Nov 20, 2017
LAW 2856 - Global Climate Change and U.S. Law
This course introduces students to domestic legal, administrative, and market mechanisms – both
existing and possible – for addressing global climate change in the United States. The absence of
direct federal action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with growing recognition of
the need for U.S. emissions reductions, has resulted in a multiplicity of (frequently highly
creative) efforts to force reductions through other means. These include litigation to require
federal regulation of greenhouse emissions under the Clean Air Act, litigation and other actions to mandate the consideration of climate change impacts under other existing federal statutes (such as NEPA and the ESA), common law tort actions, and independent emissions-reduction measures adopted by localities, states, regions, and market sectors.
Now, however, a changing political landscape suggests the emergence of substantial federal
legislation directly mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Additionally, the success of
one of the above noted litigation strategies in Massachusetts v. EPA raises the possibility that
EPA may soon propose federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Interesting questions arise in considering how the possible advent of direct, federal greenhouse
gas emissions regulation will impact other litigation; local, state and regional greenhouse gas
reduction measures (including motor vehicle GHG emissions standards adopted by states under
the Clean Air Act); and existing (voluntary) private sector strategies for reducing GHG emissions.
There is also an interesting question as to where, going forward, regulatory responsibility for
addressing greenhouse gas emissions should be located. This course will educate students about
the domestic legal options available to address greenhouse gas emissions and invite them to
develop opinions about their viability, interplay, and desirability.
Prerequisites & Notes
No pre-requisites or co-requisites are required, but Environmental Law is recommended. A basic understanding of major environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, NEPA, and the ESA will assist students in understanding how climate change issues intersect with those statutes.
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