Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Gregg Macey, Brooklyn Law School

David Hess delves into the politics and economics of the transition towards green energy and the development of a green workforce in the U.S.

Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy: Making and Keeping New Industries in the United States, by David Hess, The MIT Press, 2012, 304 pp.

In Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy (MIT Press, 2012), David Hess moves beyond the stale dichotomies of climate change response, such as mitigation vs. adaptation and market- vs. standards-based policies. The 111th Congress was our most dramatic attempt to enact a market-based solution to climate change. In the wake of H.R. 2454, S. 1733, and other dead bills, the Obama administration marshaled its existing executive authority, such as section 111 of the Clean Air Act, to adopt performance standards for stationary sources of carbon emissions. Hess offers a more nuanced approach to the congressional term and its crisis of leadership. He views it as a moment along a broader transition from a carbon-based economy. Good Green Jobs examines the unevenness of this “green transition,” how it leads to weaknesses in our industrial policy, and the prospects for bending the direction that the transition will take.

As a sociologist, Hess explores the transition with tools that are familiar to students of social movement theory: cultural frames, resource mobilization, and political opportunities. His past works share a concern for political opportunity structures used by locally owned organizations (Localist Movements in a Global Economy) and civil society groups aligned against harmful or risky technologies (Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry).  Good Green Jobs continues this focus, and at a particular level of analysis: social fields, and the definitional and object conflicts that happen within them. With qualitative data (interviews, observation of conference meetings, and surveys of industry reports) and statistical modeling (to explain variation in green transition policies), Hess locates the battle against climate change in cultural shifts at different levels of governance. These changes underlie the birth of a “developmentalist” ideology, which defends domestic industry through a mix of industrial policy and the remedy of unfair trade practices. This is the landscape in which our response to climate change takes shape.

Approaching climate change as a social movement challenge rather than a generic collective action problem yields substantial insights. Hess’s distinct form of field analysis isolates the “political ideologies associated with different types of policy interventions.” Change occurs at different scales (“organizational and urban scale to national or international”) in a social field, and by focusing on institutional change, Hess pivots from sociology’s preoccupation with how fields are reproduced. Hess uses these innovations to offer a roadmap for reform. He explains the green energy transition as an uneven selection of “demand” (e.g., cap-and-trade, renewable electricity standards) and “supply” (e.g., research and development, tax credits and subsidies, regional cluster development) policies. He surveys the role of coalitions in framing green development in each policy field, robust descriptive work that reveals constituencies that promote supply and regional demand policies, such as those found in California’s AB 32. He finds important variation across policy fields and scales of governance. The result is an account of the green transition’s political opportunity structures, and our slow, yet surprisingly robust transition from a carbon-based economy. Hess also suggests that we have entered a new generation of environmental policy, where sustainability and developmentalist design tools will predominate instead of market, command, or informational approaches. His multilevel study of policy fields, their shaping by localist and regional efforts, and the impact of systemic shocks such as funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, explodes the usual boundaries of environmental federalism. Stale fights over the benefits of state versus federal regulation, at times waged with little analytic backing, would benefit from Hess’s urgent and more complete analysis.

Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Sharmila L. Murthy, Suffolk University Law School

Christina Leb stresses the need for international cooperation when it comes to transboundary water systems, particularly in respect to international water law and resource management.

Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, by Christina Leb, Cambridge University Press, 2012, 363 pp.

In her book on the Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, Christina Leb makes a strong case for the heightened importance of the duty to cooperate within international water law.  She methodically and carefully illustrates how the duties and obligations associated with cooperation on transboundary water resources have become more robust over time, which reflects broader trends within the fields of public international law and international relations.  The duty to cooperate was not explicitly recognized by early texts that sought to codify international water law, but, for example, by the time the UN Watercourses Convention was drafted, it was described as a “general principle.”  Leb further builds her case by explaining how it is misleading to conceive of the general duty to cooperate as merely a “procedural” obligation, rather than also considering the interrelated “substantive” aspects. (p.114)  Drawing on real-world examples, she links the substantive and procedural content together to consider specific cooperation obligations, such as the regular exchange of data and information.

In an understated way characteristic of her style, Leb argues that the duty of cooperation is now on par with the two seminal principles of international water law, namely “equitable utilization” and “the obligation not to cause significant harm,” which Leb describes as “the principle of good neighborliness.”  She illustrates how these principles, along with the duty to cooperate, “interact, overlap and mutually support on another as general principles of international water law” and thus, should be understood as a “triangle of cornerstone principles.” (p.105)  Drawing on a textual analysis of over 200 bilateral and multi-lateral treaties concerning transboundary water resources as well as key judicial decisions, she supports this argument through examples of state cooperation, such as via negotiations, consultations, planning and joint management (see Chapters 4 and 5).

The book also delves into another fascinating area of the law, namely the intersection of transboundary water law and human rights law.  In Chapter 6, Leb considers the relationship between the obligation of “vital human needs” as set forth in the UN Watercourses Convention with recent recognition of a human right to water by the United Nations, which derives from existing treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Leb tackles one of the more controversial aspects of this newly recognized human right by considering the degree to which there are associated extraterritorial obligations.  Under the existing human rights framework, states have obligations to individuals within their boundaries, but not to individuals living in other states.  Leb suggests that a provision in the UN Watercourses Convention relating to non-discrimination with regard to access to justice could be complementary to human rights law and provide a way of expanding transboundary water obligations with respect to vital human needs.

Leb’s book offers a thorough analysis of the increasingly important role the duty to cooperate plays in international water law.  While the topics she addresses will be relevant to anyone interested in questions of transboundary water governance, the style of writing and approach will make it most interesting and accessible to legal scholars.

Nov 5 2013


Reviewed by Nicholas A. Ashford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this book, eleven prominent climate change authorities discuss the moral, legal and political implications of imposed climate-modifying geoengineering projects.

Climate Change Geoengineering: Philosophical Perspectives, Legal Issues, Governance Frameworks, edited by Wil C. G. Burns and Andrew L. Strauss, Cambridge University Press, 2013, 328 pp.

This book is an apology for addressing global climate change through the application of geo-engineering (GE) which encompasses injection of reflective sulfate particles into the air and seeding the ocean with iron.  The ethical implications of CE are addressed but most of the book is relegated to examining the technical, economic, legal, and political implications of its adoption – including challenges posed by nations taking unilateral action. Many of the essays in this multi-authored book argue that we have made little progress on reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) – because of the large economic costs and lack of a collective world agreement – and that the imperative of a worsening global climate leaves us little choice but to undertake the R&D necessary to develop CE, which some of the authors of the chapters consider inevitable.  While the need to clarify and assess the side effects of CE is acknowledged, perhaps too much optimism – and too little technological and legal uncertainty – about their management is voiced and in some cases defended on cost-benefit grounds.  While the difficulties of getting a global agreement on reducing GHGs are discussed, a close reading of the book reveals equivalent, if not greater difficulties in addressing the legal barriers to CE.

What is sorely missing from the book is an acknowledgement that since the economic meltdown of 2008, industrial activity and emissions have in fact slowed and some progress has been made in global-climate policy alliances of western North-American states/provinces and some European countries, and the beginnings of GHG legal regulation are in process by the US EPA. The historic large rate of economic growth of the industrial nations is no longer assured as a result of the financial crisis. Meeting voluntary GHG reduction targets may now be more easily realized, not because of technological progress or political commitment, but because the developed world’s high throughput economic system may be reaching its systemic and economic limits.  Further, should the real costs of global climate disruption begin to be increasingly fully realized in terms of agricultural disruption, coastal destruction, and weather-related disasters, the economic futility of reducing nations’ dependence on energy-intensive activities may also be waning.  Cultural shifts in patterns of consumption, decreasing disposable income by many, cutbacks in industrial production, and an environmental awakening may well counter the arguments that we have no choice but to develop GE. The book makes an important contribution to policy discussions about CE, but its underlying premise that CE is inevitable and probably good is questionable.

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