HLS Professor Richard J. Lazarus

HLS Professor Richard J. Lazarus

The United States is experiencing “an environmental law-making crisis,” said Harvard Law School Professor Richard Lazarus at an environmental sustainability event held at Harvard in December.

The event, “Harvard Thinks Green,” co-hosted by Harvard Thinks Big, the Office for Sustainability and the Center for the Environment at Harvard University, featured a discussion forum based on the popular TEDTalks. Lazarus and five Harvard professors from a variety of disciplines, ranging from science and medicine to politics, law and urban planning, offered their perspective on ways to combat the global warming crisis.

In his talk, “Forging a New Pathway to National Climate Change Legislation,” Lazarus said global climate change is the most pressing environmental problem of our time, with potentially catastrophic consequences. One of the nation’s foremost experts on environmental law and a leading practitioner in the U.S. Supreme Court, Lazarus criticized the government’s failure to pass comprehensive legislation to deal with CO2 emissions.

He offered ways to change the law-making process and he urged students, as the future generation of leaders, to innovate within the private sector. “We need business leaders who believe in global climate change,” said Lazarus, “real profits can be made by being green.”

Read news accounts of the event published in the Harvard Gazette and the Harvard Crimson.

Other Harvard participants were: James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University; Harvard Business School Professor Robert Kaplan; Associate Professor of Architectural Technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design Christoph Reinhart, who works in the field of sustainable building design and environmental modeling; Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson, whose work explores how organizations respond to large-scale technological shifts, most recently in regard to energy and the environment; and Nobel laureate Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health & the Global Environment and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Read summaries of each professor’s talk here.

Lazarus joined the HLS faculty as the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law last April. He has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 40 cases and has presented oral argument in 13 of those cases. He served as the executive director of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and offshore Drilling Commission, charged by President Obama with identifying the root causes of the 2010 Gulf oil spill and developing options for preventing future spills.

Prior to joining the Harvard law faculty, Lazarus was the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Professor of Law at Georgetown University, where he also founded the Supreme Court Institute, which provides practice arguments for counsel in more than 90 percent of the cases heard by the Supreme Court.

For more information and additional video, visit the Harvard Office for Sustainability website.