Dealing with Climate Skepticism in Environmental Law Survey Classes

Students who are skeptical of the basic climate science present one of the more persistent problems I find when attempting to integrate climate change considerations into environmental law survey courses.  In a more in-depth course, we can take the time to spend a couple of classes exploring the supposed “debate” and educate students about the data behind the headlines.  In a survey course, however, it is much more difficult to find the time for this type of in-depth examination.

One method I’ve used that has yielded some success involves the incorporation of electronic course “discussion boards.”  This allows me to post sites like that give students a quick reference for thinking about claims attacking the consensus position.  Further, the electronic forum also allows students to post news and other articles that seem to support the skeptical position.  This creates an opportunity for me or for other students to post materials in response.  For example, a student recently posted this BBC News article that suggest recent temperature data calls climate change science into question.  In response, I posted an AP article on independent statistical review of the data and its implications for climate science.  Below the link, I include the following quote:

“The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA’s year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics and gathered by scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880. Saying there’s a downward trend since 1998 is not scientifically legitimate, said David Peterson, a retired Duke University statistics professor and one of those analyzing the numbers. Identifying a downward trend is a case of “people coming at the data with preconceived notions,” said Peterson, author of the book “Why Did They Do That? An Introduction to Forensic Decision Analysis.”

While this type of interaction is not likely to be as meaningful as an all-out discussion of the scientific evidence over several class periods, it does seem to be effective in softening the resistance to thinking about climate change as a problem likely to face environmental regulators.  I think it is a reasonable compromise in a class where there is hardly enough time to fully explore the more “traditional” environmental law topics — basics of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc.  Perhaps this electronic interaction, supplemented briefly in class, is also enough to raise students’ interests to dig a little deeper into data behind their own pre-conceptions.

New Book: Urban War Against CC

Green CITYnomics:
The Urban War against Climate Change
Edited by Kenny Tang

Announcing the publication on 28 October 2009 of “Green CITYnomics: 
The Urban War against Climate Change” – a compelling manifesto for the world’s cities. Order online from Greenleaf and receive a 10% discount.

List price: GBP35.00 / EUR47.50 / USD65.00 (not including postage and packing).

Green CITYnomics: The Urban War against Climate Change Edited by Kenny Tang

320 pp | 234 x 156 mm | hardrback | ISBN 978-1-906093-22-8 | Published
28 October 2009
List price: GBP35.00 EUR47.50 USD65.00

You can also request a review copy

Today, more than half of the world’s population are living in cities that are now contributing 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. They cover less than 3% of the earth’s surface. And urbanisation continues apace.

With such a massive carbon footprint, it is clearly vital that cities are part of the solution. And, from another perspective, the sheer concentration of people, resources and economic activities in urban centres will only serve to magnify city-dwellers’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Despite this, to date scarcely any consideration has been given to the potential impact of climate change on urban dwellers, especially in the developing countries and burgeoning megacities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where a wide variety of environmental and development challenges are likely to further exacerbate their vulnerability to climatic effects.

Such population concentrations mean local decision-makers have both an opportunity and obligation to construct climate-resilient infrastructures, create climate-friendly livelihoods and develop urban systems that ensure better air quality, water, transport and health services for all who live in them. Environmental liabilities need to be transformed into sustainable assets.

“Green CITYnomics: The Urban War against Climate Change” presents a rich set of contributions by a highly diverse group of 45 of the world’s leading urban experts on climate change. In particular, it illustrates the desire some cities are already demonstrating in engaging in this war. Standing still is not an option. Budgets have to be fought for; minds have to be won over; old, untenable and unsustainable ideas and solutions must be challenged; green and sustainable solutions must be given the chance to develop and to prove themselves.

The book is organised into four sections. First, contributors discuss the challenges of making an integrated assessment of the impact of climate change in our urban centres. Second, the book examines the options and challenges for policy-makers. Third, specific aspects of health, air quality, land use and water supply are examined. Finally, the focus moves to specific aspects of solar heating, urban heat island intensity, building emissions and urban planning education.

Each of the cities and urban centres discussed – from Hong Kong to Dresden; from Mexico City to Qatar – are, in their own ways, heroes and examples to us all. This book provides a compelling manifesto for the world’s cities in their ‘Urban War against Climate Change’. It will be essential reading for climate scientists, national and local policy-makers and scholars worldwide.


Chris Walker, Special Advisor and former Director (Chief Executive) for North America, The °Climate Group

Preface and acknowledgements
Kenny Tang, Oxbridge Capital, UK
Section 1: Introduction

1. Introduction to Green CITYnomics: the urban war against climate change Kenny Tang, Oxbridge Capital, UK

2. Climate change: a tipping point for a move towards sustainable development?
Tania Katzschner and Gregg Oelofse, University of Cape Town, South Africa

3. A blueprint for the integrated assessment of climate change in cities R.J. Dawson, Newcastle University, UK, et al.
Section 2: Policy-making and CO2 management systems

4. Climate change impacts and responses: Hong Kong’s vulnerable environment, infrastructure and economy Alexandra Tracy, Christine Loh and Andrew Stevenson, Civic Exchange, Hong Kong

5. Municipal Adaptation Planning: a city-based framework for climate change adaptation Pierre Mukheibir and Gina Ziervogel, Wannon Water Regional Authority, Australia, and University of Cape Town, South Africa

6. Climate change and policy-making in the Baltic Sea region Walter Leal and Franziska Mannke, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany

7. Developing a CO2 management system for public authorities Edeltraud Guenther and Julia Friedemann, Technische Universitaet Dresden, Germany
Section 3: Health, air quality, transport, land use and water

8. Urban local governments and human health in a climate of change Scott Baum, Katrin Lowe and Stephen Horton, Griffith University, Australia

9. Better urban air quality and the Clean Development Mechanism: 
bringing together local and global interests Steffan Bakker, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, Natalia Caldes and Maryse Labriet, Centro de Investigaciones Energeticas, Medioambientales y Tecnologicas, Spain, Thierry Lefevre and Jessie Todoc, Centre for Energy and Environment Resources Development, Thailand, and Lin Leteng, Energy Research Institute of the Shandong Academy of Science, China

10. Climate change and unsustainable land uses: the case of repetitive loss properties Charles T. Schartung and David Simpson, University of Louisville, USA

11. The contribution of water supply systems to climate change Nalanie Mithraratne, Land Care Research, New Zealand
Section 4: Solar heating, urban heat island, buildings and urban planning education

12. Environmental solar heating standard: a GHG mitigation policy in Mexico City Claudia Scheinbaum, National Autonomous University of Mexico

13. A Study of urban heat island intensity: the case of Doha N.V. Sasidharan, P. Govinda Rao, Qatar Aeronautical College, and Ali Hamed Al-Mulla, Qatar Petroleum

14. Emissions trading: a building block to the climate change solution?
Sara Hayes, Teigland-Hunt Associates LLP, USA

15. Climate change, peak oil and new curricula in urban planning education Rafael Pizzarro, The University of Sydney, Australia

Innovations Issue on Energy and Climate

Apologies for Cross-posting…

Just in case you didn’t see this,


Michael Maniates

Allegheny College

P.S.  For the Schelling essay, click on the associate link below, treat with disdain the ensuing web page that tells you that no such article exists, remove the “%20″ in the web link in the address at the top of your web browser for the Schelling piece, then resend the modified URL.



MIT Press releases Holdren, Schelling, and Bonvillian essays from “Energy for Change: Creating Climate Solutions,” the Fall issue of Innovations journal

In conjunction with the clean energy address that President Obama is delivering at MIT today, MIT Press is releasing essays from the soon to be published fall special issue of Innovations journal on energy and climate solution. The pre-released essays are authored by White House Science Adviser John Holdren, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics Thomas Schelling, and the Director of MIT’s Washington office, William Bonvillian.

In his introduction to the special issue, Holdren states that the forthcoming publication is “as thorough a survey of energy and climate solutions as has yet been compiled.” Of the climate challenge, he writes:

“Without energy, there is no economy. Without climate, there is no environment. Without economy and environment, there is no material well-being, no civil society, no personal or national security. The overriding problem associated with these realities, of course, is that the world has long been getting most of the energy its economies need from fossil fuels whose emissions are imperiling the climate that its environment needs.”

Schelling, a leader in the study of climate change for over three decades, advances a new proposal for international coordination. Writing with reference to next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Schelling states,

“Among the ideas that I do not believe will get serious attention in Copenhagen is one I see as critical to addressing the climate challenge: creating a new institutional structure to coordinate assistance from advanced industrialized countries to developing countries with the objective of transforming the way that people in the developing world produce and utilize energy.”

Bonvillian’s essay, co-authored with Georgetown University’s Charles Weiss, summarizes and advances the core arguments presented in the authors’ MIT Press book titled Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution. Bonvillian and Weiss argue that the transformation of the energy technology infrastructure represents an unprecedented challenge for policy-makers as well as for technological innovators:

“Where complex technology sectors like energy are involved, we need to have Congress legislate standard packages of incentives and support across common technology launch areas, so that some technology neutrality is preserved and the optimal emerging technology has a chance to prevail.”

The Director of the MIT Press, Ellen Faran, states that “The Innovations special issue reflects the commitment of MIT and the MIT Press to promote innovative solutions to global issues and to encourage the widest dissemination of its scholarship.”

Sample articles from the issue follow below. Members of the media wishing to see an advance copy of the issue should contact: .



Bonvillain-Weiss: INNOV0404_bonvillian-weiss.pdf

Others wishing to receive this special issue upon publication are encouraged to subscribe to Innovations at:

New Article on the Potential Role of the World Heritage Convention and CC

FYI, a new publication analyzing the petitions to the World Heritage Committee by several NGOs, requesting that the Committee  list several World Heritage Convention sites as “in danger” under the Convention due to the threat of climate change:

William C.G. Burns, Belt and Suspenders? The World Heritage Convention’s Role in Confronting Climate Change, 18 Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 149-163 (2009).

Portfolio Approach to Climate Mitigation

Among the options being discussed in the swirl of negotiations to develop a post-2012 climate policy framework is the potential development of an international agreement based on a portfolio of domestic commitments, whereby nations would agree to honor GHG emissions reduction commitments established on their own domestic laws and regulations. Harvard Professor of Business and Government Robert Stavins has penned a brief article on the topic for the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements publication, Viewpoints.

Among the key points of the article are the following:

  • Domestic commitments portfolios establish agreements among a set of countries to confirm to mitigation commitments specified in domestic laws, regulations and planning documents;
  • Domestic commitments can take the form of specified greenhouse gas emission targets, or nationally-appropriate mitigation actions, the NAMAs provided for under the Bali Action Plan;
  • Portfolio agreements are well suited to furthering the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” as countries can make commitments “along a continuum of stringency, rather than dividing nations into two groups as did the Kyoto Protocol;”
  • Such an agreement could be in the form of a treaty, but given the difficulty of this approach, other instruments could be explored, e.g. congressional-executive and sole-executive agreements in the United States, both of which do not require Senate approval;
  • The portfolio approach has several advantages for future climate policymaking, including affording countries flexibility in implementing mitigation instruments they choose, or link or aggregate those instruments with domestic agreements of other countries; it could also facilitate country acceding to the commitments at various times. There is also some impetus for this approach, with Australia, India, and the U.S. expressing interest.

Hunter Lovins Call-in On Business and CC

Hunter Lovins
Natural Capitalism Solutions

“Business on Board”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Call-in time: 3:00 – 3:30 pm Eastern

Conference Call-in number: 1-712-432-3100
Access Code: 253385

Sustainability expert, Hunter Lovins, talks about why smart businesses are abandoning the Chamber of Commerce, why they are making the case for climate action, and whether business leadership will carry beyond Copenhagen.


Hunter Lovins is President and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions. NCS educates senior decision-makers in business, government and civil society to restore and enhance natural and human capital while increasing prosperity and quality of life. NCS also partners with leading thinkers and implementers to create tools and strategies that enable companies, communities and countries to become more sustainable. Trained as a sociologist and lawyer (JD), Hunter co-founded the California Conservation Project (Tree People), and the Rocky Mountain Institute, which she led for 20 years. Lovins has consulted for scores of industries and governments worldwide.  She is currently a founding Professor of Business at Presidio School of Management, one of the first accredited programs offering an MBA in Sustainable Management.
Visit our website to listen online or subscribe to the podcast. (Please allow 24 hrs for most current episode).

Call for Papers: Development and CC Ethics

This is a call for papers for a conference that the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University is organizing to be held at Penn State University on April 15 and 16, 2010 on “Integrating Development and Climate Change Ethics.”  Those interested in presenting a paper should submit an abstract and a two page CV by October 30, 2010. Because climate change can adversely affect the ability of human development prospects and climate change policies should take into account human development needs, there is a need to integrate climate change and human development ethics. This conference will explore the linkages between climate change ethics and human development ethics. For more information on the call for papers see:

For information on the conference see:

Donald A. Brown
Associate Professor Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law, Penn State University
Director Pennsylvania Environmental Research Consortium,
Director,Collaborative Program on Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change
201A Old Botany
University Park, Pa, 16802
717-802-1009 (cell); 814-865-3371 (office)

New Resources from Columbia Center for Climate Change Law

Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law has posted two new reference services on U.S. climate law:

Climate  Regulation Tracking Service – Links to final and proposed US EPA regulations on GHGs, including associated Federal Register notices, EPA responses to comments, regulatory impact analyses, etc.

Municipal Climate Change Laws Resource Center – Database of New York State municipal laws on green buildings, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

These two new services complement our existing services:

Climate Change Litigation Chart – Displays decided and pending proceedings in U.S. courts and administrative agencies; links to the actual decisions and to some pleadings

Climate Legislation Resource Center – Text of climate bills now pending in Congress; prior versions; database of rulemakings and other federal agency mandates in Waxman-Markey; links to hearings, markups, floor debates, commentaries, and other documents

All these services are frequently updated and can be accessed at this site:

If you would like to be added to the list to receive updates to the litigation chart and other services, please send an e-mail to . (I sent out the latest update on Friday, October 16 — if you didn’t receive the update, you are not on the list.)  Additional reference services are in preparation, so keep an eye on the web site. Thanks.


Michael B. Gerrard

Professor of Professional Practice
Director, Center for Climate Change Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027
(212) 854-3287

Senior Counsel
Arnold & Porter LLP
399 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10022
(212) 715-1190

New Journal: Weather, Climate, and Society

Dear colleagues,

let me make you aware of the new journal “Weather, Climate, and Society”– published by the American Meteorological Society.  The first issue will appear this month, and I cordially invite you to submit your manuscripts (details at

The explicit aim is to focus on the nexus of climate and weather, on the one hand, and society, on the other.  The journal is open to a wide range of submissions across the academic spectrum.  As an associate editor, I would be particularly glad to see submissions from the political science, international relations, public policy, economics, and related fields (see below).

If you have any questions, please contact me.  I reprint the announcement below.

Detlef Sprinz
Associated Editor, Weather, Climate, and Society

Weather, Climate, and Society

Vol. 1, 2009
Quarterly, first issue scheduled for Fall 2009

Weather, Climate, and Society, a quarterly journal of the American Meteorological Society, publishes scientific research and analysis on the interactions of weather and climate with society.  The journal encompasses economic, policy, institutional, social, behavioral, and international research, including mitigation and adaptation to weather and climate change.  Articles may focus on a broad range of topics at the interface of weather and/or climate and society, including the socioeconomic, policy, or technological influences on weather and climate, the socioeconomic or cultural impacts of weather and climate, ethics and equity issues associated with weather, climate, and society, and the historical and cultural contexts of weather, climate, and society.  Because of the interdisciplinary subject matter, articles that involve both natural/physical scientists and social scientists are particularly encouraged.

In the atmospheric and related sciences communities page charges, generally funded by grants, are a standard part of the publication process.  Together with subscriptions they comprise the bulk of the revenue used to pay for the production, composition, and publication costs.  We expect many of the authors of papers for Weather, Climate, and Society to be from the social and behavioral science communities.  AMS recognizes that many WCAS authors have no funding for the publication process; AMS will not expect these authors to pay page charges. If you are an author without publication funding support, we ask that you follow the instructions in the upload process for submitting a manuscript and applying for a waiver of the page charges. Note that waivers can be for part or all of the charges; if some authors have funding and some do not the charges can be split and partially waived.

The AMS is thrilled to be publishing Weather, Climate, and Society and welcomes your submission.


Detlef F. Sprinz, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Potsdam Institute
Scientific Committee, European Environment Agency

PIK – Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods (RD IV)
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam, Germany

Voice:  +49 (331) 288-2555/-2035 (secr.)
Fax:     +49  (331) 288-2037

New Report: Analysis of State Provisions of the Kerry-Boxer CC Bill

New from the Georgetown Climate Center:

  • The GCC has compiled a summary of state-related provisions in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (the “Kerry-Boxer” bill).