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Vibrant Environment

Ocean Policy and the Trump Administration

The Great Wave, Hokusai
Monday, April 10, 2017

When it comes to the global commons, President Donald Trump has made his stance on climate change policy pretty clear. What will be his views on ocean policy? Certainly, given the impact of climate change on ocean acidification, last month’s Executive Order on energy independence was not good news for ocean health. But there are a multitude of marine and coastal issues that the Trump Administration will have to face.

The Environmental Forum Reports: News That’s Reused

A tree standing
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Higher Power: “A Unitarian Universalist church is suing the town of Bedford, Massachusetts, for denying a request to install solar panels on its property,” reports the ThinkProgress website. The church is “arguing that authorities are infringing on the congregation’s right to express their religious belief in clean energy solutions.”

The church applied for a “certificate of appropriateness” that would allow it to install solar panels on its sanctuary, but the town’s Historic District Commission turned it down.

This Month in ELR—Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, and Access to Water

Native American totem pole, Ketchikan, Alaska, Jeremy Keith
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Access to water is a fundamental climate change issue. It is related to significant political, social, and ecological struggles that indigenous peoples face internationally and here in the United States, as recent protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline clearly illustrate. Yet, governments and courts have done little to address such climate change inequities. So argues Dr. Itzchak Kornfeld, the Giordano Research Fellow at the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in The Impact of Climate Change on American and Canadian Indigenous Peoples and Their Water Resources.

Which Wetlands Can Reduce Risk From Climate Change Impacts?

Wetlands, Svetlana Makarova
By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Monday, February 27, 2017

Climate change presents immense challenges to coastal communities and to ecosystems affected by sea-level rise, salt water intrusion, changes in average temperature, storm frequency, and species composition. Existing wetland complexes are among the “natural and nature-based features” that currently buffer human communities from catastrophic storm events and that help ecosystems rebound from major stresses and impacts.

Freshwater Lakes are Warming at Surprising Rate

U.S. Great Lakes, NASA
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, February 22, 2017

There is an alarming new study out, funded by NASA and the National  Science Foundation. It was published in Geophysical Research Letters and announced at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. Together, these are the heavyweights in climate change research and analysis. Their findings: The world’s lakes are warming at an alarming rate, much faster than the oceans or the atmosphere. The study monitored 235 lakes, spanning six continents and representing half the world’s freshwater supply, for 25 years.

FOOD WASTE: City and State Strategies for Source Reduction

Farmers Market Produce
By Emmett McKinney, Former Research Associate, Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney; Director of the Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, February 20, 2017

Strategies for cities and states to reduce food waste can be thought of through the lens of the “Three Rs” of EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy—reduction, reuse, and recycling. In food waste terms, the Three Rs mean preventing wasted food at the source, donating wasted food leftovers, and recycling food waste through composting or anaerobic digestion.

The recent ReFED report on reducing food waste quantifies the economic value and diversion potential of different strategies related to each of the Three Rs. According to ReFED, source reduction and donation generate the most economic value per ton of food saved, while food recycling and composting have the potential to divert a much greater quantity of food from landfills.

How Private Actors Can Keep Climate Action Moving Forward

The Paris Gap, Mike Vandenberg
By Brett Korte, Staff Attorney; Director, Associates Program
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Early in the fall of 2016, there was growing cause to celebrate the international momentum building around climate mitigation. In October, United Nations actors reached agreements to limit airline emissions and later HFCs. On November 4, the Paris Agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change went into effect. Then, four days later, Donald J. Trump was elected president, casting doubt on the U.S. climate commitments made by President Obama’s Administration. Though his Tweets and stump speeches may not equate directly to his eventual climate policy, the surprise election results have certainly caused consternation among advocates of climate mitigation and adaptation.

This Month in ELR—Litigating Climate Change in National Courts

Court of Appeals, Tracy Collins
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

In the February issue of ELR’s News & Analysis, ELI President Scott Fulton and Visiting Attorney Dr. Maria L. Banda highlight the role that national judiciaries worldwide have played in developing the field of “climate law.” In Litigating Climate Change in National Courts: Recent Trends and Developments in Global Climate Law, Fulton and Banda examine the procedural tools and interpretive principles that judges have used to decide novel legal issues in climate litigation, focusing on some of the key lawsuits from civil and common-law jurisdictions that may influence climate law beyond their borders.

The “Paris Gap,” and How to Fix It

Global Warming
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a world-shattering event, a rare coming together of the international community to face a shared threat. Former President Obama deserves a lot of credit for the success of the two-week conclave, because of his earlier diplomacy with China and executive actions to reduce emissions, and Secretary of State John Kerry also deserves kudos for staying on site in Paris to see the agreement to its conclusion. Praise also belongs to the conference organizers, staff, and leaders, not to mention the hundreds of delegates.

After Youth Activists’ Surprising Win in Climate Change Litigation, What’s Next?

Discovering the Trees, Alessandro Pucci
By Benjamin Solomon-Schwartz, Public Interest Law Fellow
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On November 10, 2016—just two days after Election Day—there was another surprising turn of events: a federal district court judge in Oregon handed a long-shot victory to a group of young activists suing the federal government over its history of action and inaction regarding fossil fuels and climate change. Denying the defendants’ motions to dismiss in a thorough and groundbreaking opinion, Judge Ann Aiken found there was a sufficient legal basis for the plaintiffs to pursue their constitutional and common-law claims for the case to proceed to the next litigation stage. Now, in the waning days of the Obama Administration, the case is entering uncharted territory. On top of the unprecedented nature of the case itself, the uncertainty regarding the presidential transition extends to the course this case may take and to its importance going forward.