GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: Science, Law, Economics, and Social Policy
Professor Howard Latin
Spring Semester 2013, Tuesdays and
Thursdays, 2:30 PM to 3:45 PM
First Class will be held on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
The class will meet in Room 292 of the Law School
The grade for this course will require writing a paper sufficient to meet the Rutgers Law School Writing Requirement (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 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 if you are unclear about the meaning of some of the terms in the climate change literature.
Metz, Controlling Climate Change
(Cambridge University Press, 2010). Dr. Metz decided to distribute
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 associations working on climate change issues.
CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY FAILURES: Why Conventional Mitigation Approaches Cannot
Scientific Publishing: Singapore, May 2012). This book will cost $22.50 if purchased from the publisher's web site or about $23.00 if bought
at www.amazon.com. Professor Latin will not be making any royalties from sales of this book, and instead has asked the publisher for extra
copies to help disseminate his views. Here is the URL for the publisher's web site:
2013 CLASS ASSIGNMENTS
Tuesday, January 17th, and Thursday, January 19th: Introduction to Climate Change Science and Related Harms
Download and read theMetz book, pp. 1-49. Most of this course will be devoted to political, legal, and economic issues,
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 aglossary and description of relevant climate issues published by the WorldWatch Institute.
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.
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:
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:
In addition to this list of potential alternative technologies, here is a list from one of the fliers for my climate change book:
Plasma Arc Gasification
Off-Shore Wind Energy
On-Shore Wind Energy
Several Forms of On-Grid and Off-Grid Solar Power
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Tuesday, April 9th, and Thursday, April 11h: REDD+ and Deforestation
REDD+ is a UN and multilateral program
to "reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation." The +
an attempt by UN policymakers and representatives from quite a few participating nations to include sustainable development
assistance in the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation. The first entry in the handout for
this week presents a REDD+ overview combining several UNEP online files. The next three files indicate some of the many
difficult issues and conflicts that appear to be inherent in the REDD+ negotiations and implementation processes. And the last
two files in the handout discuss the possible future of negotiations on REDD+ programs and funding.
Tuesday, April 16th, and Thursday, April 18th: Adaptation
We will be discussing Adaptation
Problems and Practices as they apply both to people in the United States and as
to people in developing countries. One of the questions to keep in mind is whether adaptation can really succeed in the
absence of effective climate change mitigation measures. Here is the link to the handout for this week's materials.
Tuesday, April 23d, and Thursday, April 25th: EPA Regulation of GHGs
EPA's promulgated and proposed
greenhouse gas regulations are extremely complicated and in my opinion are
likely to be
grossly ineffective. Some of the reasons for the lack of suitable, stringent GHG regulations come from EPA's complete
reliance on the existing Clean Air Act regulatory provisions governing other air pollutants. The handout materials are
simplifications of the application of CAA rules to GHG problems, but even simplifications can be complex. Therefore I
expect students to read the materials in this relatively short handout carefully, and probably multiple times.