April 16, 2008
Dartmouth Law Journal calling for papers
The Dartmouth Law Journal (DLJ) is a scholarly law review published three times a year by undergraduate students under the auspices of the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College. They are now in their sixth year of publication and do a remarkable job given that they have not, as undergraduates, attended law school yet. Though the DLJ publishes a hard copy of each issue, their editions are also available online. Their latest version may be viewed at:
The DLJ's editorial staff is always looking for good submissions of scholarly articles from professors and practitioners alike. If you are thinking of publishing a law review article or case survey, please consider the DLJ. I would be happy to put you in touch with the editor-in-chief for further details.
Investor Firm Buys Rights to Rainforest
OnEarth.org points us to a story at Mongabay.com, about the purchase of environmental services rights in a rainforest in South America by a private equity firm, Canopy Capital.
"How can it be that Google's services are worth billions, but those from all the world's rainforests amount to nothing?" asked Hylton Murray-Philipson of Canopy Capital. "As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, emissions will carry an ever mounting cost and conservation will acquire real value. The investment community is beginning to wake up to this."
According to the story at Mongabay.com, Canopy Capital, with an investment by Merrill Lynch, "has purchased the rights to environmental services generated by a 371,000-hectare rainforest reserve in Guyana. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement is precedent-setting in that a financial firm is betting that the services generated by a living rainforest — including rainfall generation, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance and water storage — will eventually see compensation in international markets."
Thanks to Molly Webster of NRDC's OnEarth.org, "The Price is Right," April 15, 2008.
April 11, 2008
Munich Re: climate change one of mankind's greatest risks
Munich Re has released its 2007 review of natural catastrophe experience and its announcement of a strategic re-direction to address climate change, which it describes as "one of the greatest risks facing mankind."
It is especially valuable to remind U.S. policymakers that while 2007 was a relatively easy "natural catastrophe" year for the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia were not so lucky. The U.S. will get its turn again, as it did in 2005.
In the report:
* The monsoon between a curse and a blessing
* North Atlantic hurricane activity in 2007
* Catastrophe portraits from Europe, United States, Oman, Australia, UK and Japan
* World Climate Conference in Bali smooths the way for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol
* Living with climate change – The strategic repositioning of the Munich Re Group
* NatCatSERVICE – The year in figures
Thanks to ClimateandInsurance.org for alerting us to this important report.
(read more after the break)Continue reading "Munich Re: climate change one of mankind's greatest risks"
March 29, 2008
James Hansen: Practical Moves to Halt Climate Change
James Hansen is one of the most respected scientists on the topic of climate change. His 1988 Congressional testimony (yes, 20 years ago) opened the policy agenda when he testified that he was 99% confident that the globe was warming and that human CO2 emissions were the cause. Despite documented attempts by the current administration to muzzle Mr. Hansen and others with messages inconvenient to what he calls “well oiled” politicians, he has continued to grow in respect and has refused to be silenced. That is largely because facts over the last 20 years have shown his predictions to be consistently and highly reliable.
He has just released a draft paper now available on Columbia University’s website, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" In a short summary of his well-reasoned but technical paper (second link below), NRDC reports on his conclusions that current concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (about 385 ppm) are already in dangerous territory and that we should be aiming to lower concentrations back to 350 ppm, rather than aiming to stabilize them at about 450 ppm, as previously suggested.
In a separate short message, "Rampant Negativity -- No Reason to be so Glum," Hansen dismisses claims that halting climate change is impractical. “What nonsense,” he says in his non-technical message, where Hansen provides his guidance that is directly responsive to the coal plant proposal:
(more after the jump)
March 28, 2008
Study documents hotter, drier American West due to climate change.
Temperature data from eleven western states over five years shows the Colorado River basin was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the historical average for the past century, more than twice the global average increase during the same period. This is according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO), a coalition of 17 local governments, Colorado's largest water provider, 17 businesses and 11 nonprofits.
In a press release on March 27, study author Stephen Saunders said: “Since 2000 we have seen $2.7 billion in crop loss claims due to drought. Global warming is harming valuable commercial salmon fisheries, reducing hunting activity and revenues, and threatening shorter and less profitable seasons for ski resorts.”
(read more below the break)
March 25, 2008
DOT quietly releases report showing impact of climate change on transport infrastructure
Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, analyzes how Gulf Coast roads and highways, transit services, oil and gas pipelines, freight handling ports, transcontinental railroad networks, waterway systems, and airports are likely to be harmed by heat waves, extreme precipitation events, sea level rise, increased hurricane intensity, and storm surge damage associated with climate change. The report outlines why changes must be incorporated in transportation planning now in order to avoid serious future problems.
From the report: "While further study is needed to examine in more detail the impacts on specific transportation facilities, such as individual airports or rail terminals, this preliminary assessment finds that the potential impacts on infrastructure are so important that transportation decision makers should begin immediately to assess them in the development of transportation investment strategies."
Click here to read the full Gulf Coast report: http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap4-7/final-report/
Click here to read Climate Science Watch’s full analysis of the situation:
Click here to link to the DOT press release: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/dot3608.htm
March 01, 2008
"Is It Easy Being Green?: Sustainable Development and the Law"
Notes on the 15th Gallivan Conference, "Is It Easy Being Green?: Sustainable Development and the Law," held at the University of Connecticut School of Law on February 29, 2008.
(read more below the fold)
February 27, 2008
NYT OpEd Warns about levee weaknesses
In "There Will Be Floods," Alex Prud'homme warns of the crumbling, inadequate infrastructure that holds back rivers and estuaries across the U.S. Levees in Texas City protecting oil refining capacity; levees in the Sacramento River Valley protecting homes and farmland. Billions of dollars at risk behind old, earthen levees accumulating deferred maintenance and Corps. of Engineers compromises.
Another example of the massive amount of public infrastructure work to be done and local jobs to be funded.
February 26, 2008
Green Collar Vets
Green Collar Vets (www.greencollarvets.org) is looking for a few good veterans to link with green collar jobs. The non-profit was founded in 2007 by Jyl DeHaven, a real estate developer in Fort Worth, TX. Its goals are to foster a skilled workforce for fast-growing green industries by training returning veterans of military service.
With the help of Georgia Richey, an insurance agent, DeHaven plans to open local chapters around the U.S. during 2008. For now, they are focused on training and jobs in West Texas, the center of wind energy expansion in the U.S. The Green Collar Vets website links visitors to training programs for wind energy tech, green construction, fuel cell and solar technology.
Their website is still a bit "green" (looks like they could use some volunteer help from a volunteer "Webster"), and their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS is pending. For those who support increased investments in education, our returning vets and green technology, its worth checking out and considering supporting.
February 22, 2008
Insurance Industry Response to Climate Change
In an October 2007 report commissioned by Ceres, author Even Mills, Ph.D., of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, identified several hundred innovations to address climate change that have been implemented by insurance companies and brokers world-wide. These include insurance products to cover alternative energy providers, underwriting to encourage less driving and use of fuel-efficient vehicles as well as suites of insurance products tailored to the special needs of "green building." Still, only a minority of insurers have taken visible action or offered innovative products and services to address climate change, according to the report.
Evan Mills, "From Risk to Opportunity: 2007 - Insurer Responses to Climate Change" (Ceres, 2007)
Beyond direct exposure to property loss and business interruption, both the global insurance industry and its business clients are exposed to third party liability claims generated by climate-change outcomes, according to an article for a 2007 Symposium on Climate Change Risk. According to the paper, Goldman Sachs has estimated such corporate liabilities could be comparable to those for asbestos exposures.
Ross, Christina, Mills, Evan and Hecht, Sean B., "Limiting Liability in the Greenhouse: Insurance Risk-Management Strategies in the Context of Global Climate Change". Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 26A, p. 251, 2007 Available at SSRN or at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (U.S.Dept. of Energy):
The Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) has released its latest Action Plan. INCR is a growing organization of individuals, officials and funds that together control some $1.75 trillion in invested assets. Its members include several state treasurers and pension funds with a history of social activism, such as CalPERS. In its Action Plan, the signatories present their agenda for action, with this preface:
"As fiduciaries and long-term investors, we see significant short and long-term risks from climate change to the value and security of our investments and capital markets more broadly. And we recognize that the impacts of climate change will continue to be multi-dimensional – affecting corporations’ abilities to secure the full range of necessary resources such as energy and water. At the same time, we also see opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon future."
"Prudence, common sense, and fiduciary duty compel us to renew our efforts to examine and address the financial ramifications of climate change and to respond to climate challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, we hereby state our intentions to manage our investments; to engage companies, investors, and others; and to support policy action to the best of our abilities, in line with the following agenda:"
The Action Plan is accessible at INCR INCR and at Ceres.
Publicly traded businesses are coming under increasing pressure to comply with existing securities laws and regulations that require the disclosure of material exposures to environmental loss and liability. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been criticized and pressured by Congressional leaders to enforce those laws, with little response from the present administration. See, e.g. “SEC Pressed to Require Climate-Risk Disclosures” By Steven Mufson,
Washington Post, September 18, 2007; D01, and “Investors praise U.S. Senate leaders for pushing SEC to require full corporate disclosure of climate change risks,” Ceres, December 7, 2007.