On Friday April 11 I spoke at a conference on “Global Environmental Constitutionalism” at Widener University School of Law. The conference included a terrific group of global scholars, including presentations made over Skype by professors in South Africa and the Galapagos. I spoke on “Executive Power to Respond to Climate Change in an Era of Globalization and Divided Government.” I compared President Obama’s efforts to respond to climate change in the face of congressional gridlock with initiatives by the Chinese government and efforts by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to roll back measures to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The conference highlighted the work of Widener professors Jim May and Erin Daly who are publishing a book on Global Environmental Constitutionalism with Cambridge University Press in September.
Last week in Berlin the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the report of its Third Workgroup on Mitigation of Climate Change as part of the Fifth Assessment process that will produce a new Synthesis Report in October 2014. The report found that GHG emissions increased faster during the decade of 2000-2010 than in any of the previous three decades. While finding that it is still possible to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the panel concluded that this would require a 40-70% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 and a reduction to near zero by 2100. The report notes that improvements in energy efficient technologies are making it cheaper to reduce GHG emissions.
On April 11 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved the restart of nuclear power plants shut down in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Prior to the disaster nuclear power accounted for nearly a third of Japan’s electrical generating capacity. Many believe that no more than 40% of the reactors shut down in the wake of the accident will ever be restarted, but the nuclear restart should help reduce the country’s increasing reliance on imported fossil fuels, which eliminated the country’s current account surplus.
A leak of crude oil from a pipeline in Lanzhou, capital of China’s Gansu province, contaminated the water supply for 2.4 million people. The pipeline was owned by a local unit of China National Petroleum Corporation. Benzene levels in the water supply were measured at 200 micrograms per liter, twenty times the national limit. Brian Spegele, China Water Supply Tainted, Wall St. J., April 14, 2014, at A12.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to treat electronic cigarettes as tobacco products under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). At a meeting preparing the agenda for the annual meeting of the parties to the FCTC the WHO took the position that e-cigarette use “renormalises” tobacco use and “could result in a new wave of the tobacco epidemic.” The agency took the position that if the products contain nicotine derived from tobacco leaves they should face the same restrictions on advertising and public use, and large excise duties applicable to other tobacco products. The U.S. is one of the few developed countries that has failed to ratify the FCTC. Duncan Robinson & Shannon Bond, E-Cigarettes Face Same Rules as Tobacco Under WHO Proposals, Financial Times, April 14, 2014, at 1.
Today President Jay Perman of the University of Maryland Baltimore announced that Professor Donald Tobin from Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law has been appointed the new dean of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. In his statement accepting the appointment, dean-designate Tobin cited Maryland’ environmental law program as one of the strengths of the school. His appointment was truly a consensus decision that has united the entire Maryland community.
Students in my Global Environmental Law seminar have completed blog posts concerning the research they have been conducting. Starting tomorrow I will be posting them daily in the “Students” section of my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com.