Ecology Law Currents is the online-only publication of Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation's most respected and widely read environmental law journals. Currents features short-form commentary and analysis on timely environmental law and policy issues.


To be notified when the latest Currents articles are published, subscribe to the Currents list serve by emailing here.


Ecology Law Currents accepts submissions on an ongoing basis. For more information, see our guidelines.

« Harnessing the Potential of the Clean Water Act to Address Ocean Acidification | Main | Avoiding Carbon Myopia: Three Considerations for Policy Makers Concerning Manmade Carbon Dioxide »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This article is helpful in delineating the two sides of the issue behind controlling greenhouse gases and why it is so hard to gain a consensus as to what steps should be taken to begin reducing emissions - both in the national and international arenas. After this most recent election, it will be interesting to see what actions will be taken against climate change and how such attempts will bridge the gap between the 'environmental' side and the 'economical' side, especially since the likelihood of a comprehensive climate change bill will be stalled at least for the next two years.

I was wondering if you or any other postee could comment further on what could be more economically viable. One side of the issue is which system reduces emissions more effectively, another issue is which system is more economical. The debate must take into consideration the various economic interests both domestically and internationally.

All in all, good counterargument!

Great article, Johnny. One thing I find interesting here is Williams and Zabel's choice of medium. We have two attorneys advocating a policy position using a toolset that I don't think we are encouraged to use as legal advocates - and it is pretty effective.

I can imagine that making a video like this could even be useful in a litigation context. Courts certainly seem to be sensitive to public opinion, and an effective advocate in a high profile trial would certainly be wise to try to shape the public debate.

So much of our training is in writing briefs and memos and articles. I wonder if we would be well served as law students if we were introduced to a wider set of tools!

The author notes: “Perhaps the solution is better implementation and enforcement of the mechanics of the cap-and-trade system rather than simply discarding it. Better formulae, methodologies, and effective monitoring can lead to better solutions.

This is an important insight, but one which may prove unmanageably difficult to put into practice.

For example, in his analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill (see, Michael Wara notes that the bill “depends very heavily on the provision of unprecedented numbers of offsets from both domestic and international programs for cost containment” and simultaneously mandates that these offsets “meet exacting environmental standards.” This may sound like a good thing, but effective implementation and enforcement based on a complex and expensive offset monitoring system become paramount to the overall success of the cap-and-trade program, and it is not at all clear that we are capable of running such a system.

To understand the problems that could potentially affect the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade proposal if it were enacted, Wara examines the “only existing compliance grade carbon offset market, the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)” and finds that it’s offset program has been plagued by difficulties. Accurately assessing the additionality of offset projects is a major problem. The complex regulatory system developed to deal with maintaining the “environmental integrity” of offsets has resulted in a long process of application and verification before the offset credits become available. There is a veritable log-jam of projects waiting for individual auditing to take place, and in the meantime those potential offset credits remain unavailable, leading to uncertainty for the companies wanting to claim them. The Waxman-Markey bill proposes a similar system but on a much larger scale.

Implementation and enforcement are indeed key, but we may not be capable of simultaneously ensuring the environmental integrity of offsets and streamlining the process of acquiring credits for them such that offsets actually end up serving the function they are meant to in a Waxman-Markey style plan.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)