in the EIS.  We are going to look at this old case and a modern case directly incorporating climate considerations into the NEPA analysis:

NEPA Reader (2022)

Resources

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended

Council on Environmental Quality (US). Environmental Quality: The First Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality Together with the President’s Message to Congress. US Government Printing Office, 1970.

 

 

January 27

News

‘We’re in trouble:’ U.S. envoy urges faster action on climate goals

Shell’s fossil hydrogen plant in Canada found to be emitting more climate-wrecking gases than it is capturing

HYDROGEN’S HIDDEN EMISSIONS: Shell’s misleading climate claims for its Canadian fossil hydrogen project (January 2022)

Climate Change Increasingly a Bipartisan Issue in Florida FAU Surveys Reveal it May be Less of a Campaign Issue Heading into Mid-term Elections

Assignment

The US National Strategy was hopelessly vague. We are going to look at The Pathways to Decarbonization report, which is a crowd-sourced effort to develop meaningful legal approaches to decarbonization. , i.e., what we have to do to reduce GHGs to manageable levels. Scan through the report and look at the slides. I will review it in class.

Williams, James H., et al. “Pathways to deep decarbonization in the United States.” The US Report of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, Energy and Environmental Economics, San Francisco, CA, accessed Apr 23 (2014).

Slides – Pathways to deep decarbonization in the United States (draft)

Resources

January 25

News

CHASING ICE” captures largest glacier calving ever filmed – OFFICIAL VIDEO (not new, but new to me)

InsideClimate News: China Moves to Freeze Production of Climate Super-Pollutants But Lacks a System to Monitor Emissions.

Texas may get a coastal storm barrier, but will it be too late?

#1 BS detector – US Gulf Coast projects modeled on Dutch. First, the Dutch have a politically homogenous political system, as least as regards public works and climate change, and they accept that they have to make personal sacrifices and pay high taxes to build and maintain public projects. Second, the worst-case Dutch storms generate much lower surge than Gulf Coast hurricanes. Third, the whole country is less than 1/3 the size of Louisiana but with nearly 18,000,000 citizens and a strong economy.

Assignment

The Long-Term Strategy Of The United States Pathways To Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2050 (November 2021)

This is the official strategy of the Biden administration. We are going to go through this to identify the different economic sectors involved and the places where government regulation will be necessary. This is not as dense reading as cases, but there are a lot of important concepts. Fortunately, this is written for laymen. Look at the graphs and try to understand what the graph is showing. Try to get through by Tuesday. Even if we do not get though it all in one class, the first parts make more sense if you have scanned the whole document.

January 20

News

Homeowners insurance is soaring in Louisiana

How Exxon is using an unusual law to intimidate critics over its climate denial

Assignment

Read through these documents as an overview of the IPCC. These are written for policy makers and lawyers, not scientists.

IPCC Overview (AR6 Documents)

AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis – Summary for Policy Makers

Resources

Basic science climate doodles from last class

Slides – IPCC Basics – AR6

 

January 18

News

Breaking news! Tonga underwater volcano eruption triggers tsunami advisories

The World Was Cooler in 2021 Than 2020. That’s Not Good News

Assignment

We will begin our intro to climate science. Be sure to review the materials from last class, plus these additional short videos and WWW pages:

What causes the seasons?

The ice age cycles

How Ice Ages Happen: The Milankovitch Cycles

Why the climate changes without human intervention

Where are we in the Milankovitch Cycles?

Would the planet be warming or cooling now, if there were no people?

Solar Variability

One more variable

What is Ocean Acidification?

This is a direct effect of CO2, separate from its effect on heat retention in the atmosphere.

January 13

News

We study ocean temperatures. The Earth just broke a heat increase record

Stop blaming the climate for disasters

Global warming is making extreme weather events and their consequences worse, but they are only disasters when people are in the way. The Louisiana coast has always been subject to major hurricane damage. As a natural process, hurricanes help distribute sediment into the marsh and sustain the wetlands and the delta. But when people choose to live in the coastal zone, hurricanes become disasters. Look at New Orleans. Levees are built, which hasten the destruction of the delta and coastal wetlands. Population density increases behind the levees, increasing the catastrophe when the levees fail or a wet storm fills the city with rain and destroys the structures with wind. The more protection we add, the greater the catastrophe when the defenses fails. This is called the levee effect.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ‘net zero’ plan calls for dramatically reshaping Louisiana economy

We will look at this in a later class.  Thought question – what is the political effect of a 2050 target?

Assignment

Read the assigned paper from last class and watch the video introduction if you have not done so. We will talk about the findings in class and their implications.

Review these short discussions of basic concepts about the earth’s atmosphere for the start of my presentation about basic climate science.

What is the temperature on the Moon?

What if the earth were like the moon, without an atmosphere?

Why is there an atmosphere around our earth and not around other planets?

How did the earth’s atmosphere form?

Heat capacity of water

Why water is the magic of climate and life. Things to think about: Why does ice float, rather than sink? What would the climate be like if ice didn’t float?

What are the main greenhouse gases?

Water as a GHG

Why water really controls the temperature of the planet, but why other GHGs that set the thermostat.

We will look at seasons and climate cycles next class.

 

January 11

News

Flood coverage hikes coming for 8 out of 10 Louisianans

The 2016 Baton Rouge flood and climate change

The 2020 and 2021 hurricane seasons

We will learn that warmer oceans for longer periods each year lead to more opportunities for hurricanes in Louisiana and allow hurricanes to retain strength farther up the east coast.

Assignment

We are going to start our discussion of climate change by looking at the cultural cognition problem – what shapes people’s beliefs about scientific issues? This work was done in 2012-2014. This work has become even more relevant in the aftermath of the Trump presidency and current controversies over COVID science and policy.

Kahan, Dan M., Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem (June 25, 2014). Advances in Pol. Psych., 36, 1-43 (2015).

Read to 3. The “normality” of climate science in Southeast Florida. p. 33. This research explores the critical distinction between what a person knows and what a person believes. This has important implications for communicating information about controversial subjects such as climate change. It is also fundamental to trial practice: you have to persuade jurors to believe your story, not just know your story. The article is well written but can be heavy going. Pay attention to the graphs and then watch this video discussing the paper:

Cultural Cognition Into – Climate Class

Look carefully at the section that discusses why telling people that 97%  of scientists believe something is not a good way to get them to change their minds.