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Vibrant Environment

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.

England's Second Fracking Site Given Green Light

North Yorkshire County, Nilfanion
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The controversial technology of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, just had another victory in the North of England. As of last month, fracking may now move forward at the United Kingdom’s second fracking site, Kirby Misperton, following a UK High Court ruling that dismissed environmentalists’ legal challenges.”

Fracking has rapidly expanded in the United States. In 2000, there were 26,000 hydraulically fracked wells, which comprised roughly 7% of the U.S. total gas production, while in 2015, the number of wells had increased to 300,000, or 67% of the country’s gas output. This growth has prompted the U.K., along with other countries, to look into exploiting their own shale gas deposits.

In Case You Missed This . . . The Future of Biotechnology

Plants on agar, Sabisteb
By Dave Rejeski, Director; Technology, Innovation and the Environment Project
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

For the past seven months, an effort has been underway to change the way we regulate biotechnology—an effort that involves the White House (driven by the Office of Science & Technology Policy and including CEQ, OMB, and the U.S. Trade Representative); three of the most important regulatory bodies in our government: EPA, FDA, and USDA; and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). No regulatory modernization initiative in recent history has come close to this effort in terms of the level of government engagement and potential scope of impact.

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.

Maps Show Grim Future for Nation

Global Warming Predictions
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

After the revelation that July and August tied as the warmest months ever recorded in human times, the discovery of a potentially habitable planet circling a red dwarf star that is part of the nearby Alpha Centauri system was welcome news. Proxima Centauri b is the closest Earth-like planet beyond the solar system, 4.3 light years away. By the year 2500, when a new study predicts almost 50 feet of sea-level rise — which would wipe out the homes of billions, erasing whole nations from the globe — we should have the star drive needed to migrate to a new planet.

Environmental Literacy is a Key to Overcoming Climate Denial

Children in class, Amanda Mills
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The sage lexicographers at the Oxford Dictionary chose the hyphenated couplet post-truth as the Word of the Year for 2016 — twelve months that saw made-up facts supersede real facts on a daily basis. An analysis by BuzzFeed concluded that “in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets” including the New York Times, Washington Post, and 17 others — combined.

FOOD WASTE: From The Ground Up: How Cities and States Can Be Leaders in Food Waste Reduction

Food scraps, Tim Jewett
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
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced an ambitious goal of reducing food waste in the United States by 50% by 2030. While the change in presidential administrations presents new obstacles for many federal environmental initiatives, reducing food waste continues to offer fertile ground for cooperation.

Trump’s Proposed Environmental Agenda May Be Easier Said (or Tweeted) Than Done

US White House Logo
By Loyti Cheng, Co-head of the Environmental Practice Group and Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and David A. Zilberberg, Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Monday, December 12, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump's environmental agenda to date has generally been focused on undoing certain specific Obama administration regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) or the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, and relaxing restrictions on domestic fossil fuel exploration and production.

Understanding the Business of Water

The Business of Water, ELI Forum
By Elana Harrison, Assistant Director of Professional Education
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Prior to the 2016 ELI Award Dinner, ELI convened an expert panel of business leaders, legal minds, and nongovernmental advocates to discuss “The Business of Water.” This conversation was particularly timely, because as climate change alters global weather patterns and the Earth’s population continues to grow and urbanize, water resources are poised to become an ever-increasing point of contention, even in regions where water scarcity has not historically been an issue. Water law and policy is complex, varying regionally, country by country, and even within national borders. As more stakeholders compete for water resources, businesses around the world are changing the way they value water within their business models, and policymakers are looking at new levers to ensure responsible use of this increasingly precious resource.

Rhetoric or Reality: What Would Withdrawal From the Paris Agreement Require?

Donald Trump and the Eiffel Tower
By John Pendergrass, Vice President, Programs & Publications
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The annual business meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 22d such Conference of the Parties (COP 22), just concluded in Marrakech, Morocco. At the top of the agenda was implementation of the Paris Agreement, which entered into force November 4, 2016, just days before the COP opened and the U.S. election. The latter apparently shifted the focus of hallway conversations as President-elect Donald Trump’s views on climate change and climate treaties were of great interest to participants and observers.