As the subject of global climate change occupies an increasingly prominent position in the current social and political discourse, competing voices clamor to predict the future effects of climate change and to propose solutions. While some environmentalists press the public to imagine catastrophic scenarios in which large cities will be inundated with rising seas or landscapes will be parched by persistent drought, some skeptics urge business as usual, insisting that no evidence unequivocally substantiates the existence of global climate change. How should the public react to these varying attitudes? On the one hand, drastically cutting the greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions known to cause climate change and enacting every possible precaution to protect against its impacts may be expensive and involve sacrifices in the near term that might ultimately prove unnecessary, given the uncertainty surrounding the future effects of climate change. On the other hand, failure to take action could result in devastation to the human community, irreversible damage to the environment, and astronomical expenses incurred to repair both. Perhaps, both views merit consideration, and the reality lies somewhere between these two extremes. Questions remain, however, concerning how communities should evaluate information regarding the projected impacts of climate change and which adaptive measures offer the best protection from its effects.
The central problem confronting climate change scholars and policymakers is how to create incentives for China and the United States to make prompt, large emissions reductions. China recently surpassed the United States as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its projected future emissions far outstrip those of any other nation. Although the United States has been the largest emitter for years, China’s emissions have enabled critics in the United States to argue that domestic reductions will be ineffective and will transfer jobs to China. These two aspects of the China Problem, Chinese emissions and their influence on the political process in the United States, result in a mutually supportive but ultimately destructive dance between the two countries. This Article argues that a post-Kyoto international agreement and other measures are necessary but will not create sufficient incentives to induce China, and ultimately the United States, to act. Instead, the Article draws on the fact that the United States and Europe account for 41% of Chinese exports to propose a novel means of changing both countries’ incentives. The article suggests that private or public schemes in the United States and Europe to disclose product carbon emissions and corporate carbon footprints can create consumer and other pressure that will induce firms to impose supply-chain requirements on Chinese and other suppliers. This form of global private governance can create market-based incentives for China and the United States to reduce emissions directly and to make credible emissions-reduction commitments in the post-Kyoto era.
This Article explores parallels between the development of the international whaling and climate change regimes. It argues that the experiences of the International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) provide an instructive parable to the evolution and development of international environmental law regimes, where successful policies depend heavily on the interplay between science and policy – namely, global climate change. The Article aims to demonstrate the similarities between the historic path of whaling politics and the present path of international climate change politics, with particular reference to the political interpretation of science. This Article argues that international climate change policymaking is following too closely in the footsteps of the IWC and that, in order to avoid a similar collapse of the commons, the politics of climate change must change course.
Smokers who plan to smoke in public probably should avoid doing so in Calabasas, California. On March 17, 2006, the city’s smoking ban – the most restrictive in the nation – went into effect, prohibiting smoking virtually anywhere that another person could be exposed to secondhand smoke. The designated nonsmoking areas include bars, restaurants, stadiums, parks, and even streets and sidewalks. The Calabasas ordinance is enforceable by the city attorney or, alternatively, by “private enforcers,” private individuals filing civil suits on behalf of themselves or the general public. To avoid the various penalties that the ordinance imposes, smokers must seek out special smokers’ outposts or light up at least twenty feet away from nonsmokers or others who might potentially be offended by secondhand smoke.
Environmental toxic tort cases often pose difficult problems of proof A substance’s toxicity may be unknown or uncertain. A combination of factors may cause a plaintiffs injury, and the injury may arise many years after a plaintiff’s exposure to a toxic substance. On the one hand, some plaintiffs, particularly those with “signature” illnesses or whose illnesses occur as a cluster of cases, may be able to gather sufficient evidence to support a tort action. On the other hand, it is likely that many environmental injury victims simply fail to recognize their illnesses as tortious injuries and never receive compensation. Cancer and various respiratory ailments, for instance, can resultfrom exposure to commonly found and commonly released pollutants. Because of the difficulty of identifying potential defendants and proving causation, such cases simply fall outside of the tort system. This leaves social costs externalized and victims uncompensated.
In response to this problem, this Article proposes a risk-based administrative system of liability and compensation for exposure to environmental pollutants. At the time pollutants are released, major pollution emitters would pay levies. The levies would be based on the amount of pollutants discharged, the likely exposure of persons to those pollutants, the risk of harmfrom that exposure, and the expected costs of that harm to the victims. Individuals would receive compensation according to the health risk borne by each person as a result of their exposure to the pollution. This compensation-for-risk approach avoids troublesome case-by-case determinations of specific causation. This approach also provides compensation prior to illness, which may facilitate preventive measures. Although the scientific information necessary to support such a system is not yet available, advances in toxic ogenomics, biomonitoring, and environmental monitoring will permit implementation of such a system in the not-too-distantfuture.
Every year the Army Corps of Engineers receives over 74,500 applications for permits under section 404(a) of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), the provision regulating the discharge of fill or dredged material into the nation’s waters. Consequently, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari for Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“SWANCC”) – a case potentially affecting the status of millions of acres of American wetlands – property owners, developers, and environmentalists alike were wise to stand up and take notice.
The SWANCC case involved a Chicago-area consortium of municipalities that sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) for denying them a permit to develop a landfill on an abandoned mining site because the Corps had determined the land in question was inhabited by migratory birds. The central issue presented in SWANCC was whether this “Migratory Bird Rule” – a regulation promulgated in 1986 giving the Corps authority over wetlands populated by migrating birds – was a proper exercise of jurisdiction under the CWA. The municipalities argued that the rule exceeded the Corps’ authority because the CWA was meant to only regulate waters that are navigable or that adjoin navigable waterways. On the other hand, the Corps argued that its jurisdiction is not limited by traditional notions of navigability; rather it has authority over the nation’s waters to the fullest extent of the Commerce Clause.