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Rachel Cleetus

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About the author: Rachel Cleetus is an expert on the design and economic evaluation of climate and energy policies, as well as the costs of climate change. She holds a Ph.D. in economics. See Rachel's full bio.

2015 Wildfire Season in Oregon: Dangerously High Risks Underscore Need for Action on Climate Change

Like much of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon is facing the risk of a bad wildfire season this summer. With 86 percent of the state in drought and 34 percent experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions, Governor Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency for 15 counties. The state’s May water supply outlook predicts that, with sixty percent of the monitoring sites setting records for the lowest peak snowpack levels in 30 years, it is likely that there will be water shortages this summer. Capping carbon emissions, as proposed in HB 3470, is an important contribution Oregon can make toward limiting future climate risks, including from drought and wildfires. Read More

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Sea Level Rise, Growing Flood Risks, and the Need for a Strong Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

On January 30, 2015, President Obama issued an executive order to strengthen the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) and create an extensive stakeholder process for implementing it. Tomorrow is the comment deadline for the implementation guidelines proposed by FEMA and UCS has weighed in with support for a strong FFRMS. Read More

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How to Cut Carbon and Save Money: RGGI Delivers Yet Again

Yesterday the nine states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) released a report that highlights the continuing success of the nation’s longest-running carbon market. The big takeaway: yes, it is possible to tackle our climate and energy challenges while delivering huge benefits to consumers! Read More

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U.S. Can Lead on Global Climate Action: Clean Power Plan Is a Linchpin

Today we are expecting the U.S. to make public its proposed contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change as part of the UNFCCC process. This announcement will come in the form of the so-called U.S. ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ or INDC. The Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants is a critical element of the emissions reductions that the U.S. can make by 2025. Read More

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Will the Clean Power Plan Enable a Risky Over-dependence on Natural Gas?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a significant opportunity to accelerate a transition to a cleaner, more climate-friendly power system. But the final rule, due out this summer, must include improvements and safeguards that constrain the role of natural gas. The Natural Gas Gamble, a new UCS report released today, points out that deploying more renewable energy and energy efficiency can help limit the economic and climate risks of an over-dependence on natural gas. Read More

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Fire Borrowing, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, and an Opportunity for Bipartisan Action

Perhaps it seems strange to be writing about wildfires in February, even as the Boston area (where I live) has just experienced its snowiest week on record. But it’s during the “off-season” that we have the opportunity to take stock of the causes and costs of past wildfires and take steps to better prepare and protect communities for future ones. Unfortunately, in some parts of the country like California there is no “off-season” as they face the threat of year-round fire seasons. Read More

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President Obama, India’s Prime Minister Modi, and the Opportunity to Cooperate on Climate Change

When I was growing up in New Delhi, the annual Republic Day celebrations were always cause for great national pride. They commemorate the day this large, vibrant democracy’s constitution came into force, after India secured its independence from British colonial rule. This year President Obama will be a special guest for the Republic Day parade, a spectacular display of India’s rich cultural heritage and military might. What I am keenly interested to hear are the ways in which Prime Minister Modi and President Obama plan to cooperate to address one of the biggest challenges facing the world today: climate change. Read More

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Carbon Pricing, Income Inequality, and Shakespeare: Highlights from the 2015 American Economic Association Meeting

While many of you were probably enjoying the last days of the holiday season, this past weekend I and thousands of my fellow economists made our way to Boston for the annual American Economic Association (AEA) meeting. Boring, you say? Not so quick! Among the many yawn-inducing sessions were some engaging, thought-provoking, even radical discussions. In no particular order, here are some themes that caught my attention. Read More

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At COP 20 in Lima: The Buzz about Renewable Energy

I’m in the beautiful city of Lima, at the annual United Nations climate talks, or COP 20. Even as negotiators labor over “non-papers” and “elements of draft negotiating text,” the real buzz here is about the incredible opportunity to drive down global emissions by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. What makes this a particularly exciting time is that the costs of renewable energy are falling dramatically. The clean energy transition has never been more affordable – or, frankly, more urgently needed. Read More

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The Clean Power Plan is a Climate Game Changer. Here are Seven Ways to Strengthen it.

Yesterday the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) submitted its comments on the draft Clean Power Plan (CPP) to the EPA. Joining millions of others, we registered our strong support for these historic, first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants, which are the single largest source of these emissions in the United States. This rule could be a climate game changer. We also recommended a number of ways the plan should be strengthened and improved, especially by increasing renewable energy contributions.
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