Fiddling as the World Burns: How Climate Change Urgently Requires a Paradigm Shift in the Permitting of Renewable Energy Projects

Jeff Thaler

University of Maine - School of Law

September 17, 2012

42 Environmental Law Journal 1101 (December 2012)

This article is among the first to integrate current climate change science, particularly ongoing impacts and predicted impacts, with a detailed roadmap for substantial reform of our environmental processes for reviewing proposed renewable energy projects. Most existing articles either focus only on climate science or on minor modifications to the regulatory system. Using offshore wind power as a case study, this article demonstrates how, in an increasingly carbon-constrained world, our existing environmental laws and regulatory process no longer achieve their underlying goals of long-term ecosystem conservation. To the contrary, that process is supporting a system with increasing greenhouse gas emissions that is annually costing trillions of dollars. We have little time left to create a practical path to achieving an eighty percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 — with failure resulting in average global temperatures rising more than the internationally-agreed ceiling of 2⁰ C. After examining the obstacles confronting a potential developer of offshore wind, this article clearly lays out why and how the existing regulatory process should be quickly reformed so that offshore wind and other clean renewable energy sources can help escape the escalating consequences of our carbon-intensive economic system.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 56

Keywords: climate change, offshore windpower, renewable energy, BOEM, greenhouse gas emissions, permitting, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, climate change justice, drought, sea level rise

JEL Classification: K32, K40, K41, L51, L98, N50, N70, O13, O14, O31, O32, O33, O38, Q20, Q28, Q40, Q42, Q48, R38, R52

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Date posted: September 18, 2012 ; Last revised: March 22, 2015

Suggested Citation

Thaler, Jeff, Fiddling as the World Burns: How Climate Change Urgently Requires a Paradigm Shift in the Permitting of Renewable Energy Projects (September 17, 2012). 42 Environmental Law Journal 1101 (December 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2148122

Contact Information

Jeffrey Thaler (Contact Author)
University of Maine - School of Law ( email )
246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States
HOME PAGE: http://mainelaw.maine.edu/faculty/profiles/adjunct/thaler.html
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