Climate Change and the Law
About This Class
Climate change is the environmental issue of the 21st century. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are at the highest levels they have been in Earth's history. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), strong consensus now exists that human-made GHG emissions have caused the steady increase in average global temperature chronicled during the past century. Considerable uncertainty about the pace and severity of climate change—not its existence—affects our legal and policy responses to it. Scientists warn that urgent action is needed to avoid dangerous "tipping points." Longer term climate change impacts vary across the globe. The rising sea level around island countries like Tuvalu spell disruption of human settlement and labors, while at the same time melting polar ice opens up new shipping lanes and economic opportunity. Because climate change is global, successful mitigation and adaptation efforts require international cooperation and national political will. This class provides a basic introduction to the science and economics of climate change, as well as the emerging laws and policies intended to control GHGs. We will assess the effectiveness of national and international efforts to date, in both developed and developing countries. Within the United States, we will explore the ways in which the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, as well as some states, have responded. Finally, we will conclude our study by learning about the ways nongovernmental actors factor into climate change policymaking.
This class is approved for JD Credit.