GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: Science, Law, Economics, and Social Policy

                                                                             Professor Howard Latin

Spring Semester 2014, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30 PM to 3:45 PM.  The classroom for this
course is room 203 at the
Law School.  If you have any questions that cannot wait until the first
class, email Professor Latin at   hlatin@kinoy.rutgers.edu


                                     

 

          Instead of using an expensive casebook that may not be frequently updated, I have developed my own set of climate change materials,
          including a wide range of scientific findings and policy proposals that can be downloaded from this website page. Students who do not
          have their own computers can use the machines in the Law School's computer lab to retrieve the assigned materials.


          I am leaving the Spring 2013 assignments on this web page to serve as a general syllabus describing most climate change topics we are
          likely to cover this semester.  There are many vital concepts and basic treatments that must be addressed every year. Yet, there are also
          many controversial topics and research findings that are changing quite rapidly. 

    The grade for this course will require writing a paper sufficient to meet the Rutgers Law School Writing Requirement (25 pages + notes,
    even if the student has previously met this requirement in another course).  Or students can take a one-day take-home exam, which means
    the exam must be picked up by 4:00 PM of the day before the assigned exam date for the course and then turned in by 4:00 PM on the assigned
    day.  I would prefer that students write papers with my approval of the topics, and there are a great many possible dimensions of climate change
    to explore that can serve as the basis for papers.  But students can choose the take-home exam instead with no prejudice to the grade they receive.

    The weekly assignments will be posted below.  In addition to the assigned books, there will be many free materials that should be downloaded
    through the links included on this assignment page.  The problem is not to find enough materials on global climate change and global warming,
    but rather to reduce the avalanche of relevant publications to a manageable amount.  It may be helpful to refer to this glossary, which was compiled
   by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest and most prestigious association of climate scientists, if you are unclear
    about the meaning of some of the basic terms in the climate change literature.

 

    Required Textbooks:


    Dr. Bert Metz, Controlling Climate Change (
Cambridge University Press, 2010).  Dr. Metz decided to distribute this book
    without charge with his publisher's agreement, and you will be able to download a free copy in the first week's assignment.  Dr. Metz has
    long been a leading member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest and among the most prestigious
    international scientific association working on climate change issues. 

 

    Howard A. Latin, CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY FAILURES: Why Conventional Mitigation Approaches Cannot Succeed
  
(World Scientific Publishing:
Singapore, May 2012).  This book will cost around $25.00 or less if purchased from www.amazon.com.
    Professor Latin will not be earning any royalties from sales of this book, and instead has asked the publisher for extra copies to
    help disseminate his views on climate change policies.  


                                                    CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

 

    Tuesday, January 14th, and Thursday, January 16th:  Introduction to Climate Change Science and Related Harms

          Download and read the Metz book, pp. 1-49.  Most of this course will be devoted to political, legal, and economic issues,
          but a reasonably clear understanding of the scientific concepts, characteristics, and risks associated with global climate
          change is necessary for thoughtful policy-oriented assessments.  The early chapters of the Metz book are mostly science
          with some climate-policy projections. The
Metz book is about 23MB, so you may need to put it on a flash drive or print
          out the assigned pages as we reach them.


             

          Here is the most recent, Dec. 2013, version of the Keeling Curve, which shows the progressive growth of the carbon dioxide
          level in the atmosphere.  The concentration of CO2 recently passed 400 parts per million of air for the first time in millions
          of years, which is firmly on the road to climate disaster.

    The URL for the current version of the Keeling curve is: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/webdata/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.pdf
    Note the URL places that seem to have empty spaces are actually underscores (_).  You do not need to download this chart,
    because it is exactly the same as the graph above, unless you want to obtain the footnotes for some reason.


    This curve shows the gradual but steady increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is the most
    crucial factor in the continuing expansion of global climate change risks.  The annual variation (the yearly squiggle) in this curve
    reflects the tendency of vegetation to absorb CO2 during the spring and summer growing seasons and to release CO2 during the
    fall and winter seasons. 

    You should also download a glossary and description of relevant climate issues published by the WorldWatch Institute.  Read
    the short glossary and compare it to the IPCC glossary available through the link a few paragraphs above, and then look at the
   rather brief descriptions of diverse climate-policy issues in the WWI publication.


Tuesday, January 21st, and Thursday, January 23d:  Introduction to Climate Change Science and Related Harms 2

We will continue discussing the Metz book up to page 49.  In the Latin book, read the first one-and-a-half pages and also read
    pp. 46-53.
 

I have also added an excerpt from an article I have been writing about the reprecussions of climate change for India and the
dubious climate policies the Indian government has adopted to this date.  I removed the annotations from this excerpt, but I
can provide a more extensive copy including the notes for anyone who is interested in reading it.  Just ask me. 

 

Tuesday, January 28th & Thursday, January 30th:  Emissions-Reduction Programs

     We will spend a few minutes discussing the excerpts from my India article, in last week’s handout.  Then we will shift
    to a discussion of the conventional or “consensus” mitigation approaches implemented or proposed during the past
    two decades.  Please read pp. 1-17 & 19-53 in my book, Climate Change Policy Failures.

 

     Tuesday, February 4th & Thursday, February 6th:  Environmental Economics

We will start this discussion of relevant economics concepts with a simplified description of basic market characteristics
and imperfections.  After a week, or possibly two, devoted to environmental market imperfections, we will shift to a
discussion of economic incentive programs, including cap-and-trade, GHG offsets, and carbon taxes. The first handout
presents a number of short essays featuring economic concepts and materials on energy market imperfections that often
prevent efficient market choices in environmental contexts.

 

     Tuesday, February 11th & Thursday, February 13th:  Environmental Economics Continued

            We will continue our discussion of basic environmental economics concepts, advantages, and weaknesses.  Please pay particular
          attention to my essay (in last week's handout) on the major difficulties of "putting a price on carbon."

On Thursday, we will begin our discussion of economic incentives programs, evaluating first the theoretical and later the practical
properties of cap-and-trade mechanisms. Download and read the few assigned essays on cap-and-trade and also read pp. 55-75 in
my book. 

 

Tuesday, February 18th & Thursday, February 20th:  Economic Incentive Programs

After reading my excerpt on problems with “putting a price on carbon,” which is the last essay in the “first handout” as above,
please d
ownload and read the few assigned essays on cap-and-trade and also read pp. 55-75 in my book. 

 

   Tuesday, February 25th & Thursday, February 27th: Carbon Offsets and Taxes

For discussions of offset programs, read pp. 75-91 in my book and download the relatively short handout on the CDM
international offset program.  For discussions of various carbon tax schemes, begin by reading pp. 91-108, and 170-176 in
my book, and pp. 92-93, 292-293, 306 in Dr. Metz's book. Also read the short handout presenting the perspectives of people
who favor carbon taxes in preference to cap-and-trade schemes.  The Freidman essay is the same as assigned two weeks ago.

We will spend part of Thursday and perhaps part of the following Tuesday comparing these three economic incentive
 instruments (cap-and-trade, offsets & carbon tax) in terms of their advantages and weaknesses.



Tuesday, March 4th, Thursday, March 6th, and Friday, March 7th:  EPA Regulation of GHG Sources

Section 1 of my Symposium article, which was distributed in class, is a summary of the first two chapters in my book.  If you
 have any questions about this material, please ask.  Otherwise, we’ll move on the discuss the fuel-efficiency initiative and the
 2012 and 2013 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new fossil fuel-burning power plants.  I hope to finish this
 critique and to discuss the decarbonization approach in the last section of the article by the end of Thursday.

I am now working on an article that takes the the criticisms of EPA’s proposed NSPS and uses Administrative incentives and
disincentives to explain why EPA has adopted a number of positions that are incompatible with effective climate change mitigation.
I’ll hand out some materials relevant to the incentives/disincentives issue on Tuesday.

 

Tuesday, March 11th, Thursday, March 13th:  Introduction to Distributional Equity

We will devote Tuesday to discussing the prospects and perils of decarbonization.  Read the remainder of my Symposium article
 and pp. 162-189 of my book.

On Thursday we will begin our discussion of claims pertaining to distributional equity in conjunction with climate change dangers.
 Read the download and also pp. 109-138 in my book.

 

Tuesday, March 25th & Thursday, March 27th:  Equity and International Negotiations.

 Read Chapter 4 in my book and Chapter 12 in Dr. Metz’s book.  Reread the essay from the previous handout on assigning nations
 the historical responsibility for climate change conditions and also download http://ecovitality.org/climatefiles/recentconferences.zip,
 which offers the opinions of some observers on the results of recent conferences held under the auspices of the UN Framework
 Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

           In considering this material, pay particular attention to the gaps between perceived national interests and international perspectives.

 

      Tuesday, April 1st & Thursday, April 3d: Adaptation

    
Adaptation is a general policy that focuses on changing human behavioral patterns in response to increasing climate change risks.
     There may be a great many forms of adaptation necessary to protect or preserve human opportunities and habitats despite the
     increasing risks from global warming and climate change.  The related handout may be downloaded here.

 

    Tuesday, April 8th & Thursday, April 10th: Institutions and Instruments

  We will continue our periodic discussions of which climate change institutions and policy instruments will potentially be
   effective, ineffective. or
essential.  In addition to the three articles in the handout for this week, please read pp. 332(middle)
   to 335(m) in the
Metz book and reread the insurance article in the previous handout.

 

   Tuesday April 15th, Thursday, April 17th, & Saturday, April 19th:  Forests & REDD+

   Protecting the world’s forests, especially high-biodiversity forests in tropical countries, is a very complicated, multi-dimensional
   process that has been far from clearly successful.  The handout materials describe the U.N.’s REDD+ program that originally
   intended to create incentives to reduce deforestation and forest degradation as a means to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from
   damaged forests. However, this program has also been converted into a sustainable (?) development initiative to help the nations
   and the local communities that control forests in developing regions.  The harmonization of CO2 emissions reduction, biodiversity
   preservation, and sustainable development policies has not been satisfactorily accomplished thus far.

   The handout also has some material on the
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and private attempts to conserve forest resources
   by enlisting market forces.

   

   Tuesday April 22d & Thursday, April 24th:  FSC and Forest Certification Approaches

   On Tuesday we will discuss the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) material included in last week’s download, and generally
   whether market-based conservation programs are likely to succeed or fail.

    On Thursday, we will hold a review session for the course that will be entirely dependent on questions presented by the
    students in the class.  Please review your notes and materials, and then prepare a list of the questions you wish to ask.

 

 

 

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    ***************************Previous assignments from 2013*****************************************
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Tuesday, January 22d, and Thursday, January 24th:  Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation, and Ethics

As noted in Professor Latin's book, "Recent research on climate change risks supports predictions of sea level rises,
torrential rains and flooding, water scarcity and droughts, crop failures and famines, melting glaciers and ice sheets,
severe heatwaves and wildfires, stronger hurricanes and extreme weather conditions, innumerable species extinctions,
spreading tropical diseases, and other looming catastrophes."  For example, the recent storm "Sandy" has produced
about $50 billion in losses, and that figure is still growing as rebuilding continues. The many dangers and risks from
climate change are the result of a wide variety of ecological and physical alterations that are coming from continuing
increases in the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs).

There is a close connection between mitigation and adaptation of climate change dangers, especially for poor people in
developing nations, ethical versus economic perspectives, and both national law and international law principles.  Here
are the materials for this week.

I have added an excerpt from an article I am now writing about the reprecussions of climate change for India and the
dubious climate policies the Indian government has adopted to this date.  I removed the annotations from this excerpt,
but I can provide a more extensive copy including the notes for anyone who is interested in reading it.  Just ask me. 

 

Tuesday, January 29th, and Thursday, January 31st:  GHG Emissions-Reduction Programs and Targets 

Casually read the Introduction to Professor Latin's book, pp. 1-17, focusing on the conventionality of all of the
greenhouse gas emissions-reduction programs described and their target reductions over time.  Then read the
second chapter, pp. 19-53, much more carefully because this material describes why none of the consensus
multi-decade emissions-reduction programs can succeed in overcoming or curtailing climate change hazards.

Also, look at the 350.ORG web site and read the questions and answers on the right side of the home page:

     Understanding 350 - Frequently Asked Questions

     Do you agree with Professor Latin's assessment of the 350 ppm target in the last subsection of Chapter II, or with
    the 350.Org web site's idealistic positions and prescriptions?  Is there much difference between these analyses?

 

    Tuesday, February 5th, and Thursday, February 7th:  Temperature Variations and Tipping Points

    We will discuss the recent shift in mitigation targets from the atmospheric GHG concentration to the atmospheric
    mean (average) temperature, with the expressed goal of restricting further temperature increases to no more than
    about two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times or a little more than one degree C above current mean world
    temperatures.  Read Latin pp. 46-52 and Metz pp. 51-58(M) on attempts to limit global warming temperature
    increases to two degrees Celsius.

    For those of you who cannot convert Celsius to Fahrenheit degrees, here is a convenient table:  -30C=-22F, -20C=-4F,
    -10C=14F, 0C=32F, 10C=50F, 20C=68F, 30C=86F, 40C=104F, 50C=122F.  Essentially, each increase of one degree
    Celsius is equal to one & eight-tenths Fahrenheit degrees (1C=1.8F).

    Tipping points represent climate conditions that may cause irreversible disasters, which could include mean temperature
    increases and their harmful results, such as sea level rises, melting glaciers, and species extinctions.  Here are a few
    short pieces on potential tipping points.

    Because the class discussion began to focus on the clean technologies that could replace fossil fuel combustion and other
    harmful processes, I have included a list of emerging energy technologies that is not complete.  We will continue this
    discussion later in the semester:

 

IRENA-IEA-ETSAP Technology Briefs

This set of 10 technology briefs provides technical background information, analyses the market potential and barriers, and provides insights for

policy makers on key types of renewable energy technology. The complete set, produced by IRENA in collaboration with the International Energy

Agency’s Energy Technology Systems Analysis Programme (IEA-ETSAP), covers 10 different technologies or processes. Each brief can be

downloaded here:

 

 No.

 Title

1. 

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

2. 

Solar Photovoltaics

3. 

Heat Pumps

4. 

Thermal Storage

5. 

Electricity Storage

6. 

Biomass Co-firing

7. 

Bio-methanol Production

8. 

Desalination Using Renewable Energy

9. 

Bio-ethylene Production

10. 

Liquid Biofuel Production

    In addition to this list of potential alternative technologies, here is a list from one of the fliers for my climate change book:

    Fusion
    Plasma Arc Gasification
    Off-Shore Wind Energy
    On-Shore Wind Energy
    Several Forms of On-Grid and Off-Grid Solar Power
    Tidal Power
    Wave Power 
    Geothermal Energy
    Algae-Based Geofuels
    Hydrogen Fuel Cells
    Thorium Fuels & Nuclear Energy
 

Tuesday, February 12th, and Thursday, February 14th: Environmental Economics

We will start this discussion of climate change and relevant economics concepts with a discussion of basic market
characteristics and imperfections.  This focus may require a second week, or perhaps not.  Then we will turn to
economic incentive programs, including cap-and-trade, GHG offsets, and carbon taxes.  The first handout  presents
a number of basic economic concepts and also materials on market imperfections that often prevent efficient market
choices in environmental contexts.

 

Tuesday, February 19th, and Thursday, February 21st: Environmental Economics Continued

On Tuesday, we will continue our discussion of basic environmental economics advantages and weaknesses.  Please
pay particular attention to my essay (in last week's handout) on the major difficulties of "putting a price on carbon."

On Thursday, we will begin our discussion of economic incentives programs, evaluating first the theoretical and practical
properties of cap-and-trade mechanisms. Download and read the few assigned essays on cap-and-trade and also read
pp. 55-75 in my book. 

 

Tuesday, February 26th, and Thursday, February 28th:   Cap-and-Trade Mechanisms

Before reading the CAT materials assigned for last Thursday, please download and read the fairly comprehensive article
on CAT design by Robert Stavins of Harvard's Kennedy School.  Then read the previously assigned materials starting
with the Keohane essay emphasizing the benefits of CAT schemes (with the Stavins piece).  We will discuss those benefits
on Tuesday, and then on Thursday we will discuss the weaknesses of CAT approaches. For Thursday, read the pages in my
book assigned last week and the remainder of the previous handout.


Tuesday, March 5th, and Thursday, March 7th:  CAT systems and Offset Programs

We will devote the first half of Tuesday's class to finishing our discussion of cap-and-trade.  The remainder of the week will
involve considering various offset programs that may supplement cap-and-trade mechanisms or that may serve as replacements
for some regulatory GHG emissions-reduction requirements.  Read pp. 75-91 in my book and download the relatively short
handout on the CDM international offset program.

 

Tuesday, March 12th, and Thursday, March 14th:  Carbon Taxes and Similar Insturments

We will be examining different kinds of carbon taxes, along with their comparative strengths and weaknesses.  Please
begin by reading pp. 91-108, and 170-176 in my book, and pp. 92-93, 292-293, 306 in Dr. Metz's book.  We will also
have a short handout presenting the perspectives of people who favor carbon taxes or who favor cap-and-trade schemes.

 

Tuesday, March 26th, and Thursday, March 28th:  International Climate Negotiations

In addition to reading Chapter 4 in my book and Chapter 12 in Dr. Metz's book, I'm including a short handout that identifies
the perceived national interests and related climate policies of the North and South blocs (developed and developing nations).
The handout contains a summary outline of conflicting national perspectives and goals, a couple of NY Times articles on
China's positions, and a preliminary version of a longer article on India's policies written by me.  Comments on the India
essay would be especially welcome because it is still a work in progress.

 

Tuesday, April 2d, and Thursday, April 4th:  Ethical Perspectives on Climate Change Mitigation

There are many competing positions on environmental ethics in the climate change literature.  The handout for this week
presents only a few treatments out of the hundreds in my files and the thousands that have been published by authors
with markedly different perspectives and priorities.  To some extent, ethics issues have already been introduced in our
discussion of international climate negotiations.