Friday, June 2, 2006

Environmental Law Hit Parade

Link: SSRN Top Downloads.

1          207    The Green Costs of Kelo: Economic Development                              Takings and Environmental Protection
                    Ilya Somin, Jonathan H. Adler

2         172     The Tragedy of the Commons and the Myth of a Private                     Property Solution
                    Amy Sinden

3         69     The Case Against Smoking Bans
                   Thomas Andrew Lambert

4        64        Much Ado About Nothing: Kelo v. City of New London,                     Sweet Home v. Babbitt, and other Tales from the                             Supreme Court
                    Marcilynn A. Burke

5        60       The City as an Ecological Space: Social Capital and                             Urban Land Use
                    Sheila Foster

6         55     Cultural Evaluations of Risk: 'Values' or 'Blunders'?
                    Dan M. Kahan, Paul Slovic

7         45     Advancing the Rebirth of Environmental Common Law                         Jason J. Czarnezki, Mark Thomsen

8         42     The United States' Experience with Energy-Based Tax                         Incentives: The Evidence Supporting Tax Incentives for                     Renewable Energy
                    Mona L. Hymel

9         35     Inside the Administrative State: A Critical Look at the                         Practice of Presidential Control
                    Lisa Schultz Bressman, Michael P. Vandenbergh,

10         31     Electricity Market Liberalization in Europe - Who's Got                     the Power?
                    Lise Wietze, Vincent Linderhof

June 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hot and Hotter

So much for last month's optimism based on reanalysis.

Link: New Forecast: Hot and Hotter -- Parks 2006 (526): 1 -- ScienceNOW.

If Earth's past climate cycles are any indication, temperatures could be significantly hotter by the end of the century than current climate models predict. New research suggests that current atmospheric models underestimate future global warming. Scientists say the estimates don't account for soil decomposition and other natural processes that are expected to escalate in response to ongoing warming, thus amplifying greenhouse gas production.

Currently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the global average temperature could increase as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. But these estimates don't factor in some feedback mechanisms that may be triggered by rising temperatures. For instance, accelerated decomposition in soils and changes in ocean chemistry may add considerably to greenhouse gases and further intensify warming. Two studies published 26 May in Geophysical Research Letters attempt to translate these potential impacts into hard numbers.

In the first study, biogeochemists Margaret Torn of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and John Harte of the University of California, Berkeley, used Antarctic ice cores to estimate the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere over the past 420,000 years, allowing them to predict the impact of future climate-CO2 feedbacks. Combining these estimates with standard assumptions from climate models, they calculated the amplification in global temperatures attributable to greenhouse gas feedback. They found that a doubling of current CO2 levels would boost temperatures by 1.6 to 6 degrees Celsius, and by 2100 the gain could be as much as 7.7 degrees C.

Torn notes that many feedback mechanisms remain poorly understood, and uncertainties abound in trying to predict their effects on climate. But she believes the findings indicate "that we will experience more severe, not less severe, climate change than is currently forecast."

In the second study, climatologist Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues also examined data from polar ice cores and reconstructed temperatures during the ice age that lasted from about 1550 to 1850. Using somewhat different methods from Torn and Harte, they found that warming due to human activities could heighten temperatures by 1.7 to 8.0 degrees Celsius over the coming century.

Caspar Ammann, a climate modeler with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, however, notes that climate models don’t predict greenhouse gases per se, but rather they predict the outcome of different climate scenarios: How high will temperatures rise if CO2 doubles, for instance. These scenarios do incorporate different types of feedbacks, including advances in technology and public policy, he says. As climate feedbacks from warming soils and oceans--both huge carbon reservoirs--become better understood, the models will become more precise, says Ammann.

June 2, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ABA SEER Teleconference on S.D. Warren and The Scope of CWA § 401

Link:ABA SEER site

On Wednesday, June 7, 2006, the American Bar
Association Section of Environment, Energy, and
Resources, Constitutional Law Task Force and
the HydroPower, Water Resources, and Water Quality
and Wetlands Committees are sponsoring
a teleconference on Understanding the Scope
of § 4
01 of the Clean Water Act After
the Supreme Court's Decision inS.D. Warren v.
Maine Department of Environmental Protection

(opinion- Cornell LII link)

  12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Central Time
  10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time / 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time

Program Overview:
  In S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the
Supreme Court upheld the application of Maine's § 401 water quality standards
to five Warren  dams undergoing FERC relicensing. Through the relicensing
process, the Maine  Board of Environmental Protection required Warren to
maintain minimum stream flows and to allow passage for certain fish and eels
as part of its 401 water quality certification. Warren challenged these
requirements through state appeals and asserted that its dams do not result
in a "discharge" to a navigable water since it was simply moving water from
one side of a dam to another. Warren relied upon the Supreme Court's decision
in South Florida Water Management District v Miccosukee Tribe of Indians;
in Miccosukee the Supreme Court held that polluted waters running from one
waterbody to another are not subject to the CWA's  section 402 permitting program
if neither pollutants are being added nor the waterbodies are meaningfully distinct.
In this case, however, the Supreme Court found that sections 402 and 401
are not interchangeable, and the term "discharge" should be construed with its
common and ordinary meaning to cover releases from a hydroelectric dam.
The Supreme Court, therefore, upheld the decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial
Court that found state water quality conditions under section 401 permissible
to impose upon a FERC licensee.

June 2, 2006 in Cases, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NRC Refusal to Consider Environmental Impact of Terrorist Attack Violates NEPA

Today, in San Louis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. NRC, the 9th Circuit concluded that the NRC erred in refusing to consider the environmental consequences of a terrorist attack upon nuclear waste storage facility seeking a license. Terrorist Attack and NEPA - 9th Circuit Opinion

While the 9th Circuit rejected several procedural arguments, it reviewed the reasonableness of NRC's decision to exclude impacts from a possible terrorist attack in an EIS.  The court dismissed the government's argument that the possibility of a terrorist attack was too remote, speculative, and removed from the actual effects of the agency action -- largely based on NRCs statements about security planning.  It rejected the argument that the risk of terrorist attack could not be quantified -- outlining the qualitative discussion that NRC could include in an EIS.  It scoffed at the government's argument that conducting such an analysis amounted to a worst case analysis --noting that the CEQ regulations identify the appropriate form of analysis for low probability, high impact events.  And it assured the NRC that it could deal appropriately with the sensitive security issues that might be raised by such an analysis. 

At least the 9th Circuit is dealing with reality. 

HT Ross Runkel for spotting the case.

June 2, 2006 in Environmental Assessment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Global Warming Stock Tip: Buy Johnson & Johnson

Atlantic Poison Oak
A paper published recently in PNAS describes the proliferation of poison ivy and its mates that global warming brings.  Poison

June 2, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

When Will They Ever Learn: The Stormy Aftermath Affects Hurricane Insurance

Planet Ark reports that this season's hurricanes may cause US$100 billion of property losses, and wipe out 20 to 40 insurers.  Planet Ark Hurricane Insurance link  The human cost  of these hurricanes is greater than the thousands of lives lost each year.  US$100 billion is five times more than the amount that it would take to assure that every person on the planet had safe, clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education. 

The money comes from our pockets whether in the form of increased insurance premiums or government aid.  IMHO, global warming and the intensifying hurricanes that it may be unleashing a tremendous economic drain and on many levels a moral disaster.

Costs from last year's major catastrophes, or "megacats" -- Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma -- have already reached US$58 billion, with some claims still in court. In addition, federal aid to rebuild areas such as New Orleans, which was flooded by Katrina, will top US$100 billion...With population expansion in vulnerable areas and soaring real estate values, catastrophe losses are likely to double every 10 years, according to hurricane modelers. In Florida, which has seen five major hurricanes in the past two years, four insurers have already failed....When insurers are no longer around to answer the phone, the burden falls to the state, which sets up a claims fund and forces solvent insurers to pay the costs.   Insurers are also running from areas where storm damage is likely to be the worst. American International Group Inc., the world's largest insurer, is declining to write new property policies in areas of the Gulf Coast, while Allstate Corp., the US's second-largest home insurer, is limiting exposure in areas as far north as New York....Six of the 10 costliest storms in US history have occurred within the 14 months of the 2004-2005 hurricane season. While 2006 isn't expected to suffer the megacats of 2005, it will be part of a pattern that has seen the most devastating pattern of hurricanes since 1900.

June 2, 2006 in Climate Change, Economics, Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Artic Ocean Sediment Core Reveals Previous Melt

Link: Balmy Arctic Stymies Climate Modelers

Science reports that:
... an international team has given geologists their best glimpse yet of the Arctic's climate history. Using ice-breaker ships and a floating drill rig during a 2004 expedition, the researchers extracted sediments down to 400 meters beneath the Arctic seafloor, deep enough to track the Arctic climate back 56 million years. Three papers detailing the analysis of the cores appear this week in Nature.

The biggest shock: There wasn't any ice in the Arctic about 55 million years ago. At that time, the planet heated up dramatically--possibly because of changes in the atmosphere caused by volcanic eruptions or deep sea methane release--and researchers have assumed that the melting Arctic ice contributed to the warming. But by analyzing oil molecules in fossilized plankton, a team led by Appy Sluijs, a paleoceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, calculates that the Arctic ocean was already an ice-free, 18 degrees Celsius before the warming started and then warmed up to 23 degrees Celsius. That will send climate modelers back to the drawing board, says Sluijs, because some other mechanism is now needed to explain the additional temperature increase. Ferocious hurricanes may have contributed by pushing hot water around the globe, the authors suggest.

The findings pose "quite a challenge" to climate science, says Gabe Bowen, an earth scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. "Amplification of hurricane intensity as a mechanism for warming the poles is a really interesting and provocative hypothesis," he says, "and what remains now is for scientists to scour the geological record for evidence of super-hurricanes during these ancient warm climate intervals."

June 1, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alaska and US Exercise Exxon Valdez Reopener Provision

The United States and the State of Alaska today submitted to ExxonMobil Corporation a detailed plan for a proposed restoration project to restore habitat in the area affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The restoration plan was submitted in accord with the "Reopener for Unknown Injury" in the consent decree which settled the governments' civil claims against Exxon Corporation (now ExxonMobil), the Exxon Shipping Company and the Exxon Pipeline Company arising from the spill.  Today's submission of a plan to ExxonMobil is the first step in exercising the Reopener provision of the consent decree.  The Reopener allows ExxonMobil 90 days after submission of the proposed restoration plan before it is required to pay or respond -- this provision allows negotiations to settle a Reopener claim without litigation.

The proposed restoration project focuses on removing much of the oil that remains in the environment in a form that is potentially harmful to natural resources and disruptive of human activities.  The proposed project has two major objectives: (1) to determine the locations, approximate amounts, and chemical states of all significant residual deposits of oil from the spill in the spill area; (2) to accelerate the natural processes of degradation and dispersal of the lingering oil, or otherwise restore the oiled sites, to the greatest extent scientifically appropriate taking into account such factors as the size and distribution of lingering oil patches, conditions at the oiled sites, affected natural resources or human uses, and the relative benefits and costs (including potential adverse effects) of active remediation.The ultimate cost of the project depends upon such factors as how many oiled sites require remediation and the remediation approach selected. It is currently estimated to cost approximately $92 million. 

At the time of the settlement, Exxon agreed to pay the governments $900 million in installments for costs and for natural resource damages known or reasonably anticipated at the time of the settlement.  The settlement also included a unique provision allowing the federal and state
trustees to seek up to $100 million in additional monies for damages where a substantial loss or decline in one or more populations, habitats, or species in the area of the spill, (1) resulted from the spill; (2) the loss or decline was unknown and could not reasonably have
been anticipated by the governments; (3) one or more projects that would help restore the injured
population, habitat or species; and (4) the project costs are not grossly disproportionate to benefits.   

From Exxon Valdez Reopener Factsheet

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June 1, 2006 in Biodiversity, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, North America, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hurricane Season Looms Large

William Gray and Colorado State University predicted yesterday that the Atlantic season will see nine hurricanes and an 82% probability that the US coast would be hit by a major hurricane.  This is far above the average 50-50% chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the US.  Planet Ark story

As usual, Gray totally discounted the impact of anthropogenic global warming.  However, John Schwartz of the NY Times reported today that climate researchers at Purdue and MIT separately reported new evidence supporting the idea that global warming is causing stronger hurricanes. Schwartz report The Purdue paper by Huber and Sriver, appearing in a forthcoming issues of Geophysical Research Letters, calculates total damage caused by storms worldwide, using data normally applied to reconciling weather forecast models with observed weather events.  The Huber and Sriver results were consistent with earlier work by Kerry Emanuel of MIT. Emanuel has argued that global warming, specifically the warming of the tropical oceans, is increasing the power expended by hurricanes. 

Another new study by Emanuel and Mann  published in EOS compared global sea surface temperatures data with tropical Atlantic data and attributed recent strengthening of hurricanes to the rise in ocean surface temperature. Using increasingly sophisticated climate models that account for the impact of aerosols, Emanuel and Mann question the theory that hurricane activity fluctuates over a natural decadenal climate cycle. Their analysis estimated human influences on climate compared to possible natural cyclical influences, finding "anthropogenic factors are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclones."  They question the theory of the Atlantic multi-decadal signal, a natural climate cycle, as an explanation of the surges and declines over decades of hurricane activity. Instead, more sophisticated climate models and more precise global temperature data suggest that there is a linear increase in hurricanes related to the increase in Atlantic sea surface temperatures, rather than a natural cycle.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush met with Peter Webster and Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who published research last year showing an increase in global hurricane intensity, with a doubling of the number of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes since 1970. That increase coincides with a rise of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit in ocean surface temperatures.  Webster and Curry agree with the cyclical theory and accept that the Atlantic basin is experiencing a natural cyclical increase in hurricanes.  However, Webster and Curry argue that cycle does not explain such a dramatic increase in strong storms. Increasing global surface temperatures cause warmer water, fueling more intense hurricanes. AP report

June 1, 2006 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, North America, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bird Flu Blues: Time to Tune Up Our Pandemic Preparedness Plans

A news analysis by Declan Butler published today in Nature panned the WHO response to the recently reported Indonesian cases of human to human transfer of bird flu.  It appears that the response took considerably more time than the target of three weeks that WHO must meet for rapid intervention to prevent a pandemic.  The first person fell ill on 24 April and the full WHO team did not even arrive until more than three weeks later.  I guess its time to review those pandemic response plans and stock up on Tamiflu.

Nature reports:

A cluster of avian flu cases in Indonesia last month is being seen by many experts as a dry run for the handling of an emerging pandemic virus. But although the World Health Organization (WHO) says that all went well, some critics allege that the response to the virus — thought to have been moving between humans — shows how ill-prepared the international community and affected nations still are.

"Any chance of containment was absolutely hopeless," says Andrew Jeremijenko, who until March was head of influenza surveillance at the US Naval Medical Research Unit 2 in Jakarta. "If this was a test to see whether Indonesia could contain a virus, then they just failed miserably."

If this was a test to see whether Indonesia could contain a virus, they failed miserably.

The difficulties encountered also raise questions as to the practicality of a plan to try to stop an emerging pandemic in its tracks by rapid intervention. Modelling studies predict that if a pandemic virus emerges, the WHO would have at most three weeks to help the affected country to quarantine all carriers and treat those infected with antivirals (N. M. Ferguson et al. Nature  436, 614–615; 2005).

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May 31, 2006 in Asia, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sustainble Forest Management: A Long Way from Tipperary

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) survey indicates only 5% of tropical forest is managed sustainably.  The trend over the last two decades, however, is in the right direction.  Sustainably managed forest has increased from 1 million hectares to 36 million hectares since 1988.  ITTO experts are meeting in Mérida, Mexico this week to discuss how countries can make sustainable forest management a reality.

May 31, 2006 in Forests/Timber | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)