In the coming decades, the climate crisis will increasingly become the primary focus of law and public policy around the globe. The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has already hit levels the planet has not seen for the last 800,000 years, long before the advent of human civilization. The global warming caused by these atmospheric changes is causing unprecedented changes to global weather patterns and ecosystems, as increasingly ferocious hurricanes hammer coastal areas, deadly forest fires burn in California, and heat waves, droughts and food shortages wreak havoc around the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of top scientists from around the world, issued a dire warning last fall that humanity has just over a decade to make “unprecedented,” “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land . . . infrastructure . . . and industrial systems” if we are to stave off the most catastrophic impacts. In the meantime, the Trump administration has announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement and has been busily working to roll back all of the climate initiatives implemented by the Obama administration, while an increasingly large majority of American voters see the climate crisis as a top issue in the 2020 presidential race.
This seminar will consider the implications of the rapidly unfolding climate crisis for domestic and international law and policy. Can the Paris Agreement still play a meaningful role in shaping climate policy around the globe? How should an international agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions be structured to be both politically feasible and fair? Should such an agreement impose costly emissions reduction obligations on developing nations that are already struggling economically, when the problem has been primarily caused by those in the developed world? Who should pay the costs of adapting to those adverse effects of climate change that have already become inevitable—effects that are likely to fall most heavily on the developing world? What kinds of statutory and regulatory changes are needed at the federal state and local level in order to accomplish the radical restructuring of the U.S. economy that will be necessary in order shift energy production away from our current heavy reliance on fossil fuels? Should governments employ carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, or some other regulatory mechanism? How should the costs of transitioning to the new "green economy" be allocated? Should the poor receive subsidies to offset rising energy costs? In the absence of a unified regulatory approach at either the federal (U.S.) or international level, how have advocates already begun to use existing legal structures to try to force action on climate change? We will address these and other questions in the seminar with the help of readings drawn from books, white papers, scholarly articles, and court opinions. Over the course of the semester, students will write a series of short papers based on the readings and will take an active role in facilitating class discussions.
|Th 10:00-11:50 AM||Barrack 205|