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Success by 1000 Cuts: The Use of Environmental Impact Assessment in Addressing Climate Change
Vermont Journal of Enviornmental Law (2008)
  • Caleb W Christopher

EIA has traditionally been used to address more obvious and localized ecological impacts. In practice, EIA has had an increasing tendency to operate at an “autopilot” setting, producing voluminous amounts of technical data, but often not taking advantage of the process as an opportunity for creative decision-making. This practice has led to the mistaken presumption that EIA is unable to tackle the complex challenges of climate change. Climate change is a non-traditional environmental topic in that there is an immense volume of cumulative contribution of pollutant gasses, but that there are few, if any, major contributing sources responsible for a distinctive degree of environmental harm divisible from other sources.

EIA is not intended – and could not be used – as a comprehensive regulatory or market strategy. Yet as a secondary path, this method provides many compelling advantages. EIA is already a unilateral global custom; it needs no lengthy conferences and no time-consuming treaties. Rather, this application can be immediately brought into force using existing laws which have been well seasoned by litigation and decades of practice. EIA works to familiarize decision-makers and private interests with the practical, local decisions which will help to implement a multi-faceted global approach to climate change. The use of EIA to address climate change only compliments, rather than contradicts, any range of existing or future regulatory schemes specifically addressing climate change. Moreover, the inherent creativity and deference provided to government agencies in carrying out EIA allows EIA to become a laboratory for novel approaches to integrate climate change into decision-making.

  • Climate Change,
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
Publication Date
Spring 2008
Publisher Statement
Forthcoming article (draft version) scheduled for publication in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law
Citation Information
Caleb W Christopher. "Success by 1000 Cuts: The Use of Environmental Impact Assessment in Addressing Climate Change" Vermont Journal of Enviornmental Law Vol. 9 (2008)
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