Friday, January 23, 2009
Here's my church's video to launch our 2009 Drink Water for Life lenten challenge. If you benefit from the work I do on this blog, please, please, please......take the challenge or find another way to contribute to organizations that do community-based water projects. Church World Service or Global Ministries are great faith-based organizations. Water for Life and Water for People are great secular groups. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water borne disease like cholera or dysentery from lack of clean water and sanitation. Together, we can change this. Village by village.
January 23, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Tuesday sent a memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, ordering a stop to all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.
A rule that would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains except for those in Wyoming was scheduled to be published on January 27. Now it will fall under review with the new administration.
Among others, the Bush administration recently finalized rules that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act, allow for mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempts large-scale factory farms from notifying government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the community. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, filed suit against all of these rules.
The following statement is from Patti Goldman, Vice President of Program for Earthjustice:
"While we are pleased that the new administration has put a stop to these hasty actions, there are some rules we continue to monitor.
"Under the Emanuel memo, the wolf delisting rule will be withdrawn. This rule was extremely controversial and was rushed through even though a federal district court had declared the wolf delisting illegal in July. It defied the law which prohibits a state by state listing when the wolves do not respect state boundaries.
"For the vast majority of the midnight regulations, the Bush administration got them published in time to evade the Emanuel memo's freeze. Earthjustice has brought dozens of legal challenges to Bush rollbacks, which provides the ultimate pathway to reining in the excesses of the Bush administration."
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
E & E News reported:
The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama's Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality...In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's nominee to be secretary of the State Department.... The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks....Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn't sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley's confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.
January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Today I had the pleasure as Director of our law school's Certificate Program in Law and Government to host two visitors from Mozambique through the International Leadership Visitor Program funded by the State Department. This program focuses on bringing emerging leaders from developing countries concerned with good governance to the United States, to expose them first-hand to various aspects of American governance. Last year, we hosted 16 visitors from more than a dozen African countries. Today's session was more informal and a bit more manageable.
Our visitors were the Governor of a northern province and the second in command of a major department within the national government. They were interested in learning how the United States trains its graduate or advanced students in law and government. We were able to share some aspects of our program, including attending and speaking with my first year Lawmaking Process class. They were also fascinated by how the United States is evolving with its election of President Obama.
The treat, of course, for me was to learn first-hand something about Mozambique, its politics and policy, and role in Africa. Certainly, its thorough integration of woman into the power structure and into all aspects of administration is a lesson for Americans as well as other Africans. This is beginning to happen here, witness Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, the corps of talented Governors through the US and the league of women joining the Obama administration. But, until a woman stands where President Obama stood today, we still lag behind virtually every developed country in the world -- and many, such as Mozambique, in the developed world. Women took their place in the struggle for independence in Mozambique -- even on the battlefield. They have continued to serve in Parliament and throughout government, with stature and an assured equality that American woman still lack.
Their challenge is to solidify their independence and their emerging democracy -- and to solve the problem of poverty. There, President Obama gave them reason to hope: "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our boders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."
As you who read this blog regularly no doubt realize, these words, especially about providing clean water and reducing our consumption of resources, were music to my ears. And perhaps to yours.
We have a President who in the midst of the raging storms of the failure of our economy and two wars, understands that "each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet." That the work to be done includes the promise that "[w]e will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." That "we will work tirelessly...to roll back the specter of a warming planet."
As my new friends from Mozambique realize, President Obama has not become just an American president, but he is today the most important leader of the whole world. Not just by virtue of our relative prosperity and military power, but by virtue of our willingness to turn the page of history and to pledge to live up to our responsibilities to people seeking peace and justice and equality and means to enjoy their full measure of happiness throughout the world.
Today, my friends, let us celebrate with all of our new friends...and pledge ourselves to making this vision become a reality, in law, in policy, and in how we conduct our obscure, everyday lives.
January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, January 19, 2009
According to MarketWatch, Jim Gordon of Cape Wind Associates, the developer of the controversial Cape Wind wind farm off the coast of Nantucket, plans to begin construction as early as 2010 now that the Cape Wind project has cleared a years-long environmental review by the federal government. The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service has issued a 2800 page final EIS, estimating that the $1.2 billion plan to build 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound would reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 880,000 tons per year, create hundreds of jobs and ultimately supply most of the electricity needs for Cape Cod. The Record of Decision is expected roughly 30 days after issuance of the FEIS.
EPA reports sea levels on the United States' mid-Atlantic coast are rising faster than the global average because of global warming, threatening the future of coastal communities. Coastal waters from New York to North Carolina have crept up by an average of 2.4 to 4.4 millimeters (0.09 to 0.17 inches) a year, compared with an average global increase of 1.7 millimeters (0.07 inches) a year. As a result, sea levels along the East Coast rose about a foot over the past century. EPA Sea Level Assessment and Adaptation Report
The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report indicated that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated and, by the end of the century, global sea levels could be seven to 23 inches higher. Readers should remember that this IPCC estimate excludes the contribution of Antarctic and Greenland ice because of uncertainties about ice stability and dynamics at the time the Working Group I report was drafted. In the last two years, additional scientific research has begun to identify a more reliable range of sea level rise associated with those areas of ice, dramatically increasing the estimate of likely global sea level rise by 2100.
EPA had focused on the mid-Atlantic region because it "will likely see the greatest impacts due to rising waters, coastal storms, and a high concentration of population along the coastline." Higher sea levels erode beaches and drastically change the habitats of species, often at a pace too fast for species to adapt and survive. Communities in the area are at greater risk of flooding as a "higher sea level provides an elevated base for storm surges to build upon and diminishes the rate at which low-lying areas drain." Floods will probably cause more damage in the future as higher sea levels gradually erode and wash away dunes, beaches and wetlands that serve as a protective barrier. Consequently, homes and businesses would be closer to the water's edge and more likely to be damaged in extreme storm events that other scientists predict are increasing with global warming.
Rising sea levels have implications beyond the mid-Atlantic region. Ports challenged by rising waters could slow the transport of goods across the country, and disappearing beaches could hurt resorts and affect tourism revenue, damaging an already fragile U.S. economy.
EPA, NOAA, and USGS recommend:
- Federal, state and local governments should step in now to prepare for the rising seas
- Governments should protect residents through policies that preserve public beaches and coastal ecosystems and encourage retrofits of buildings to make them higher
- Engineering rules for coastal areas be revised because those used today are based on current sea levels
- Flood insurance rates also could be adjusted to accommodate risk from rising sea levels
January 19, 2009 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
In recent years, West Coast groundfish stocks -- including soles and cod as well as deep-water rockfish like colorful canary and thorny heads -- have sharply declined due to decades of overfishing and fisheries management that failed to align the needs of the resource with the long term interests of the fishermen. In 2000, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared the Pacific groundfish commercial trawl fishery a disaster. In fact, landings for West Coast trawlers have plummeted 70 percent in the last two decades. Since 1998, revenues have dropped from $47.3 million to $22.2 million.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, Environmental Defense Fund and other NGOs and stakeholders have collaborated on creating a catch share program based on individual fishing quotas, which was passed by the Council in November. Under the plan, the entire fishery will operate under a catch limit and each fisherman will be awarded a guaranteed percentage of the total catch based on fishing history. Fishermen will no longer be forced to compete for ever-dwindling numbers of fish. Instead, the certainty provided by each fisherman's guaranteed share will foster conservation and cooperation.
Profits may increase by as much as 80% per boat due to increased efficiency and flexibility along with higher prices at the dock.
Studies recently published in the journals Nature and Science show that catch share systems reverse overfishing and even replenish depleted stocks. Catch shares also decrease wasteful discards and improve safety for fishermen.
To see how a similar program has worked well for Alaska halibut fishermen, view a short video presentation: http://action.edf.org/ct/6d1CLAM1BRKj/
The new Secretary of Commerce will be asked to approve the Council's program this spring.
Recently, Environmental Defense provided some information about the West Coast groundfish ITQ program. While the program is grounded in sound economic theory, I wonder whether the program continues to rely on trawling that causes long-term damage to the marine ecosystem. If so, it solves the overfishing problem, without reaching the heart of the matter. Fortunately, NOAA is now going to be headed by a woman who actually knows the answer to that question!!!
The EU will list EU-approved "active substances," excluding 22 ingredients that are classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. The chemical "blacklist" includes eight substances used in the manufacture of herbicides, 11 used in fungicides and three in insecticides, many of them produced by German chemical giants Bayer and BASF -- including Ioxynil, Amitrol and Iprodion. That list will provide the basis for national EU governments to approve pesticides nationally or, via mutual recognition with 120 days, in the north, center, and south regions of the EU. Currently, approvals apply only for individual countries and there is no deadline set for mutual recognition approvals.
Already licensed pesticides remain available until their 10-year authorization expires, avoiding a sudden large-scale withdrawal of pesticides from the market.EU countries will be allowed to ban a product, because of specific environment or agricultural circumstances. Also, certain restrictions will be put on pesticide use, including banning most aerial crop-spraying, strict conditions on pesticides use near aquatic environments and drinking water supplies, and buffer zones requirements around water and protected areas along roads and railways.
January 14, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC, January 6, 2009 (ENS) - Just two weeks before he leaves office, President George W. Bush today set aside three new marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Taken together, the three monuments cover nearly 200,000 square miles, and they will now receive America's highest level of environmental recognition and conservation, the president said.
To create the new monuments, President Bush used the Antiquities Act signed in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
"The first is we will establish the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument," said President Bush. "At the heart of this protected area will be much of the Marianas Trench - the site of the deepest point on Earth - and the surrounding arc of undersea volcanoes and thermal vents."
This monument is located in the western North Pacific Ocean, to the east and south of the Mariana Islands, near Guam. It features coral reefs off the coast of the upper three islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Marine life near a seamount on the Marianas Trench (Photo courtesy Oregon State University)
"These islands, some 5,600 miles from California, are home to a striking diversity of marine life - from large predators like sharks and rays, to more than 300 species of stony corals. By studying these pristine waters, scientists can advance our understanding of tropical marine ecosystems not only there, but around the world," Bush said during the signing ceremony this afternoon at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
"This unique geological region is more than five times longer than the Grand Canyon. It is deeper than Mount Everest is tall. It supports life in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. A fascinating array of species survive amid hydrogen-emitting volcanoes, hydrothermal vents that produce highly acidic and boiling water, and the only known location of liquid sulfur this side of Jupiter," the president said.
The second new monument is the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, spanning seven areas to the far south and west of Hawaii.
"One is Wake Island - the site of a pivotal battle in World War II, and a key habitat for nesting seabirds and migratory shorebirds," said President Bush.
"The monument will also include unique trees and grasses and birds adapted to life at the Equator; the rare sea turtles and whales and Hawaiian monk seals that visit Johnston Atoll; and some of the most pristine and spectacular coral reefs in the world," he said.
Coral formation at Rose Atoll, one of the new national marine monuments (Photo courtesy NOAA)
The third new monument is the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, a diamond-shaped island to the east of American Samoa - the southernmost territory of the United States.
This atoll is inhabited by rare species of nesting petrels, shearwaters, and terns.
"The waters surrounding the atoll are the home of many rare species, including giant clams and reef sharks - as well as an unusual abundance of rose-colored corals," said President Bush. "This area has long been renowned as a place of natural beauty. And now that it's protected by law, it will also be a place of learning for generations to come."
Resource destruction or extraction, waste dumping, and commercial fishing will be prohibited in the new monument areas. Research, free passage, and recreation will be allowed.
"For seabirds and marine life, they will be sanctuaries to grow and thrive," said the president. "For scientists, they will be places to extend the frontiers of discovery. And for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty's creation."
In 2006, President Bush created another marine national monument covering the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the largest protected marine area in the world and the largest single conservation area in American history.
Today the president announced that the United States will soon submit a request to the United Nations that this monument become a UNESCO World Heritage site - America's first such submission in 15 years.
The United States will also request World Heritage designation for Mount Vernon - the home of America's first President, George Washington.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
OCEAN SCIENCE: Winter Carbonate Collapse
H. Jesse Smith
Anthropogenic fossil-fuel burning is increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing more CO2 to dissolve in the ocean, thereby lowering the water's pH. Such ocean acidification in turn decreases the concentration of carbonate ion (CO3)2-, which makes it more difficult for calcifying organisms such as foraminifera, pteropods, and corals to build their skeletons. So far, most of the attention paid to this process has focused on the time-averaged chemistry of the ocean, but organisms actually experience seasonal carbonate and pH variations. McNeil and Matear examine these variations and show that anthropogenic CO2 uptake is likely to induce winter aragonite undersaturation in some regions of the ocean when atmospheric CO2 levels reach 450 parts per million. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the seasonal dynamics of marine carbonate chemistry, as natural variability could hasten the deleterious impacts of future ocean acidification. -- HJS Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 18860 (2008).
January 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Science reports on a new study showing that both rising ocean water temperatures and ocean acidification are causing a reduced rate of calcification of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs are threatened by from rising sea-surface temperatures, ocean acidification (the declining pH of surface seawater layers caused by the absorption of increasing amounts of atmospheric CO2), pollution, and overexploitation. Other studies have demonstrated declines in the coverage and numbers of live coral reefs, as well as reduced coral diversity, but few examined how rates of coral calcification have been affected. The study by De'ath et al. examined growth patterns of 328 massive Porites corals from the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and found that their rates of calcification have declined by nearly 15% since 1990, to values lower than any seen for the past 400 years. The main causes of this continuing decline appear to be increasing water temperatures and ocean acidification.Science today link
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Bush administration yesterday told a federal court it would reconsider its stance on critical habitat for endangered bull trout. DOJ lawyers yesterday said that the administration is considering whether to continue defending a 2005 decision to reduce critical habitat for bull trout by 90 percent after the Interior IGs most recent report mentioning the decision as one of 13 whose legitimacy had been damaged by political tampering from former Interior official Julie MacDonald. Previous post on Interior IG report In January 2006, two environmental groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, sued Interior over the decision in U.S. District Court in Oregon. E&E News
When the habitat designation was shrunk in 2005, Interior officials justified the cuts because much of the excluded habitat was already protected by state policies and other environmental management plans. However, the environmental plaintiffs contended that the Bush Administration excluded critical habitat to open the river areas to development and resource extraction. Designation of critical habitat prohibits action reducing the habitat's ability to support the endangered species.
Monday, December 22, 2008
In the Poland climate change meeting just concluded, a top UN official predicted that by the middle of this century, the world should expect six million people a year to be displaced by increasingly severe storms and floods caused by climate change.
But as the PBS program NOW recounts:
for many island nations in the South Pacific, climate change is already more than just a theory -- it is a pressing, menacing reality. These small, low-lying islands are frighteningly vulnerable to rising temperatures and sea levels that could cause flooding and contaminate their fresh water wells. Within 50 years, some of them could be under water. NOW travels to the nation of Kiribati to see up close how these changes affect residents' daily lives and how they are dealing with the reality that both their land and culture could disappear from the Earth. We also travel to New Zealand to visit an I-Kiribati community that has already left its home, and to the Pacific Island Forum in Niue to see how the rest of the region is coping with the here-and-now crisis of climate change.
To see the report, visit PBS NOW link
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Town of Marshfield v. Fed. Aviation Admin.
Sarei v. Rio Tinto, PLC
N. Carolina Fisheries Ass'n, Inc. v. Gutierrez
Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance v. US Customs & Border Prot.
Club Members for an Honest Election v. Sierra Club
U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2008
Town of Marshfield v. Fed. Aviation Admin., No. 07-2820
Petition for review of agency decision to reroute aircraft approaching and departing Logan airport is denied. Agency did not err in finding that these rerouting measures required no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, where its peer-reviewed noise studies showed that the impact on noise levels would not be significant. Read more...
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2008
Sarei v. Rio Tinto, PLC, No. 02-56256, 02-56390
The circuit court establishes that certain Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claims are appropriately considered for exhaustion under both domestic prudential standards and core principles of international law. Where the "nexus" to the U.S. is weak, courts should carefully consider the question of exhaustion, particularly with respect to claims that do not involve matters of "universal concern." Matters of "universal concern" are offenses "for which a state has jurisdiction to punish without regard to territoriality or the nationality of the offenders." In a suit brought under the ATS claiming that various war crimes, crimes against humanity, racial discrimination, and environmental torts arose out of defendant-Rio Tinto's mining operations on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, the matter is remanded for the exhaustion inquiry using such framework. Read more...
U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, December 16, 2008
N. Carolina Fisheries Ass'n, Inc. v. Gutierrez, No. 07-5389
Circuit court lacks jurisdiction to hear appeal regarding dispute between fisheries and the Department of Commerce over whether a new regulation drafted by the Department violates national fishery conservation standards by failing to remedy the overfishing of certain species. Although the new regulation was put into place in response to the district court's order, if the fisheries believed the new regulation was still inadequate, they were required to raise that challenge in the district court first. Read more...
U.S. Fed. Circuit Court of Appeals, December 18, 2008
Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance v. US Customs & Border Prot., No. 2007-1444
In a suit alleging violations of defendants' duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in failing to enforce a ban on importing endangered and threatened fish, and failing to consult with National Marine Fisheries Service regarding this lack of enforcement, dismissal for lack of standing is affirmed in part where: 1) plaintiff's claim under section 9 of the ESA challenges a presumptively unreviewable agency decision; and 2) section 11(g)(1)(A) of the ESA does not allow challenges to the implementation and enforcement of the ESA. However, dismissal is reversed and remanded in part where: 1) a claim alleging a violation of the procedural requirements of section 7(a)(2) satisfies the redressibility prong of standing analysis; and 2) the section 7 claim may fall within the court's exclusive jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. section 1581. (Revised opinion) Read more...
Supreme Court of California, December 15, 2008
Club Members for an Honest Election v. Sierra Club, No. S143087
The public interest exception to the anti-SLAPP statute in Code of Civil Procedure section 425.17(b) applies only when an entire action is brought in the public interest, and if any part of a complaint seeks relief to directly benefit the plaintiff, by securing relief greater than or different from that sought on behalf of the general public, the section 425.17(b) exception does not apply. Read more...
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Dear Readers and Friends:
It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place. It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth. But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion. Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed. And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.
[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent. MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.
Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.
Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.
We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in Haiti? Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?
It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around $100 in May. In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?
And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.
Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700
December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!
The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good
February 26th – March 1st
University of Oregon School of Law
Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .
- Last day to submit panel
suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are
already starting to fill up. Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/
- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now! Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW
- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.
- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:
Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.
Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.
Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL). As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.
Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico. As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species. His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.
Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The P2 Office is central to the implementation of new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2 Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations. Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists. Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.
Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.
Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon
SEE YOU THERE!
The Conference Co-Directors
Questions? Suggestions? Comments? email email@example.com
December 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Quirin Schiermeier of Nature News reported today Nature link that the UN has suspended the main company that validates carbon-offset projects in developing countries, "sending shockwaves through the emissions-trading business." Certified emission-reduction credits from verified projects are traded and sold on the carbon emissions market, helping industrialized countries to meet their emissions-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. However, only environmentally sustainable projects that would demonstrably not go ahead without additional revenue from sales of these credits (thus meeting the "additionality" requirement) may be certified.
Det Norske Veritas is the largest verification company, a billion dollar business employing 8000 staff. In the past four years, DNV validated and certified almost half of the 1,200 projects approved under the CDM. At its November meeting, the CDM's executive board temporarily withdrew DNV's accreditation after an audit revealed serious flaws in project management. The CDM board did not specify the projects affected by the problems, but indicated that there were problems with the company's internal auditing processes and staff qualifications, with at least one staff member who verified CDM projects without proper sectoral expertise. DNV cannot propose new CDM projects to the UN for formal approval while suspended. 20–30 projects currently in the process of validation may be delayed and DNV cannot take new projects as long as the suspension remains in effect. DNV will continue to validate and verify ongoing projects.
CDM projects under way in 51 countries are supposed to save some 250 million tons in greenhouse-gas emissions. The UN hopes the CDM will abate almost 3 billion tons by the end of 2012,
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page. Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate. Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9. Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index
December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Washington Post reports that the Solicitor of the Interior Department has shifted half a dozen key political appointees – including Robert Comer known for his opposition to the roadless rule and a questionable grazing agreement as well as Matthew McKeown, a mining industry darling – into senior civil service posts. These transfers, called "burrowing," allows political appointees to stay in the government and create obstacles to changing policy direction. Perhaps the practice should be called "land-mining," given its potential for derailing the peaceful transfer of power:
Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency. The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.
November 18, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Law, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)
Friday, November 7, 2008
Special Guest Contribution: Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children? -- Dr. Chris McGrath
Dr Chris McGrath is an Australian lawyer and researcher on laws protecting the GBR from climate change. This article is based on a previously published research paper, McGrath (2008). Submitted 30 October 2008.
Amidst the current policy debate in Australia and internationally on climate change is a surreal argument that policies that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBR) and other coral reefs around the globe are acceptable and economically rational.
Nicolas Stern (2007: 330) concluded that “coral reef ecosystems [will be] extensively and eventually irreversibly damaged” by temperature change relative to pre-industrial levels of 0.5-2°C. He found that at 2°C warming “coral reefs are expected to bleach annually in many areas, with most never recovering, affecting tens of millions of people that rely on coral reefs for their livelihood or food supply” (Stern 2007: 94).
Yet for what were clearly reasons of pragmatism and feasibility he recommended the global stabilisation goal should lie within the range of 450-550 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents (ppm CO2-eq), thereby implicitly accepting a likely warming of 2-3°C and loss of coral reefs, including the GBR.
Ross Garnaut, the Australian Government’s handpicked economic advisor on responding to climate change, followed Stern’s approach and was alive to the damage to the GBR. He recommended that Australia should initially aim for a global consensus next year at COP-15 in Copenhagen to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 550 ppm CO2-eq and hope that global consensus can be reached later for lower stabilisation.
Garnaut (2008a: 38) was brutally frank in his supplementary draft report: “The 550 strategy would be expected to lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.” His final report does not shy away from this conclusion (Garnaut 2008b).
The new Australian Government has silently avoided the issue of the expected impacts to the GBR when explaining the costs and benefits of its climate policies. It does not yet have a stabilisation target for the rise in global temperatures or greenhouse gases but recent modelling of economic impacts of mitigating climate change considered only three stabilisation targets.
The Australian Treasury (2008) considers only stabilisation at 450, 510 and 550 ppm CO2-eq, aiming to stabilise mean global temperature rises between 2-3°C. The only reference to impacts on the GBR is to a “very high risk [of] loss of complete ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef [if] the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises to over 1,500 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 [giving an] increase in global average temperature of 5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100” (Australian Treasury 2008: 35).
In fact, as Stern recognised, the current science indicates that the GBR will be devastated long before such levels are reached and within the lower stabilisation range the Australian Government appears to be aiming for.
Stern and Garnaut’s frank admissions of the expected impacts to the GBR reflect research findings since mass coral bleaching occurred globally in 1998 and 2002. Rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity of the oceans due to our use of fossil fuels are now well-recognized as major threats to coral reefs and the marine ecosystem generally in coming decades.
In relation to coral bleaching the IPCC (2007b: 12) found that:
“Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.”
The findings of the IPCC suggest that a rise of 1°C in mean global temperatures and, correspondingly, sea surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels is the maximum that should be aimed for if the global community wishes to protect coral reefs. The range of 1-3°C is the danger zone and 2°C is not safe. Supporting this conclusion Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his colleagues concluded in a review of the likely impacts of climate change to the GBR edited by Johnson and Marshall (2007: 295):
“Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million [CO2], suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.”
The IPCC’s (2007a: 826) best estimate of climate sensitivity found that stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols at 350 ppm CO2-eq would be expected to lead to a rise in mean global temperatures of 1°C, stabilising at 450 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 2°C, and stabilising at 550 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 3°C.
Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have already passed 350 ppm CO2-eq making stabilisation at that level extremely difficult if not impossible in practice, particularly in the context of current global growth and energy use patterns. Atmospheric CO2 reached 379 ppm in 2005 and was increasing by around 2 ppm per year (IPCC 2007c: 102). Including the effect of other greenhouse gases such as methane, the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases was around 455 ppm CO2-eq in 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102). However, the cooling effects of aerosols and landuse changes reduce radiative forcing so that the net forcing of human activities was about 375 ppm CO2‑eq for 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102).
Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are growing at approximately 3% per annum, which exceeds even the “worst case” IPCC projections (Raupach et al 2007). This places global greenhouse gas emissions on a trajectory to rise by 150% between 2000 and 2050 on “business as usual”.
When the conclusions of the IPCC are synthesised, it is clear that reductions of greenhouse emissions of 60% by 2050, such as proposed by the Australian Government (2008), even if they can be achieved, are not likely to prevent serious damage to the GBR and other coral reefs. A 60% reduction in global emissions by 2050 is likely to lead to a mean global temperature rise around 2.4°C (IPCC 2007d: 67), which is likely to severely degrade coral reefs globally. Stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols around 350 ppm CO2-eq and allowing a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appear to be the highest targets that should be set if coral reefs are to be protected from serious degradation.
This brings us back to the current policy debate – Stern and Garnaut’s frankness in recognizing the likely damage to the GBR and coral reefs from the targets they recommend is welcome but their conclusions leave us to wonder: is this the best we can do? Should we be prepared to write-off the GBR and other coral reefs and their economic, social environmental values?
As a young boy growing up in Australia’s Whitsundays Islands in the 1970s I did not dream that the GBR that I swam and fished on would be severely damaged by human activity within my own lifetime. Much less would I have dreamt that we would choose to allow these impacts to occur, as we are currently doing.
Stern and Garnaut’s targets are not ambitious enough and we should not accept them.
We should judge our climate change policies by this simple test: will we leave the GBR and other coral reefs around the world for our children? At present the answer we are giving to this question is “no”. We are all responsible for changing the answer to “yes”.
We should demand targets based on what we as a society want to achieve. We should not accept targets that will produce unacceptable outcomes.
The current science indicates our aim should be stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gases at 350 ppm if we want to protect the GBR and other coral reefs, but this is rarely even mentioned as a potential target.
We do not yet know if we can stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases as 350, 450 or 550 ppm CO2-eq but think of it this way: if we want to build a bridge across a river that is 1 kilometre wide we would not ask our engineers to build us a bridge that is 500 metres long. We should apply the same logic to climate change policy and set targets for our engineers and scientists to achieve that produce results that we want to achieve.
We need vision, ambition, and hard work to solve the climate crisis. Stern and Garnaut’s approaches lacks the vision and ambition that is needed. We need to add these ingredients to the global community’s many hard workers to solve the climate crisis.
Australian Government (2008), Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper (Department of Climate Change), http://www.climatechange.gov.au/greenpaper/index.html.
Australian Treasury (2008), Australia’s Low Pollution Future: The Economics of Climate Change Mitigation (Australian Government Treasury), http://www.treasury.gov.au/lowpollutionfuture/.
Garnaut R (2008a), Garnaut Review Supplementary Draft Report: Targets and trajectories (Garnaut Review, Canberra, 5 September 2008), p 38, available at http://www.garnautreport.org.au/.
Garnaut R (2008b), Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report (Cambridge University Press), http://www.garnautreview.org.au/index.htm.
Hoegh-Guldberg et al, “Vulnerability of reef-building corals on the Great Barrier Reef to climate change”, Ch 10 in Johnson JE and Marshall PA (eds), Climate Change and the GBR: A Vulnerability Assessment (GBRMPA, 2007), p 295, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/22598/chapter10-reef-building-corals.pdf
IPCC (2007a), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of WGI to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm.
IPCC (2007b), Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. WGII Contribution to the IPCC AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm.
IPCC (2007c), Climate change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of WGIII to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg3.htm.
IPCC (2007d), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (IPCC), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm
McGrath C (2008) “Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children?” (IUCN), http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/cel_op_mcgrath.pdf.
Raupach MR, Marland G, Ciais P, Le Quéré C, Canadell JG, Klepper G, and Field CB, (2007) “Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions” 104(24) PNAS 10288-10293, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/24/10288.
Stern N (2007), The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, http://www.occ.gov.uk/activities/stern.htm.
November 7, 2008 in Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)