Environment and Climate Change

Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond. Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution. (p 23)

The Precautionary Principle

Bourguignon, Didier. “The precautionary principle: Definitions, applications and governance.” European Parliament Research Service Paper (2015).

Treaty on European Union, Article 191

2. Union policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992)

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The First Climate Treaty – The Montreal Protocol

Chlorofluorocarbons and Ozone Depletion – A National Historic Chemical Landmark

Molina, Mario J., and F. Sherwood Rowland. “Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: chlorine atom-catalysed destruction of ozone.” Nature 249.5460 (1974): 810. (the first ozone hole paper)

Environmental Protection Agency. “Regulatory Impact Analysis: Protection of Stratospheric Ozone.” (1988).

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

Summary – Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

The Hole – A film on the Montreal Protocol, narrated by Sir David Attenborough

Negotiating the Montreal Protocol on Protecting the Ozone Layer – interview with one of the State Department negotiators.

NASA Ozone Watch

Financing the Montreal Protocol in the developing world

Report on the World Bank Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (2007)

Peter M. Morrisette, The Evolution of Policy Responses to Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, 29 Nat. Resources J. 793 (1989). (Available at:

Sunstein, Cass R. “Of Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of Two Protocols.” Envtl. L. Rep. News & Analysis 38 (2008): 10566.

EPA, Stratospheric Ozone Protection: 30 Years of Progress and Achievements (2017)

United Nations Environment Programme. Ozone Secretariat. Handbook for the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. UNEP/Earthprint, 2018.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Executive Summary: Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018, World Meteorological Organization, Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project – Report No. 58, 67 pp., Geneva, Switzerland, 2018.

Velders, Guus JM, et al. “The importance of the Montreal Protocol in protecting climate.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104.12 (2007): 4814-4819.




Legal Pathways To Deep Decarbonization In The United States: Summary And Key Recommendations (Publisher’s WWW site)

Dernbach, John C., The Dozen Types of Legal Tools in the Deep Decarbonization Toolbox (September 10, 2018). 39 Energy Law Journal 101; Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 18-12.

Jacobson, Mark Z., et al. “100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States.” Energy & Environmental Science 8.7 (2015): 2093-2117.

Rebuttal: Clack, Christopher TM, 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 114.26 (2017): 6722-6727.

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).

Sea-level rise Projections for Maryland 2018

Rural Flooding - Dorchester County, MD

In fulfillment of requirements of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change Act of 2015, this report provides updated projections of the amount of sea-level rise relative to Maryland coastal lands that is expected into the next century. These projections represent the consensus of an Expert Group drawn from the Mid-Atlantic region.

Climate Change Risks to Mountain Ecology and Communities

Typical Climate Related Risks in Mountains

Alfthan, B., Gjerdi, H.L., Puikkonen, L., Andresen, M., Semernya, L., Schoolmeester, T., Jurek, M. (2018). Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series – Synthesis Report. United Nations Environment Programme, and GRID-Arendal, Nairobi, Vienna, and Arendal., – Original Link

Also see: Alfthan, B., Gupta, N., Gjerdi, H.L., Schoolmeester, T., Andresen, M., Jurek, M., Agrawal, N.K. 2018. Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series. United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Vienna, Arendal and Kathmandu., www.,


Putting the Camp Fire in perspective

The Great Fire of 1910 (original link)

This is a report on the Fire of 1910, which burned over 3,000,000 acres/4,700 sq. miles over a weekend. (Likely started by flaming cinders from a steam train.) The Camp Fire burned about 100,000 acres. The 1910 fire lead to the fire suppression policies by the US Forest Service that ultimately contributed to current fires. (These were co-opted by the timber industry, so it is not clear what the forest service on its own might have done through time as it saw the effects of the policies.) But the nature of temperate coniferous forests is that they burn, and even in a state of nature, large areas may burn. As with flooding, it is only an issue when people enter the picture, turning a natural phenomenon into a disaster.

The 1910 fire was not the biggest or most deadly:

Fire resistant construction and community design is not significantly more expensive than conventional construction and has additional benefits by increasing resistance to wind damage. It is pretty expensive to retrofit, however. The principles have been known for a long time, but the political will to impose the construction standards has been limited. Our insurance folks will know better, but at least until the most recent fire seasons, the cost of fire insurance has not been high enough in these areas to incentivize better construction. Part of the reason is that the homeowners and their communities do not pay the cost of firefighting, which usually can save the houses. Thus the risk is subsidized, as with flood insurance and flood control projects. (Fire insurance for high end homes in fire areas does include the cost of firefighting, which is what brings in those private teams to foam the house and the area when a fire threatens.)

Mississippi Supreme Court finds that artificial beach is public trust property

Harris v. State, 2018 WL 5839607 (Miss. Nov. 8, 2018).

Abutting landowners brought an action against the State of Mississippi, a city, and a county to confirm title to waterfront properties. A trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the landowners on the issue of tideland boundaries, confirmed the landowners’ title, and ruled that the government parties failed to prove adverse possession or public prescriptive easement. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Following a trial, the lower court held that Mississippi held title to the sand beach in front of landowners’ properties as public-trust tidelands and granted easements to the county and city. The landowners appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the beach was public-trust tidelands; the trial court acted within its discretion in relying on lay witness testimony that the beach was man-made; the expert report did not establish that beach was natural rather than man-made; and the pumping of sand along the shoreline did not constitute an uncompensated taking.

(Thanks for Mississippi Sea Grant National Law Center)