Fred Cheever and Celia Campbell-Mohn have provided Encyclopaedia Brittanica's cut at that question. Link: environmental law See their article below.
Encyclopædia Britannica Article
A river in Sichuan province, China, polluted by a paper mill. David and Peter Turnley/Corbis
principles, policies, directives, and
regulations enacted and enforced by local, national, or international
entities to regulate human treatment of the nonhuman world. The vast
field covers a broad range of topics in diverse legal settings, such as
state bottle-return laws in the United States, regulatory standards for
emissions from coal-fired power plants in Germany, initiatives in China
to create a “Green Great Wall”—a shelter belt of trees—to protect
Beijing from sandstorms, and international treaties for the protection
of biological diversity and the ozonosphere. During the late 20th
century environmental law developed from a modest adjunct of the law of
public health regulations into an almost universally recognized
independent field protecting both human health and nonhuman nature.
Throughout history national governments have
passed occasional laws to protect human health from environmental
contamination. About AD 80
the Senate of Rome passed legislation to protect the city's supply of
clean water for drinking and bathing. In the 14th century England
prohibited both the burning of coal in London and the disposal of waste
into waterways. In 1681 the Quaker leader of the English colony of
Pennsylvania, William Penn, ordered that one acre of forest be
preserved for every five acres cleared for settlement, and in the
following century Benjamin Franklin led various campaigns to curtail
the dumping of waste. In the 19th century, in the midst of the
Industrial Revolution, the British government passed regulations to
reduce the deleterious effects of coal burning and chemical manufacture
on public health and the environment.
Prior to the 20th century there were few
international environmental agreements. The accords that were reached
focused primarily on boundary waters, navigation, and fishing rights
along shared waterways and ignored pollution and other ecological
issues. In the early 20th century, conventions to protect commercially
valuable species were reached, including the Convention for the
Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture (1902), signed by 12 European
governments; the Convention for the Preservation and Protection of Fur
Seals (1911), concluded by the United States, Japan, Russia, and the
United Kingdom; and the Convention for the Protection of Migratory
Birds (1916), adopted by the United States and the United Kingdom (on
behalf of Canada) and later extended to Mexico in 1936. In the 1930s
Belgium, Egypt, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan, and the United
Kingdom adopted the Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna
and Flora in their Natural State, which committed those countries to
preserve natural fauna and flora in Africa by means of national parks
and reserves. Spain and France signed the convention but never ratified
it, and Tanzania formally adopted it in 1962. India, which acceded to
the agreement in 1939, was subject to the sections of the document
prohibiting “trophies” made from any animal mentioned in the annex.
Beginning in the 1960s, environmentalism became
an important political and intellectual movement in the West. In the
United States the publication of biologist Rachel Carson's Silent Spring
(1962), a passionate and persuasive examination of chlorinated
hydrocarbon pesticides and the environmental damage caused by their
use, led to a reconsideration of a much broader range of actual and
potential environmental hazards. In subsequent decades the U.S.
government passed an extraordinary number of environmental
laws—including acts addressing solid-waste disposal, air and water
pollution, and the protection of endangered species—and created an
Environmental Protection Agency to monitor compliance with them. These
new environmental laws dramatically increased the national government's
role in an area previously left primarily to state and local regulation.
In Japan rapid reindustrialization after World
War II was accompanied by the indiscriminate release of industrial
chemicals into the human food chain in certain areas. In the city of
Minamata, for example, large numbers of people suffered mercury
poisoning after eating fish that had been contaminated with industrial
wastes. By the early 1960s the Japanese government had begun to
consider a comprehensive pollution-control policy, and in 1967 Japan
enacted the world's first such overarching law, the Basic Law for
Environmental Pollution Control. Not until the end of the 20th century
was Minamata declared mercury-free.
Thirty-four countries in 1971 adopted the
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as
Waterfowl Habitat, generally known as the Ramsar Convention for the
city in Iran in which it was signed. The agreement, which entered into
force in 1975, now has nearly 100 parties. It required all countries to
designate at least one protected wetland area, and it recognized the
important role of wetlands in maintaining the ecological equilibrium.
Following the United Nations Conference on the
Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, the UN established the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the world's principal
international environmental organization. Although UNEP oversees many
modern-day agreements, it has little power to impose or enforce
sanctions on noncomplying parties. Nevertheless, a series of important
conventions arose directly from the conference, including the London
Convention on the Prevention of Pollution by Dumping of Wastes or Other
Matter (1972) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Branches from a tree in Germany's Black Forest show needle loss and yellowed boughs caused by acid … Ted Spiegel/Corbis
Until the Stockholm conference, European
countries generally had been slow to enact legal standards for
environmental protection—though there had been some exceptions, such as
the passage of the conservationist Countryside Act in the United
Kingdom in 1968. In October 1972, only a few months after the UN
conference, the leaders of the European Community (EC) declared that
the goal of economic expansion had to be balanced with the need to
protect the environment. In the following year the European Commission,
the EC's executive branch, produced its first Environmental Action
Programme, and since that time European countries have been at the
forefront of environmental policy making. In Germany, for example,
public attitudes toward environmental protection changed dramatically
in the early 1980s, when it became known that many German forests were
being destroyed by acid rain. The environmentalist German Green Party,
founded in 1980, won representation in the Bundestag (national
parliament) for the first time in 1983 and since then has campaigned
for stricter environmental regulations. By the end of the 20th century,
the party had joined a coalition government and was responsible for
developing and implementing Germany's extensive environmental policies.
As a group, Germany, The Netherlands, and Denmark—the so-called “green
troika”—established themselves as leading innovators in environmental
Belarusian soldiers checking for radiation in tomatoes brought from Ukraine, near the Chernobyl … AFP/Corbis
During the 1980s the “transboundary effects” of
environmental pollution in individual countries spurred negotiations on
several international environmental conventions. The effects of the
1986 accident at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine (then
part of the Soviet Union) were especially significant. European
countries in the pollution's downwind path were forced to adopt
measures to restrict their populations' consumption of water, milk,
meat, and vegetables. In Austria traces of radiation were found in
cow's milk as well as in human breast milk. As a direct result of the
Chernobyl disaster, two international agreements—the Convention on
Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on
Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency,
both adopted in 1986—were rapidly drafted to ensure notification and
assistance in the event of a nuclear accident. In the following decade
a Convention on Nuclear Safety (1994) established incentives for
countries to adopt basic standards for the safe operation of land-based
nuclear power plants.
There are often conflicting data about the
environmental impact of human activities, and scientific uncertainty
often has complicated the drafting and implementation of environmental
laws and regulations, particularly for international conferences
attempting to develop universal standards. Consequently, such laws and
regulations usually are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate
changes in scientific understanding and technological capacity. The
Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985), for
example, did not specify the measures that signatory states were
required to adopt to protect human health and the environment from the
effects of ozone depletion, nor did it mention any of the substances
that were thought to damage the ozone layer. Similarly, the Framework
Convention on Climate Change, or Global Warming Convention, adopted by
178 countries meeting in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development (popularly known as the
“Earth Summit”), did not set binding targets for reducing the emission
of the “greenhouse” gases thought to cause global warming.
In 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, which was established by the World Meteorological Organization
and UNEP to study changes in the Earth's temperature, concluded that
“the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on
global climate.” Although cited by environmentalists as final proof of
the reality of global warming, the report was faulted by some critics
for relying on insufficient data, for overstating the environmental
impact of global warming, and for using unrealistic models of climate
change. Two years later in Kyoto, Japan, a conference of signatories to
the Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the Kyoto Protocol,
which featured binding emission targets for developed countries. The
protocol authorized developed countries to engage in emissions trading
in order to meet their emissions targets. Its market mechanisms
included the sale of “emission reduction units,” which are earned when
a developed country reduces its emissions below its commitment level,
to developed countries that have failed to achieve their emission
targets. Developed countries could earn additional emission reduction
units by financing energy-efficient projects (e.g., clean-development
mechanisms) in developing countries. Since its adoption, the protocol
has encountered stiff opposition from some countries, particularly the
United States, which has failed to ratify it.
Environmental law exists at many levels and is
only partly constituted by international declarations, conventions, and
treaties. The bulk of environmental law is statutory—i.e., encompassed
in the enactments of legislative bodies—and regulatory—i.e., generated
by agencies charged by governments with protection of the environment.
In addition, many countries have included some
right to environmental quality in their national constitutions. Since
1994, for example, environmental protection has been enshrined in the
German Grundgesetz (“Basic Law”), which now states that the government
must protect for “future generations the natural foundations of life.”
Similarly, the Chinese constitution declares that the state “ensures
the rational use of natural resources and protects rare animals and
plants”; the South African constitution recognizes a right to “an
environment that is not harmful to health or well-being; and to have
the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future
generations”; the Bulgarian constitution provides for a “right to a
healthy and favourable environment, consistent with stipulated
standards and regulations”; and the Chilean constitution contains a
“right to live in an environment free from contamination.”
Much environmental law also is embodied in the
decisions of international, national, and local courts. Some of it is
manifested in arbitrated decisions, such as the Trail Smelter
arbitration (1941), which enjoined the operation of a smelter located
in British Columbia, Canada, near the international border with the
U.S. state of Washington and held that “no State has the right to use
or permit the use of its territory in such a manner as to cause injury
by fumes in or to the territory of another or the properties or persons
therein.” Some environmental law also appears in the decisions of
national courts. For example, in Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission
(1965), a U.S. federal appeals court voided a license granted by the
Federal Power Commission for the construction of an environmentally
damaging pumped-storage hydroelectric plant (i.e., a plant that would
pump water from a lower to an upper reservoir) in an area of stunning
natural beauty, demonstrating that the decisions of federal agencies
could be successfully challenged in the courts. Significant local
decisions included National Audubon Society v. Superior Court
(1976), in which the California Supreme Court dramatically limited the
ability of the Los Angeles to divert water that might otherwise fill
Mono Lake in California's eastern desert.
Most environmental law falls into a general
category of laws known as “command and control.” Such laws typically
involve three elements: (1) identification of a type of environmentally
harmful activity, (2) imposition of specific conditions or standards on
that activity, and (3) prohibition of forms of the activity that fail
to comply with the imposed conditions or standards. The United States
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1972), for example, regulates
“discharges” of “pollutants” into “navigable waters of the United
States.” All three terms are defined in the statute and agency
regulations and together identify the type of environmentally harmful
activity subject to regulation. In 1983 Germany passed a national
emission-control law that set specific air emission thresholds by power
plant age and type. Almost all environmental laws prohibit regulated
activities that do not comply with stated conditions or standards. Many
make a “knowing” (intentional) violation of such standards a crime.
The most obvious forms of regulated activity
involve actual discharges of pollutants into the environment (e.g.,
air, water, and groundwater pollution). However, environmental laws
also regulate activities that entail a significant risk of discharging
harmful pollutants (e.g., the transportation of hazardous waste, the
sale of pesticides, and logging). For actual discharges, environmental
laws generally prescribe specific thresholds of allowable pollution;
for activities that create a risk of discharge, environmental laws
generally establish management practices to reduce that risk.
The standards imposed on actual discharges
generally come in two forms: (1) environmental-quality, or ambient,
standards, which fix the maximum amount of the regulated pollutant or
pollutants tolerated in the receiving body of air or water, and (2)
emission, or discharge, standards, which regulate the amount of the
pollutant or pollutants that any “source” may discharge into the
environment. Most comprehensive environmental laws impose both
environmental-quality and discharge standards and endeavour to
coordinate their use to achieve a stated environmental-quality goal.
Environmental-quality goals can be either numerical or narrative.
Numerical targets set a specific allowable quantity of a pollutant
(e.g., 10 micrograms of carbon monoxide per cubic metre of air measured
over an eight-hour period). Narrative standards require that the
receiving body of air or water be suitable for a specific use (e.g.,
The management practices prescribed for
activities that create a risk of discharge are diverse and
context-specific. The United States Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act (1991), for example, requires drip pads for containers in which
hazardous waste is accumulated or stored, and the United States Oil
Pollution Act (1990) mandates that all oil tankers of a certain size
and age operating in U.S. waters be double-hulled.
Another type of activity regulated by
command-and-control legislation is environmentally harmful trade. Among
the most-developed regulations are those on trade in wildlife. The
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, 1973),
for example, authorizes signatories to the convention to designate
species “threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by
trade.” Once a plant or animal species has been designated as
endangered, countries generally are bound to prohibit import or export
of that species except in specific limited circumstances. In 1989
listing of the African elephant as a protected species effectively
prohibited most trade in African ivory, which was subsequently banned
by Kenya and the EC. By this time the United States already had banned
trade in African ivory, listing the African elephant as a threatened
species under its Federal Endangered Species Act (1978). Despite these
measures, some countries either failed to prohibit ivory imports (e.g.,
Japan) or refused to prohibit ivory exports (e.g., Botswana, Namibia,
South Africa, and Zimbabwe), and elephants continued to face danger
from poachers and smugglers.
Environmental assessment mandates are another
significant form of environmental law. Such mandates generally perform
three functions: (1) identification of a level or threshold of
potential environmental impact at which a contemplated action is
significant enough to require the preparation of an assessment, (2)
establishment of specific goals for the assessment mandated, and (3)
setting of requirements to ensure that the assessment will be
considered in determining whether to proceed with the action as
originally contemplated or to pursue an alternative action. Unlike
command-and-control regulations, which may directly limit discharges
into the environment, mandated environmental assessments protect the
environment indirectly by increasing the quantity and quality of
publicly available information on the environmental consequences of
contemplated actions. This information potentially improves the
decision making of government officials and increases the public's
involvement in the creation of environmental policy.
The United States National Environmental Policy
Act (1969) requires the preparation of an environmental impact
statement for any “major federal action significantly affecting the
quality of the human environment.” The statement must analyze the
environmental impact of the proposed action and consider a range of
alternatives, including a so-called “no-action alternative.” The
statute and regulations imposed by the Council on Environmental
Quality, which was established under the 1969 act to coordinate federal
environmental initiatives, require federal agencies to wait until
environmental impact statements have been completed before taking
actions that would preclude alternatives. Similarly, the European Union
(EU) requires an environmental impact assessment for two types of
projects. So-called “annex-I Projects” (e.g., oil refineries, toxic
waste landfills, and thermal power stations with heat output of 300 or
more megawatts) are generally subject to the requirement, and “annex-II
Projects” (e.g., activities in chemical, food, textile, leather, wood,
and paper industries) are subject to an environmental impact assessment
only where “member states consider that their characteristics so
require.” Such assessments must describe and evaluate the direct and
indirect effects of the project on humans, fauna, flora, soil, water,
air, climate, and landscape and the interaction between them.
The use of economic instruments to create
incentives for environmental protection is a popular form of
environmental law. Such incentives include pollution taxes, subsidies
for clean technologies and practices, and the creation of markets in
either environmental protection or pollution. Denmark, The Netherlands,
and Sweden, for example, impose taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, and
the EU has debated whether to implement such a tax at the supranational
level to combat climate change. In the United States, water pollution
legislation passed in 1972 provided subsidies to local governments to
upgrade publicly owned sewage treatment plants. In 1980 the U.S.
government, prompted in part by the national concern inspired by
industrial pollution in the Love Canal neighbourhood in Niagara Falls,
New York, created a federal “superfund” that used general revenues and
revenue from taxes on petrochemical feedstocks, crude oil, and general
corporate income to finance the cleanup of more than 1,000 sites
polluted by hazardous substances.
By the 1990s, “tradable allowance schemes”, which
permit companies to buy and sell “pollution credits,” or legal rights
to produce specified amounts of pollution, had been implemented in the
United States. The most comprehensive and complex such program, created
as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act, was designed to reduce overall
sulfur dioxide emissions by fossil-fuel-fired power plants. According
to proponents, the program would provide financial rewards to cleaner
plants, which could sell their unneeded credits on the market, and
allow dirtier plants to stay in business while they converted to
A final method of environmental protection is the
setting aside of lands and waters in their natural state. In the United
States, for example, the vast majority of the land owned by the federal
government (about one-third of the total land area of the country) can
be developed only with the approval of a federal agency. Europe has an
extensive network of national parks and preserves on both public and
private land, and there are extensive national parks in southern and
eastern Africa in which wildlife is protected. Arguably, the large body
of law that regulates use of public lands and publicly held resources
is “environmental law.” Some, however, maintain that it is not.
Many areas of law can be characterized as both
“set aside” and regulatory. For example, international efforts to
preserve wetlands have focused on setting aside areas of ecological
value, including wetlands, and on regulating their use. The Ramsar
Convention provides that wetlands are a significant “economic,
cultural, scientific and recreational” resource, and a section of the
Clean Water Act, the primary U.S. law for the protection of wetlands,
contains a prohibition against unpermitted discharges of “dredge and
fill material” into any “waters of the United States.”
The design and application of modern
environmental law have been shaped by a set of principles and concepts
outlined in publications such as Our Common Future (1987), published by the World Commission on Environment and Development, and the Earth Summit's Rio Declaration (1992).
As discussed above, environmental law regularly
operates in areas complicated by high levels of scientific uncertainty.
In the case of many activities that entail some change to the
environment, it is impossible to determine precisely what effects the
activity will have on the quality of the environment or on human
health. It is generally impossible to know, for example, whether a
certain level of air pollution will result in an increase in mortality
from respiratory disease, whether a certain level of water pollution
will reduce a healthy fish population, or whether oil development in an
environmentally sensitive area will significantly disturb the native
wildlife. The precautionary principle requires that, if there is a
strong suspicion that a certain activity may have environmentally
harmful consequences, it is better to control that activity now rather
than to wait for incontrovertible scientific evidence. This principle
is expressed in the Rio Declaration, which stipulates that, 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.” In the United States
the precautionary principle was incorporated into the design of
habitat-conservation plans required under the aegis of the Endangered
Species Act. In 1989 the EC invoked the precautionary principle when it
banned the importation of U.S. hormone-fed beef, and in 2000 the
organization adopted the principle as a “full-fledged and general
principle of international law.” In 1999 Australia and New Zealand
invoked the precautionary principle in their suit against Japan for its
alleged overfishing of southern bluefin tuna.
Although much environmental legislation is
drafted in response to catastrophes, preventing environmental harm is
cheaper, easier, and less environmentally dangerous than reacting to
environmental harm that already has taken place. The prevention
principle is the fundamental notion behind laws regulating the
generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of
hazardous waste and laws regulating the use of pesticides. The
principle was the foundation of the Basel Convention on the Control of
Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989),
which sought to minimize the production of hazardous waste and to
combat illegal dumping. The prevention principle also was an important
element of the EC's Third Environmental Action Programme, which was
adopted in 1983.
Worker cleaning a rock on the beach of Green Island, Alaska, after the Exxon … Natalie Forbes/Corbis
Since the early 1970s the “polluter pays”
principle has been a dominant concept in environmental law. Many
economists claim that much environmental harm is caused by producers
who “externalize” the costs of their activities. For example, factories
that emit unfiltered exhaust into the atmosphere or discharge untreated
chemicals into a river pay little to dispose of their waste. Instead,
the cost of waste disposal in the form of pollution is borne by the
entire community. Similarly, the driver of an automobile bears the
costs of fuel and maintenance but externalizes the costs associated
with the gases emitted from the tailpipe. Accordingly, the purpose of
many environmental regulations is to force polluters to bear the real
costs of their pollution, though such costs often are difficult to
calculate precisely. In theory, such measures encourage producers of
pollution to make cleaner products or to use cleaner technologies. The
“polluter pays” principle underlies U.S. laws requiring the cleanup of
releases of hazardous substances, including oil. One such law, the Oil
Pollution Act (1990), was passed in reaction to the spillage of some 11
million gallons (41 million litres) of oil into Prince William Sound in
Alaska in 1989. The “polluter pays” principle also guides the policies
of the EU and other governments throughout the world. A 1991 ordinance
in Germany, for example, held businesses responsible for the costs of
recycling or disposing of their products' packaging, up to the end of
the product's life cycle; however, the German Federal Constitutional
Court struck down the regulation as unconstitutional. Such policies
also have been adopted at the regional or state level; in 1996 the U.S.
state of Florida, in order to protect its environmentally sensitive
Everglades region, incorporated a limited “polluter pays” provision
into its constitution.
Environmental protection requires that due
consideration be given to the potential consequences of environmentally
fateful decisions. Various jurisdictions (e.g., the United States and
the EU) and business organizations (e.g., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
have integrated environmental considerations into their decision-making
processes through environmental-impact-assessment mandates and other
Decisions about environmental protection often
formally integrate the views of the public. Generally, government
decisions to set environmental standards for specific types of
pollution, to permit significant environmentally damaging activities,
or to preserve significant resources are made only after the impending
decision has been formally and publicly announced and the public has
been given the opportunity to influence the decision through written
comments or hearings. In many countries citizens may challenge in court
or before administrative bodies government decisions affecting the
environment. These citizen lawsuits have become an important component
of environmental decision making at both the national and the
Public participation in environmental decision
making has been facilitated in Europe and North America by laws that
mandate extensive public access to government information on the
environment. Similar measures at the international level include the
Rio Declaration and the 1998 Århus Convention, which committed the 40
European signatory states to increase the environmental information
available to the public and to enhance the public's ability to
participate in government decisions that affect the environment. During
the 1990s the Internet became a primary vehicle for disseminating
environmental information to the public.
Sustainable development is an approach to
economic planning that attempts to foster economic growth while
preserving the quality of the environment for future generations.
Despite its enormous popularity in the last two decades of the 20th
century, the concept of sustainable development proved difficult to
apply in many cases, primarily because the results of long-term
sustainability analyses depend on the particular resources focused
upon. For example, a forest that will provide a sustained yield of
timber in perpetuity may not support native bird populations, and a
mineral deposit that will eventually be exhausted may nevertheless
support more or less sustainable communities. Sustainability was the
focus of the 1992 Earth Summit and later was central to a multitude of
One of the most important areas of the law of
sustainable development is ecotourism. Although tourism poses the
threat of environmental harm from pollution and the overuse of natural
resources, it also can create economic incentives for the preservation
of the environment in developing countries and increase awareness of
unique and fragile ecosystems throughout the world. In 1995 the World
Conference on Sustainable Tourism, held on the island of Lanzarote in
the Canary Islands, adopted a charter that encouraged the development
of laws that would promote the dual goals of economic development
through tourism and protection of the environment. Two years later, in
the Malé Declaration on Sustainable Tourism, 27 Asian-Pacific countries
pledged themselves to a set of principles that included fostering
awareness of environmental ethics in tourism, reducing waste, promoting
natural and cultural diversity, and supporting local economies and
local community involvement. Highlighting the growing importance of
sustainable tourism, the World Tourism Organization declared 2002 the
International Year of Ecotourism.
Although numerous international environmental
treaties have been concluded, effective agreements remain difficult to
achieve for a variety of reasons. Because environmental problems ignore
political boundaries, they can be adequately addressed only with the
cooperation of numerous governments, among which there may be serious
disagreements on important points of environmental policy. Furthermore,
because the measures necessary to address environmental problems
typically result in social and economic hardships in the countries that
adopt them, many countries, particularly in the developing world, have
been reluctant to enter into environmental treaties. Since the 1970s a
growing number of environmental treaties have incorporated provisions
designed to encourage their adoption by developing countries. Such
measures include financial cooperation, technology transfer, and
differential implementation schedules and obligations.
The greatest challenge to the effectiveness of
environmental treaties is compliance. Although treaties can attempt to
enforce compliance through mechanisms such as sanctions, such measures
usually are of limited usefulness, in part because countries in
compliance with a treaty may be unwilling or unable to impose the
sanctions called for by the treaty. In general, the threat of sanctions
is less important to most countries than the possibility that by
violating their international obligations they risk losing their good
standing in the international community. Enforcement mechanisms other
than sanctions have been difficult to establish, usually because they
would require countries to cede significant aspects of their national
sovereignty to foreign or international organizations. In most
agreements, therefore, enforcement is treated as a domestic issue, an
approach that effectively allows each country to define compliance in
whatever way best serves its national interest. Despite this
difficulty, international environmental treaties and agreements are
likely to grow in importance as international environmental problems
become more acute.
Many areas of international environmental law
remain underdeveloped. Although international agreements have helped to
make the laws and regulations applicable to some types of
environmentally harmful activity more or less consistent in different
countries, those applicable to other such activities can differ in
dramatic ways. Because in most cases the damage caused by
environmentally harmful activities cannot be contained within national
boundaries, the lack of consistency in the law has led to situations in
which activities that are legal in some countries result in illegal or
otherwise unacceptable levels of environmental damage in neighbouring
This problem became particularly acute with the
adoption of free trade agreements beginning in the early 1990s. The
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, resulted in
the creation of large numbers of maquiladoras—factories jointly owned
by U.S. and Mexican corporations and operated in Mexico—inside a
60-mile- (100-km) wide free trade zone along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Because Mexico's government lacked both the resources and the political
will to enforce the country's environmental laws, the maquiladoras were
able to pollute surrounding areas with relative impunity, often dumping
hazardous wastes on the ground or directly into waterways, where they
were carried into U.S. territory. Prior to NAFTA's adoption in 1992,
the prospect of problems such as these led negotiators to append a
so-called “side agreement” to the treaty, which pledged environmental
cooperation between the signatory states. Meanwhile, in Europe concerns
about the apparent connection between free trade agreements and
environmental degradation fueled opposition to the Maastricht Treaty,
which created the EU and expanded its jurisdiction.
International environmental law is the subject of Alain Verbeke (ed.), Property and Trust Law (2000– ), in the series International Encyclopedia of Laws; and William H. Rodgers, Jr., Environmental Law, 2nd ed. (1994).Environmental laws are explored from a comparative perspective in Alexander J. Bolla and Ted L. McDorman (eds.), Comparative Asian Environmental Law Anthology (1999); Dorothy Gillies, A Guide to EC Environmental Law (1999); and Gerd Winter (ed.), European Environmental Law: A Comparative Perspective (1996).Environmental statutes are discussed in Roger W. Findley and Daniel A. Farber, Environmental Law in a Nutshell, 5th ed. (2000); and Sheldon M. Novick, Donald W. Stever, and Margaret G. Mellon (eds.), Law of Environmental Protection, 3 vol. (1987– ).Discussions of important international issues can be found in Robert L. Fischman, Maxine I. Lipeles, and Mark S. Squillace (eds.), An Environmental Law Anthology (1996); Richard L. Revesz (ed.), Foundations of Environmental Law and Policy (1997); and Dale D. Goble and Eric T. Freyfogle, Wildlife Law (2002).A treatise on environmental law reform is Celia Campbell-Mohn (ed.), Sustainable Environmental Law: Integrating Natural Resource and Pollution Abatement Law from Resources to Recovery (1993).
Real Climate published a guest commentary today by Cecilia Bitz, one of the authors on the paper suggesting that the Arctic sea ice may disappear by 2040. 1-12-07 Real Climate Post Arctic Sea Ice in the 21st Century Bitz answers a number of the questions that she was asked by the media in greater detail than the media was able to report. She offers hope that we haven't reached the point of no return -- especially if we can stabilize emissions at 2000 levels by 2020.
Here is a part of the post -- but be sure to review the full post and comments:
In our paper,
we examined the September Arctic sea ice cover in the 20th and 21st
centuries in climate models, and found occasional decades of very rapid
retreat. The most extreme case was a decrease from 6 to 2 million
square kilometers in a decade (see Fig 1). This is about 4 times faster
than the decline that has been observed in the past decade.
Figure 1: (a) Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent in September
from one integration of the Community Climate System Model version 3
(CCSM3) with observations from satellite era shown in red. The light
blue line is a 5-yr running mean. The three lower panels show the
September ice concentration (ice floes are separated by open water) in
three select decades.
It is common practice to run climate
models multiple times with slight variations to the initial conditions.
Because the system is chaotic, the natural variability in each run is
random and uncorrelated from one run to the next. When an ensemble of
runs is averaged, the natural variability is reduced in the ensemble
mean, and it is easier to detect a significant trend.
ensemble of runs offers an opportunity to evaluate rare events too,
such as extreme sea ice decay. We were in search of evidence for "tipping points",
which several authors have speculated might exist in sea ice.
RealClimate places sea ice in the category of systems with "known
unknowns" with regard to tipping points. This means we know there are
thresholds involving sea ice (e.g., it can cease to exist), but we
don't know when or if the climate will arrive at one.
of seven ensemble members had an event as extreme as quoted above, and
it resulted in near ice-free conditions for September by 2040 (see Fig
1d). (The sea ice grows back at least for some portion of winter for
the duration of the 21st century.) However, every ensemble member had
an event 5 years or longer at some time in the 21st century when the
sea ice retreat was about 3 times faster than the observed retreat
since 2001 (see Fig 2). These ensemble members took about 5--10 years
longer to become nearly ice-free in September than the most extreme
As illustrated in Fig 1, the sea ice retreat accelerates
during the 21st century as the ice decays and more sunlight is absorbed
by the ocean (the positive ice-albedo feedback). Increasing ocean heat
transport under the sea ice adds to the melt back. The retreat appears
abrupt when natural variability in the ocean heat transport into the
Arctic Ocean is anomalously high. We did not find clear evidence of a
threshold, which can be difficult to identify given the variability and
complexity of the climate system. Therefore we can neither verify or
rule-out the existence of a tipping point. Regardless, the rapid
declines seen in our runs are a serious concern.
Figure 2: Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent in September for
all seven integration of the CCSM3 with observations from satellite era
shown in black.
Most common questions asked by journalists
1) How does our model compare with the trend in the observed record?
trends in the seven ensemble members for 1979-2006 span the trend in
the observations: Some members retreat a little faster and some a
little slower, as expected from the random natural variability in the
runs (see Fig 2). The model also reproduces the mean and variance of
the observations with good fidelity.
2) Other scientists are
predicting an ice-free Arctic in September by the year 2060-2080, why
is this model predicting it 20-40 years sooner?
estimates based on extrapolation from the observational record. I've
heard these numbers quoted in the media, but I have not seen a
reference to a scientific paper that discusses the analysis in any
detail. Figures 2 and 3 illustrate the danger of making an estimate of
the future from the observational period. The future trend is not
linear, the observational record is too short and the ice-free time is
too far in the future to trust extrapolation. If one carries out such
an exercise anyway, extrapolation from a linear fit to 1979--2006 gives
a zero intersect (indicating the first ice-free year in the future) at
about 2110 (see Fig 3). If instead one uses just the last decade, the
extrapolation gives 2060. Both estimates are questionable, and so
instead we turn to climate models.
Figure 3: Extrapolating into the future from the observational record.
3) Is sea ice in our model retreating faster than in other models?
4 shows September ice retreat in 16 models that were archived for the
IPCC AR4. The most extreme predictions are from models that have too
much or too little sea ice extent compared to observations, so it is
important for a model to produce the correct sea ice coverage in the
past. Some of the spread is expected from natural variability, but much
depends on differing model sensitivity relating to the representation
of sea ice, heat transport by the ocean, and cloud cover.
It is not possible to identify the most accurate model prediction,
although I think it is safe to rule out some of the outliers owing to
their poor match to the observations.
About half of the models
become ice-free in September during the 21st century. I included one
ensemble member from our model, CCSM3, which is in the middle of the
pack until about 2020. Our model run retreats faster than most after
about 2020, but it isn't radically different.
considerable uncertainty in future model projections, and Figs 2 and 4
illustrate why it would be better not to focus too much on the year
2040, which to our dismay was highly publicized. The more important
message from models is that all but a few outliers predict enourmous
sea ice retreat this century. At least a few respectable models predict
a nearly ice-free Arctic by midcentury, with a retreat that may be
punctuated by rapid events.
Figure 4: Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent in September from
model integrations submitted to the IPCC AR4 with observations from
satellite era shown in black.
4) Is it too late to save the sea ice?
The future emissions scenario discussed here is one that assumes modest increases
in emissions. If humans can reduce the rise in emissions compared to
this, then sea ice retreat would be slower and rapid events would be
rarer, according to the IPCC AR4 models.
5) Have we crossed a tipping point?
don't think we have yet. If we fix the greenhouse gas and aerosol
levels at year 2000 values and run the model into the 21st century, the
sea ice retreats for only another decade or two and then levels off
(some of the ensemble members even recover a little bit). So according
to our model, the sea ice does not appear to have passed a threshold
yet. We have not done an exhaustive study of any years beyond today, so
unfortunately we cannot say with certainty that no tipping points
exist. The bottom-line: The retreat can be surprisingly rapid even
without clear evidence of a tipping point.
25th Anniversary Water Law Conference will focus on the changing values
for water use and the resulting changes in legal conflicts over water.
The conference includes speakers and panels reflecting the broad
diversity of issues and perspectives on the most challenging issues now
facing the water law community. Speakers will discuss past, present and
anticipated future changes and trends in water law, and how those
changes will affect your practice.
conference will open with perspectives on the changing nature of water
conflicts and the most significant trends over the last 25 years, from
water law luminaries of the last quarter century. After a rousing
debate about changes in how courts defer to agency determinations,
particularly in light of the 2006 Rapanos decision, panels
will examine more closely certain critical issues now facing the water
law community – from instream use and conflicting sovereigns to
international conflicts and conservation. Friday morning will address
emerging issues that will change the nature of water law practice in
the next quarter century, including water quality issues arising out of
inter-basin transfers, resolution of water rights conflicts, and the
dynamic relationship between water law and science. The conference will
close with a special “Hot Topics” lunch on climate change and how it
may affect water law practice, including a presentation on California’s
recent efforts to assess how its water policy may need to change to
address global warming.
year’s conference also offers two early morning panels – one on water
law fundamentals to help those new to the water law field, and one on
the ethics of ex parte contacts in a world where water conflicts are
now often resolved outside formal adjudications.
ABA SEER Quick Teleconference on 9th Circuit Cases Revisiting Mobile-Sierra Public Interest Review of Unilateral Modifications of Power Contracts
Energy Contracts in Context: The Ninth Circuit Revisits Mobile-Sierra Review in Light of the Western Energy CrisisWednesday, January 24, 2007 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Central Time / 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Mountain Time / 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time
Program Overview: The Federal Power Act requires FERC to ensure that all rates, terms and
conditions for the sale of power are “just and reasonable.” Since 1956,
the Supreme Court has recognized a stringent standard of review, known
as the Mobile-Sierra
doctrine, which under certain circumstances forbad attempts to modify
contracts unilaterally unless such modifications are required by the
“public interest.” For decades, this standard has been regarded by many
as “practically insurmountable.” That era may now have come to a close.
December 19, 2006, the Ninth Circuit published a pair of decisions
arising from the Western Energy Crisis of 2000-2001 that revisit the
application of Mobile-Standard review in the modern context of market-based rates. In Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County Washington v. FERC, and its companion case, Public Utilities Commission of the State of California v. FERC, the Ninth Circuit determined that the Mobile-Sierra public interest standard of review should apply only when: “ (1) the contract by its own terms must not preclude the limited Mobile-Sierra
review; (2) the regulatory scheme in which the contracts are formed
must provide FERC with an opportunity for effective, timely review of
the contracted rates; and (3) where . . . FERC is relying on a
market-based rate-setting system to produce just and reasonable rates,
this review must permit consideration of all factors relevant to the
propriety of the contract’s formation.”
Moderator and Panelist: Russ Campbell, Balch & Bingham LLP, Birmingham, AL Panelists: Jared des Rosiers, Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, ME John Estes, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Washington, DC Melissa Lauderdale, Director, Industry Legal Affairs, Edison Electric Institute, Washington, DC
NYT names NOAA's attempt to gag Dr. James Hansen as a top Ten story
The NY Times published its list of the top Ten stories of 2006. One of them had been featured prominantly on this blog -- the attempt of NOAA's political management to gag Dr. James Hansen, whose public discussions of global warming deeply embarrassed the Bush Administration. That story, written by Andrew Rivkin, in some ways was a shot heard round the world. For a full color version of the story, visit the Times. The printer-friendly version is quoted below.
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has
tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month
calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked
to global warming.
The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's
Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that
officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to
review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site
and requests for interviews from journalists.
Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their
job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at
the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen.
"That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We
promote openness and we speak with the facts."
He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National
Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that
government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but
that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed
Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review
interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a
sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any
individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about
Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying
such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping
recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.
"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said,
"because public concern is probably the only thing capable of
overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."
Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967,
directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the
Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.
Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term
threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that
are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil
fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in
various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush
administration and Vice President Al Gore.
In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney
and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were
interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also
warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than
curbing carbon dioxide.
He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a
speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in
which he complained that government climate scientists were being
muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.
But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made
since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says
are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.
In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr.
Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly
because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and
protect our home planet."
He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come
through telephone conversations and not through formal channels,
leaving no significant trails of documents.
Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no
official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added,
"That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."
The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series
of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that
significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies,
particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership
by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth
"a different planet."
The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.
After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15
showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century,
officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned
public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that
there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those
officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.
Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal
draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors
could stand in for him in any news media interviews.
Mr. Acosta said the calls and meetings with Goddard press officers
were not to introduce restrictions, but to review existing rules. He
said Dr. Hansen had continued to speak frequently with the news media.
But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.
In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs
officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at
National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a
public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.
Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy
said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the
country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his
job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House
appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.
But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a
scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference
was that Hansen was disloyal."
Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such
conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after
Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not
face any retribution for doing so.
Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was
asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the
sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta.
Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go
out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a
dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?"
Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was
telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr.
Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she
told them when the conversations occurred.
"He's not trying to create a war over this," said Larry D. Travis,
an astronomer who is Dr. Hansen's deputy at Goddard, "but really feels
very strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists,
to inform the public."
Dr. Travis said he walked into Ms. McCarthy's office in mid-December
at the end of one of the calls from Mr. Deutsch demanding that Dr.
Hansen be better controlled.
In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist
and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's
leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific
contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public
statements clearly as his personal views.
"He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in
the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and
I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single
time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that
he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration,
whichever administration it's been."
The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes
other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who
routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only
if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington,
and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.
Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those
of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on
extracurricular lectures or writing.
One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and
technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For
years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in
papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse
gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity
would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to
In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the
Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but
added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he
identified the views as his own.
"One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff,"
he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan
on saying or writing."
The proposal generated substantial public comment over the last year. Industry supported the proposal. Public health experts and environmental groups contended that the guidelines would prevent government agencies from regulating health hazards by setting technical
risk assessment standards that were difficult -- or even impossible -- to meet.
OMB submitted the proposal to the National Research Council for review. According John Ahearne, chair of the NRC review committee, the committee decided that the proposal was
broken beyond repair. It contained a confusing, overly broad definition of risk
assessment, omitted crucial aspects of risk assessment such as how to handle absence of adequate
information and assumed sufficient data would be readily
available. And, more fundamentally, OMB failed to demonstrate that costly changes in the federal risk assessment process were necessary. The 18-person NRC committee unanimously agreed that OMB should withdraw the January 2006 proposed guidelines. NRC Executive Summary
RegWatch, rejoiced yesterday, with the following post:
This morning, the National Academy of Sciences rejected the White House
Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Proposed Risk Assessment
Bulletin. OMB charged NAS with the task of peer-reviewing the bulletin,
and NAS issued a stinging rebuke. The Bulletin calls for an overly standardized method across all
agencies of assessing the potential risks of regulatory action. No
matter if the issue is the environment, consumer products, or massive
buildings and infrastructure, the framework would be the same.
NAS cites concerns that OMB is overstepping its bounds in suggesting
this restrictive framework, and that micromanaging the ways in which
agencies go about their business stymies the expertise within those
agencies. Ultimately, NAS smartly concludes that this one-size-fits-all
approach is unrealistic and would not jibe well with scientific and
We began our review of the draft bulletin thinking we
would only be recommending changes, but the more we dug into it, the
more we realized that from a scientific and technical standpoint, it
should be withdrawn altogether.
OMB has called off the Bulletin for now. Reg Watch revels in sound science trumping politics this time around.
We are or will soon be teaching students from Generation Next. Generation Next is made up of 18-25 year-olds (born between 1981 and 1988). Generation X was born between 1966 and 1980 and ranges in age from 26-40. The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, ranges in age from 41-60. Finally, those over age 60 (born before 1946) are called the Seniors. Take a look at the Pew Research
Center for the People & the Press, A Portrait of "Generation Next:"
How Young People View Their Lives, Futures, and Politics, January 9,
2007. Generation Next full report
As Pew Research Center summarizes its findings:
new generation has come of age, shaped by an unprecedented revolution
in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad. They are
Generation Next, the cohort of young adults who have grown up with
personal computers, cell phones and the internet and are now taking
their place in a world where the only constant is rapid change.
In reassuring ways, the generation that came of age in the shadow
of Sept. 11 shares the characteristics of other generations of young
adults. They are generally happy with their lives and optimistic about
their futures. Moreover, Gen Nexters feel that educational and job
opportunities are better for them today than for the previous
generation. At the same time, many of their attitudes and priorities
reflect a limited set of life experiences. Marriage, children and an
established career remain in the future for most of those in Generation
More than two-thirds see their generation as unique and distinct,
yet not all self-evaluations are positive. A majority says that
"getting rich" is the main goal of most people in their age group, and
large majorities believe that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug
use and violence are more prevalent among young people today than was
the case 20 years ago.
In their political outlook, they are the most tolerant of any
generation on social issues such as immigration, race and
homosexuality. They are also much more likely to identify with the
Democratic Party than was the preceding generation of young people,
which could reshape politics in the years ahead. Yet the evidence is
mixed as to whether the current generation of young Americans will be
any more engaged in the nation's civic life than were young people in
the past, potentially blunting their political impact.
Meet Generation Next:
They use technology and the internet to
connect with people in new and distinctive ways. Text messaging,
instant messaging and email keep them in constant contact with friends.
About half say they sent or received a text message over the phone in
the past day, approximately double the proportion of those ages 26-40.
They are the "Look at Me" generation. Social networking sites
like Facebook, MySpace and MyYearbook allow individuals to post a
personal profile complete with photos and descriptions of interests and
hobbies. A majority of Gen Nexters have used one of these social
networking sites, and more than four-in-ten have created a personal
Their embrace of new technology has made them uniquely aware of
its advantages and disadvantages. They are more likely than older
adults to say these cyber-tools make it easier for them to make new
friends and help them to stay close to old friends and family. But more
than eight-in-ten also acknowledge that these tools "make people
About half of Gen Nexters say the growing number of immigrants
to the U.S. strengthens the country more than any generation. And
they also lead the way in their support for gay marriage and acceptance
of interracial dating.
Beyond these social issues, their views defy easy
categorization. For example, Generation Next is less critical of
government regulation of business but also less critical of business
itself. And they are the most likely of any generation to support
privatization of the Social Security system.
They maintain close contact with parents and family. Roughly
eight-in-ten say they talked to their parents in the past day. Nearly
three-in-four see their parents at least once a week, and half say they
see their parents daily. One reason: money. About three-quarters of Gen
Nexters say their parents have helped them financially in the past year.
Their parents may not always be pleased by what they see on
those visits home: About half of Gen Nexters say they have either
gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or had a body
piercing in a place other than their ear lobe. The most popular are
tattoos, which decorate the bodies of more than a third of these young
One-in-five members of Generation Next say they have no
religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the
proportion of young people who said that in the late 1980s. And just 4%
of Gen Nexters say people in their generation view becoming more
spiritual as their most important goal in life.
They are somewhat more interested in keeping up with politics
and national affairs than were young people a generation ago. Still,
only a third say they follow what's going on in government and public
affairs "most of the time."
In Pew surveys in 2006, nearly half of young people (48%)
identified more with the Democratic Party, while just 35% affiliated
more with the GOP. This makes Generation Next the least Republican
Voter turnout among young people increased significantly
between 2000 and 2004, interrupting a decades-long decline in turnout
among the young. Nonetheless, most members of Generation Next feel
removed from the political process. Only about four-in-ten agree with
the statement: "It's my duty as a citizen to always vote."
They are significantly less cynical about government and
political leaders than are other Americans or the previous generation
of young people. A majority of Americans agree with the statement:
"When something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and
wasteful," but most Generation Nexters reject this idea.
Their heroes are close and familiar. When asked to name someone
they admire, they are twice as likely as older Americans to name a
family member, teacher, or mentor. Moreover, roughly twice as many
young people say they most admire an entertainer rather than a
They are more comfortable with globalization and new ways of
doing work. They are the most likely of any age group to say that
automation, the outsourcing of jobs, and the growing number of
immigrants have helped and not hurt American workers.
Asked about the life goals of those in their age group, most
Gen Nexters say their generation's top goals are fortune and fame.
Roughly eight-in-ten say people in their generation think getting rich
is either the most important, or second most important, goal in their
lives. About half say that becoming famous also is valued highly by
fellow Gen Nexters.
The Marine Aquaculture Taskforce advocates imposition of strict environmental standards on farming fish in U.S. ocean waters. The stakeholder panel, formed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with financial support from the Pew Trust, predicts rapid expansion of offshore aquaculture operations. Marine Aquaculture Taskforce report Current aquaculture operations are not ecologically sustainable because farmed fish are fed fishmeal, using 6.6 kg of wild-caught fish to grow 1 kg of farmed
fish and fishmeal supply fisheries are fully or
The panel recommends that Congress should put the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) in charge and mandate it to evaluate the risks of
offshore aquaculture before granting any permits. Major hazards include pollution from excess waste and feed and the risk that escaped fish will harm wild populations. The panel recommends that non-native fish should not be allowed in
coastal or open waters, unless they have been
shown to pose no risk. In addition to strict regulations, the panel also suggests market-based incentives to encourage investment in
sustainable aquaculture operations.
“There is a growing need for seafood to
feed a hungry world, but the world’s fisheries can no longer meet the
demand,” said task force chairman Rear Adm. (ret.) Richard F.
Pittenger, former WHOI vice president for Marine Facilities and
Operations and a former Oceanographer of the Navy. “Half of our seafood
comes from aquaculture, and that share is only going to grow. The
federal government has proposed a fivefold increase in U.S. aquaculture
production, and while we certainly agree with an increase, we believe
it must be done in an environmentally responsible way.”
that marine aquaculture would benefit from clear federal leadership,
the task force recommended that Congress should assign a leading role
to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for planning and
regulating the industry. On one hand, the permitting and application
processes should be streamlined and simplified, and there should be
market-based incentives for businesses to invest in sustainable,
ecologically sound fish-farming projects. At the same time,
environmental risks should be evaluated and best practices should be in
place before permits are granted.
In sum, the federal marine
aquaculture program should be “precautionary, science-based, socially
and economically compatible with affected coastal communities,
transparent in decision making,” the Marine Aquaculture Task Force
wrote in its final report.
Offshore aquaculture has some
natural advantages over coastal fish-farming operations because
open-ocean winds, waves, and currents can naturally remove excess feed
and wastes. Moving operations offshore also reduces conflict with
recreational and real estate interests.
But there are
environmental and ecological questions, such as which species should be
farmed and where, and what level of discharges from aquaculture
facilities can be safely absorbed by the ocean. Some researchers are
concerned that domesticated fish—and the medicines and disease
outbreaks sometimes associated with high-density fish farms—could
threaten natural stocks of fish.
Martin Enserink, ScienceNOW Daily News reported yesterday on the conceivable hazards of "pandemic Tamiflu use," which might create antiviral resistance or other unknown hazards. We don't know how quickly Tamiflu will break down in the environment, but it may be very persistent. Singer, et al built a model to predict
likely concentrations in rivers. While the levels vary widely by river basin, the model predicted levels that could trigger resistance in
influenza-infected birds, leading to a second wave pandemic from a slightly different pandemic strain. In addition, it could inhibit enzymes in other species, causing broader, more difficult to predict, ecological effects.
Surprise, surprise: 2006 warmest year in the US since 1895
National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration's (NOAA) preliminary forecast released in mid-December
forecast 2006 as the third warmest year on record. See December 16 post However, NOAA reported today that last year was the warmest in the
contiguous United States since record keeping began 112 years ago in 1895. The record was set in part because of extremely warm December weather: no state was colder than average and
five states had record warm weather -- Minnesota, New
York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The average
temperature was about 55 degrees
Fahrenheit, or 2.2 degrees above the average
temperature recorded from 1901 to the end of 2000. NOAA attributed the record warmth to El Nino and overall global warming, but said "It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to
greenhouse-gas-induced warming and how much was due to the El
Nino-related circulation pattern." NOAA preliminary annual report
Thursday, January 25, 2007
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Central Time
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time / 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time
Panel will describe new agency actions and legislation affecting
offshore oil and gas policy, including the new legislation that passed
in the final days of the 109th Congress’ lame duck session that opened
up over 8 million acres of new lands to oil and gas leasing, lifted
leasing moratoria, and set up a system to share royalties with the
adjacent states. The panel will also discuss proposed new legislation
for the 110th Congress, and the new proposed leasing program for the
entire Outer Continental Shelf. (more)
Faculty: Moderator and Panelist: Kim Harb, National Ocean Industries Association, Washington, DC
Panelists: Renee Orr, Minerals Management Service, Herndon, VA Peter Schaumberg, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., Washington, DC
Timothy Sullivan of the ABA SEER Endangered Species Act committee reported on the grant of cert regarding the 9th Circuit ESA case:
Friday, January 5, 2007, the United States Supreme Court granted petitions for
certiorari by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the
United States Environmental Protection Agency in the consolidated cases of
National Ass'n of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife and United
States Environmental Protection Agency v. Defenders of Wildlife
(collectively, "Defenders"), 420 F.3d 946 (9th Cir.
Defenders, the Ninth Circuit vacated EPA's decision to approve the
transfer of permitting authority under Clean Water Act section 402(b), 33
U.S.C. 1342(b), to the State of Arizona. Defenders, 420
F.3d at 979. Although EPA's approval may have complied with the
agency's obligations under the Clean Water Act, according to the Ninth Circuit,
"compliance with a 'complementary' statute cannot relieve relieve the EPA of its
independent obligations under [ESA] section 7(a)(2)." Id. at
971. The Ninth Circuit thus held that ESA section 7 requires EPA to
consider the impact on endangered and threatened species and their habitat when
the agency decides to transfer this authority to a
state. Id. at 949. Because EPA did not consider these
impacts when it approved EPA's transfer of Clean Water Act permitting authority
to Arizona, the Ninth Circuit held that EPA's approval was erroneous and
remanded the matter to EPA. Id. at 979.
September 2006, NAHB filed a petition for certiorari in the United
States Supreme Court in which it asked the Court to determine
Whether a court can append additional criteria to
Section 402(b) of the Clean Water Act that require state NPDES programs to
include protections for endangered species;
Whether Section 7(a)(2) of
the Endangered Species Act constitutes an independent source of authority,
requiring federal agencies to take affirmative action to benefit endangered
species even when an agency's enabling statutes preclude such action; and
Whether the Ninth Circuit incorrectly applied the holding of Dep't
of Transp. v. Public Citizen, 541 U.S. 752 (2004), in concluding that
EPA's approval of Arizona's NPDES permitting program was the legally relevant
cause of impacts to endangered species resulting from private land use
October 2006, EPA filed a petition that asked the Court to determine
Whether Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act
of 1973, 16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2), which requires each federal agency to insure
that its actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of a listed
species or modify its critical habitat, overrides statutory mandates
or constraints placed on an agency's discretion by other Acts of
The Supreme Court accepted all of these questions and
stated that it will consider the following additional question:
Whether the court of appeals correctly held that the
Environmental Protection Agency's decision to transfer pollution permitting
authority to Arizona under the Clean Water Act, see 33 U.S.C. §1342(b), was
arbitrary and capricious because it was based on inconsistent
interpretations of Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16
U.S.C. §1536(a)(2); and, if so, whether the court of appeals should have
remanded to the Environmental Protection Agency for further proceedings
without ruling on the interpretation of Section 7(a)(2).
The Court has not yet set a date for oral argument, but
it is expected that oral argument will take place in April 2007.
The cases are Nat. Assn. of Home Builders v.
Defenders of Wildlife, et al. (06-340), and EPA v. Defenders of
Wildlife, et al. (06-549).