Climate change will have a profound effect on humans and our environment. Recognizing this, federal agencies have begun to incorporate a more detailed discussion of climate change considerations into the Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) that they prepare for major federal actions, such as the approval of resource management plans and public infrastructure projects, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has also issued draft guidance on how agencies should evaluate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change effects in NEPA reviews.
To provide insight into how federal agencies are accounting for climate change in the environmental review process, the Sabin Center conducted a survey of federal EISs published from July 2012 through December 2014. First, we divided the EISs into twelve project categories: electric generation; electric transmission; fossil fuel development; mining; forestry; parks and wildlife; other land management; marine management; public works; transportation; buildings and real estate; and military, space and government research. We then evaluated whether the EISs discussed ten topics related to climate change (all emissions refer to GHG emissions):
(1) Direct operational emissions
(2) Emissions from construction
(3) Emissions from induced trips
(4) Emissions from purchased electricity
(5) Other emissions
(6) Comparison of emissions from alternatives;
(7) Impact of climate change on the proposed action
(8) Impact of climate change on water resources;
(9) Energy efficiency
(10) Water efficiency.
This survey is a follow-up to a prior assessment of climate change considerations in EISs published from January 2009 through July 2012, which found that most federal agencies addressed climate change to some extent in EISs, but that the specific impacts considered and methodology used to evaluate those impacts varied greatly between agencies. Excel databases with the results from both surveys are available on our website.
Environmental Law | Law
Jessica A. Wentz, Grant Glovin & Adrian Ang,
Survey of Climate Change Considerations in Federal Environmental Impact Statements, 2012-2014,
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, February 2016
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/sabin_climate_change/15