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Vibrant Environment

2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, the editors of Vibrant Environment thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the work ELI did in 2017.

Rethinking Reforestation: Degradation as a Carbon Source in Tropical Forests

The Brazilian Amazon (Wikimedia Commons)
By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Monday, December 18, 2017

Tropical forest ecosystems are globally recognized for their carbon sequestration capacities. Past research has estimated that tropical forests on average sequester a net 1400 teragrams of carbon per year, the equivalent of taking approximately 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road. International governing bodies, national governments, and nonprofit organizations have attempted to capitalize on the carbon sequestration services provided by tropical forests in an increasingly carbon rich atmosphere.  Programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation + enhancing forest carbon stocks) have resulted in significant expenditures of efforts and resources into developing frameworks for preserving tropical forests.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: A Step Toward Deep Decarbonization?

Coal power plant emissions (Pixabay).
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Last month, Trump Administration officials attended the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, but they weren’t there to discuss reducing emissions. Rather, they touted the promises of nuclear energy, natural gas, “clean coal,” and carbon capture. This is not surprising, given the President’s views on climate policy and his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. But even had Trump decided otherwise, the current Agreement does not do enough to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.

This Ain’t Normal: Calculating the Social Costs of Carbon

Hurricane Harvey, as viewed from space (Photo: NOAA).
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

While EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt seeks to drastically reduce the social cost of carbon (SCC), insurers already know that 2017 delivered the most expensive Atlantic hurricane season ever for insurance companies. Beyond this year, since the 1980s, the annual average losses to insurers have risen, increasing over the last decade from $10 billion to about $50 billion. “Insurers are rightfully worried that, in the long term, climate change could devastate their industry,” reported the Los Angeles Times. While Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico  flood, EPA recalculates, and insurance companies add up their costs.

Smart Tech, Dumb Design: Planned Obsolescence and Social Responsibility

Four Generations of iPhone (Photo: Yutaka Tsutano)
By Azi Akpan, Research Associate
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

September 22 marked the beginning of fall, and for some, that means it’s officially apple-picking season. Coincidentally, this isn’t the only type of apple officially in season. September 22 also marked the release date of Apple’s iPhone 8. And it’s not too long until you have your pick of a new Apple product with the release of the iPhone X on November 3.

Brother(s), Can You Spare a Dime? Crowdfunding Environmental Action

Crowdfunding is the strategy of raising funds from a large number of people (Pho
By Lorentz Hansen, Research & Publications Intern, Dave Rejeski, Director; Technology, Innovation and the Environment Project, and Jessye Waxman, Research Associate
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In 2008, as many financial instruments dissolved stranding their investors in seas of debt and spasms of panic, a new instrument appeared at the intersection of the crowd and the web: crowdfunding.

Oh, SNAP! D.C. Circuit Limits EPA’s Authority to Regulate HFCs

HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On August 8, 2017, the D.C. Circuit held in Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA, No. 15-1328 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 8, 2017), that EPA overstepped its authority under the CAA when it banned the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in products. HFCs were adopted as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) in the 1990s under the Montreal Protocol. Their adoption was encouraged through application of EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program, which was created to help implement U.S.

Going for Gold, and for Green: Olympics Offer Paris and Los Angeles the Chance to Showcase Environmental Leadership

Sustainability will be a key focus of the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (Pho
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Paris and Los Angeles are set to host the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games, respectively. Hosting the games will offer these cities the chance to showcase not only their countries’ finest athletes, but also their technological innovation and cultural vibrancy. However, preparing for the Olympics also presents massive infrastructural, economic, and environmental challenges.

Climate Change Meets Green Infrastructure: Deploying New Stormwater Infrastructure Techniques Against Flooding and Water Quality Threats in the Chesapeake Watershed

A Maryland shoreline was designed for climate resilience (Photo: Will Parson).
By Cynthia Harris, Staff Attorney
Monday, August 28, 2017

Home to nearly 18 million people, the Chesapeake Bay region is expected to be hit hard by climate change-driven increases in sea level, flooding, and precipitation.

As Nations Shift Toward Low-Emission Vehicles, Roadblocks Remain

An electric car charges at a station in Newcastle, England (Photo: Wikimedia Com
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Monday, August 21, 2017

As reported previously in the Environmental Law Reporter's Weekly Update, several countries have expressed their desire to move away from vehicles powered by diesel and gas in recent months. Most recently, the British government committed to ban the sale of diesel and gas vehicles from 2040 to curb rising levels of nitrogen oxide.