Category Archives: Adaptation

Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Change: Good News; Still Work To Be Done By MassDEP

Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.”  tide-surgeEO 569 will advance climate policy in Massachusetts in a number of important ways.  It also leaves much to be accomplished by MassDEP.  Here are the highlights:

  • EOEEA and MassDOT are instructed to work with other New England and Northeastern states to develop regional policies to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.…
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I Have Seen the Future and It Is Hot and Wet

The City of Boston has just released its “Climate Projections Consensus.”  It’s not a pretty picture.  Here are the lowlights:

  • Average summer temperatures will be 4-5 degrees F. warmer by 2050 Boston temps
  • Even with “moderate” emissions reductions, see level rise is likely to be between 1.5 feet and 2.5 feet by 2070.
  • The number of “extreme precipitation” events has been increasing and that increase will continue.…
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Big Changes With Little Fanfare: The FHWA Proposes to Use GHG Emissions as a Performance Measure

This week, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking to promulgate performance measures to be used in evaluating federal funding of transportation projects.  The requirement for performance measures stems from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, aka MAP-21.  MAP-21 requires the FHWA to establish performance standards in 12 categories, one of which is “on-road mobile source emissions.”  MAP 21

The NPRM addresses this criterion,… More

Water Turning To Blood; Flies; Hail? How About Water-borne Illness, Extreme Weather, and Actual Plague?

Passover starts later this month.  Just in time, the U.S. Global Change Research Program has given us an updated list of plagues.  What’s fascinating is that the new list actually bears a certain similarity to the biblical list.

Why has the U.S. updated the list of plagues?  It’s actually part of a report on “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States:  A Scientific Assessment.”  What’s climate change going to do to us? … More

Climate Change and the ESA: Protecting the Wolverine in the Face of Uncertainty

Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is “threatened” when it is “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.”  As scientists continue to predict that climate change will alter habitat over the coming century, it certainly seems “foreseeable” that more species will become endangered.  That’s what the Fish & Wildlife Service concluded about the wolverine WolverineSnowin early 2013.  When FWS backtracked in 2014, Defenders of Wildlife sued. … More

The Paris Agreement: Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive

So COP21 resulted in an agreement.  What’s a poor in-the-trenches lawyer to make of it?  I think it’s pretty clearly a major step forward and reflects much more substantive progress than might have been expected.  For a very helpful summary as to why the Paris Agreement was a success, check out Rob Stavins’s post.  As good as Rob’s summary is, Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker (subscription required) had a slightly more concise explanation why the Paris Agreement is a good thing:

It changes the presumption that carbon emissions will continue to grow to the presumption that they must soon start coming down.… More

What Success Means For COP21

If you want to know what how a rational optimist defines success for COP21, cop21-label_reduit_transparenttake a look at Rob Stavins’s latest post.  Here’s his “Paris Scorecard” for what success will look like:

  • Include approximately 90% of global emissions in the set of INDCs that are submitted and part of the Paris Agreement (compared with 14% in the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol).…
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Does the Impact of Climate Change on Financial Markets Have Anything In Common with Same-Sex Marriage?

A few months ago, I asked whether climate change nuisance and public trust litigation might have something in common with litigation challenging bans on same-sex marriage.  The idea was that both types of litigation seemed hopeless at the start and received very frosty receptions from the courts.  However, in the case of same-sex marriage, plaintiffs kept plugging away and, much sooner than most people expected, a tipping point was reached. … More

Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Policy: How Broad Will It Be?

Yesterday, I suggested that Massachusetts EOEEA may not have authority to issue its “MEPA Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Policy.”  However, since I also conceded that Massachusetts courts are unlikely to agree with me, it’s probably worth taking a look at what the Adaptation Policy would require.  As with any MEPA (or NEPA) analysis, it has two parts:  identification of impacts and discussion of mitigation measures.… More

Environmental Impact Analysis — The Impact of a Project on the Environment or the Impact of the Environment on a Project?

Traditionally, environmental impact analysis, under NEPA and state analogs, has focused on the impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment.  In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has proposed a draft MEPA Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Policy.  The policy seems sufficiently important to warrant more than one post.  Today, I’ll look at EOEEA’s authority to promulgate an Adaptation Policy.  Tomorrow,… More

ExxonMobil Admits Climate Change Is Real. It also Imposes an Internal Cost on Carbon. Still Not Enough to Get Any Love From the Greens (Interesting Reading, Though)

Last week, in response to shareholder requests that it disclose information regarding how climate change might affect it in the future, ExxonMobil released two reports, one titled Energy and Climate, and one titled Energy and Carbon – Managing the Risks.  They actually make fascinating reading and seem to represent a new tack by ExxonMobil in its battle with those seeking aggressive action on climate change.… More

Governor Patrick Announces Climate Change Preparedness Initiatives: Not Everyone’s On Board

On Tuesday, Governor Patrick announced a series of climate change preparedness initiatives, including about $50 million in funds for a variety of programs.  Before summarizing the plan, I’ll note that Massachusetts appears to have jettisoned “adaptation” as the descriptor for programs designed to mitigate the effects of  climate change.  We are no longer “adapting”.  Now, like the Boy Scouts, we will be “prepared.”  Shrewd call.

The biggest piece of the pie with be $40 million for a municipal “resilience” grant program,… More

And You Thought Ending Flood Insurance Subsidies Would Be Difficult? Try Persuading a Politician to Support “Managed Coastal Retreat”

Earlier today, I posted about the political difficulties inherent in reforming flood insurance programs to avoid subsidizing those who choose to live in coastal areas subject to flooding.  When even Democratic legislators supportive of efforts to fight climate change oppose such reforms, you know you are in trouble.

Well, when it rains, it pours, as it were.  Just hours later comes news of the release of a report from the Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law on “Managed Coastal Retreat.”  The title pretty much tells it all. … More

Yet More on the Adaptation Front: Where You Stand Depends on Whether Your Property Is Underwater

A story in E&E Daily on October 30 highlighted the difficult choices – including political choices – that are going to have to be faced in the process of adapting to climate change.  The story noted that a number of Democratic members of Congress who have supported efforts to address climate change are now opposing efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so that it does not encourage people to locate in areas subject to flooding.… More

More on the Adaptation Front: Comprehensive Climate Planning Is Coming To Boston

If you are still wondering whether municipalities are serious about planning for climate change, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s announcement this week of its new draft Guidelines for the inclusion of planning for climate change in its Article 80 review (basically the Boston local version of NEPA) might convince you.  While the Guidelines are fairly broad, the accompanying Climate Change Resiliency and Preparedness Checklist gets way down into the weeds.… More

Standing Matters, TMDL Version

Last week, in Conservation Law Foundation v. EPA, Judge Mark Wolf ruled that CLF did not have standing to challenge EPA’s approval of total maximum daily loads promulgated for certain waters in and around Cape Cod.  Given the increasing number of citizen suits involving TMDL promulgation, the decision is important.

CLF asserted two claims.  First, it alleged that EPA wrongly classified certain sources,… More

Is this the Future of Adaptation? Who Pays to Avoid the Cost of Coastal Flooding?

The New York Times reported today that Governor Cuomo is proposing to spend $400 million to buy out owners of property to avoid a recurrence of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  I have to say that I have been persuaded over the past few years that we cannot put all our eggs in the mitigation basket, particularly since political gridlock in Washington has prevented much mitigation from occurring.… More

The Geneva Association Warns Governments To “Wake Up”: Have They Too Drunk The Koolaid?

Last week, the Geneva Association, which describes itself as “the leading international insurance think tank for strategically important insurance and risk management issues,” issued a report entitled “Extreme events and insurance: 2011 annus horribilis.” Quick take-away? Insurance losses are growing. Why? While there were large earthquakes in 2011, the bigger long-term concerns are extreme weather events and an increasing number of people and resources located in areas subject to such events.… More

More on the Frontlines of Adaptation

Last Friday, noting a story about the extent to which concerns about sea level rise from climate change might affect development in East Boston, I wondered whether battles over whether and how to adapt to climate change might be moving from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real. Climate Wire has now begun a series of stories on how cities are planning for climate change. This week,… More

Has the Battle Begun? A Look at One of the Front Lines of the Adaptation Issue

A story in today’s Boston Globe makes clear that, at least in states where it is permissible to use the words “climate” and “change” in the same sentence, the battle over adaption may no longer be hypothetical. The neighborhood known as East Boston is one that might appropriately be described as having unfulfilled potential. Last month, at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Mayor Menino pledged to revive East Boston, specifically calling out five projects that have been on the drawing board for some time.… More

Coming Soon to Massachusetts: Adaptation to Climate Change

The abandonment of any discussion of climate change in Washington has not been followed in Massachusetts. Yesterday, Rick Sullivan, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, released the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report, providing the fruits of a lengthy process in Massachusetts to look at the impacts of climate change on five areas: Natural Resources and Habitat; Key Infrastructure; Human Health and Welfare; Local Economy and Government;… More