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Spring 2024 Course

Climate Lawyering

Drop Deadline: January 26, 2024

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

The threat of potentially catastrophic consequences from climate change due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is both enormous and unyielding. To date, however, our nation has mostly stumbled in its efforts to craft laws that meet the immense challenge of reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and that redress the massive adverse effects of climate change that can no longer be avoided during our own lifetimes.   

Meeting those lawmaking challenges will require far more than the enactment of traditional pollution control laws that impose emissions limitations on the largest immediate domestic sources of greenhouse gases, such as motor vehicles, power plants, and other industrial activities that burn fossil fuels to produce energy. No less than a wholesale transformation of how we produce and distribute energy will be required. The necessary technology to accomplish that transformation already exists or is within reach. The principal obstacle is instead existing laws that fail to control emissions adequately, unwittingly promote the status quo, and erect insurmountable hurdles to securing the necessary reform of the nation’s laws.  

This course will examine the constructive role that lawyers can play in addressing climate change in several diverse legal practice areas beyond classic pollution control and natural resource management, including, for example, corporate law, energy regulation, financial regulation, intellectual property law, national security law, and international climate treaty negotiation. Their work, moreover, can be in a wide variety of practice settings, whether as federal, state, tribal, or local government lawyers; public interest advocates for national and local environmental organizations; or private sector lawyers — including those in large and small law firms serving as counsel to private companies seeking to sell products and services that promote such a transition. 

Note: This course meets over six weeks, starting on March 4, 2024.