Hot Topics 2015


​​Hot Topics Videos 2015​

Hot Topic: Legal Signal Processing

Thursday, June 4, 2015
James Chen, Michigan State University

The President's unilateral power to declare a federal disaster under the Stafford Act invites political manipulation. Fourier analysis of disaster declarations from 1953 to 2013 confirms the presence of a four-year cycle, peaking in presidential election years and reaching its trough in years immediately following an election.

Hot Topic: Sanitation Law and Policy in India: Multiple Challenges

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Philippe Cullet, University of London; Centre for Policy Research; International Environmental Law Research Centre

Sanitation is a crucial challenge in India where the largest number of people practicing open defecation is found. The realization of the human right to sanitation includes not only access to toilets, but also implementing wastewater treatment and purifying drinking water sources.

Hot Topic: The Past, Present, and Future of Drinking Water

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
James Salzman, Duke University​

With concerns over pollution and fracking, is it safe to drink tap water? Should we feel guilty buying bottled water? Is the water we drink vulnerable to terrorist attacks? With springs running dry and reservoirs emptying, where is our water going to come from in the future? Drinking water highlights the most pressing issues of our time - from globalization and social justice to terrorism and climate change - and how humans have been wrestling with these problems for centuries.​

Hot Topic: Living Next to a Wind Turbine: Local vs Global Interests

Thursday, June 18, 2015
Birgitte Egelund Olsen, Aarhus University, Denmark

How would you like to live next to a wind farm? Does it affect the environment; would it have an impact on health and your quality of life? The achievement of political targets on the increased share of renewable energy - and in particular wind energy - is facing serious impediments due to local opposition. This lecture examines the role of law in addressing local concerns towards wind energy projects, providing a Danish comparison.

Hot Topic: Solar Wars

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Timothy McDonnel, Mother Jones and Climate Desk

Solar power is taking off at breakneck speed, which is great news for climate advocates and the clean energy industry, but an unprecedented challenge to the hegemony of the powerful utility industry. Across the country, utilities are pushing back with legislative opposition to solar, often with the support of conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. Who will prevail in the solar walls?

Hot Topic: On the Road to the Paris Agreement: COP21 and Its Impact on Climate Change

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Tracy Bach, Vermont Law School

The 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are poised to commit to a new way of acting globally and nationally to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts. Wondering what an INDC is? The ADP? CDM+ and REDD+? This presentation not only demystifies the acronyms you'll read as the climate change negotiations in December draw near, but it also puts the historic nature of the Paris meeting into context.

Hot Topic: Should We Pay More For Water? Untangling California's Drought-Ridden Future

Thursday, July 9, 2015
Zoë Schlanger, Newsweek

The California drought, now in its fourth year, has turned national attention on the rarely through-about dynamics of water supply and demand. Facing a much-drier future - scientists predict mega-droughts to hit the west in the next 50 years - California may have to radically readjust its relationship to water. This talk will explore the ethics and politics of the current crisis, and hypothetical solutions.

Hot Topic: Will the U.S. Constitution Inhibit the Transition to Sustainable Energy The Many States Are Implementing?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Steven Ferry, Suffolk University Law School

There have been almost 20 suits contesting the constitutionality of state energy regulation or sustainable energy incentives, raising either the Supremacy Clause or the Commerce Clause of the Constitution or both; federal courts are ruling illegal most of the challenged regulations that proceed to judgment. This presentation will work through legal challenges to the entire state 'toolbox' of Renewable Portfolio Standards, net metering, and feed-in-tariffs, and how states could best achieve a sustainable outcome.

​Hot Topic: The Next Legal Profession: Lawyers Creating Sustainable Local Economies

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Janelle Orsi, Sustainable Economies Law Center

At the rate that humans are disrupting ecosystems and widening the wealth gap, the world needs nothing short of one million lawyers to shift the focus of their work to supporting the development of land trusts, cooperatives, and a variety of projects and enterprises that build just, equitable, and sustainable economies. As every community reinvents its systems for accessing food, energy, goods, water, housing, and transportation, lawyers - and particularly transactional lawyers - will play a key role in developing the legal blueprint for the next economy.

Hot Topic: Environmental Law in "The Last Place on Earth"

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Robert Percival, University of Maryland Francis King

This lecture will review how well the unique legal regime to protect the Antarctic environment is working. It will discuss the difficulty of taking enforcement action against transgressors, as illustrated by controversies over Japanese whaling in Antarctica and the recent confrontation between the New Zealand navy and a criminal fishing enterprise. The lecture will compare and contrast the legal regime that governs protection of Antarctica's environment with that applicable to the Arctic, where there has been a rush to exploit polar oil resources.

Hot Topic: Still a Paper Tiger? China's Environmental Courts in the Wake of the 2014 Amendments to China's Basic Environmental Law

Thursday, July 30, 2015
Huiyu Zhao, Shanghai Jiaotong University


There is a broad consensus that chronic problems with enforcement of China's environmental laws have been due in part to the lack of an independent judiciary in China. This presentation will explore why China's judiciary still must overcome many obstacles before it truly can achieve the promise of China's new Environmental Protection Law.

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