Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The ELC Responds to the IPCC Reports

Greetings Loyal Readers

Although Stephen and I haven't been talking about it very much, we are proud members of the Environmental Law Collaborative, a group of environmental law scholars whose goal is to meet and work collaboratively to discuss and offer solutions for environmental law’s major issues of the day. We meet every other year to tackle a thorny environmental problem as a group and to ruminate and strategize on what we as academics can do to ameliorate some of the environmental ills of the world. Our first session was about sustainability in the age of climate change and we the group published a series of essays/blog posts (with essays from Michael Burger, Elizabeth Burleson, Rebecca Bratspies, Robin Kundis Craig, Alexandra Harrington, Keith H. Hirokawa, Sarah Karkoff, Katrina Kuh, Stephen Miller, Jessica Owley, Patrick Parenteau, Melissa Powers, Shannon Roesler, & Jonathan Rosenbloom – republished in Rethinking Sustainability to Meet the Climate Change Challenge43 Envtl L. Rep. News & Analysis 10342 (2013)) , and we are eagerly awaiting the appearance in print of our ELI published book on the topic.

In July 2014, the group (now comprised of Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Cinnamon Carlane, Robin Kundis Craig, John C. Dernbach, Keith H. Hirokawa, Alexandra B. Klass, Katrina Fischer Kuh, Stephen R. Miller, Jessica Owley, Shannon Roesler, Jonathan Rosenbloom, Inara Scott, and David Takacs) met in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to turn a critical eye to the recent reports of the three working groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). On September 27, 2013, the IPCC’s Working Group I released its report, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, which concluded, with 95% confidence, that climate change is occurring and humans are causing it. Working Groups II and III followed with their reports in 2014—respectively, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability and Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Collectively, these three reports constitute the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (“AR5”).

At the 2014 meeting of the Collaborative, participants used the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Reports as texts through which to discuss how issues of climate change are presented and, moreover, what is missing from that presentation. In that review, the Collaborative found that not everything was fully accounted for, even in the three massive working group reports. With a particular concentration on the three working group Summaries for Policymakers, the Collaborative decided to use the Fifth Assessment Report as a springboard for discussing the relationship between environmental science, environmental and natural resources law and policy, and the social issues that arise where those two meet.

After the discussion, we all had many ideas about how the empirical claims generated by the IPCC should be translated into normative claims. We explored these ideas by choosing an excerpt from one of the Summaries for Policymakers—each excerpt an empirical claim—and writing a normative response to that claim. We wrote essays memorializing the proceedings of this collaboration and, together, offer a collection of normative lenses that can be held up to the IPCC Fifth Assessment’s empirical claims. We view these essays as jumping off points for deeper discussions and action by the environmental law community and, potentially, even as a way to conceptualize the framework for IPCC’s Sixth Assessment. These essays are appearing at a propitious time because a few days ago, the IPCC released its synthesis report. While our group did not have the benefit of the synthesis report when writing our essays, you'll quickly see that they address pressing concerns that arise with the report and with measures to mitigate andadapte to climate change.

These essays are now appearing on our sister blog: Environmental Law Profs (ELP), with essays appearing throughout the month and wrapping up before Thanksgiving. The essays will be published together in the January 2015 issue of ELR. Instead of simply cross-posting the essays here on Land Use Profs (LUP), each week I will give you the titles and links to the posts on ELP.

For now, you can visit ELP for a fuller introduction to the project and the ELC.

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