Course description

Empirical data demonstrate that the climate is changing and that these changes could produce increasingly serious consequences over the course of this century. This course explores the legal framework in which climate change mitigation and adaptation actions occur and the policy tools available to regulators. We explore several climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in-depth to provide a window into the relationship between legal and policy strategies at the federal, state, and municipal levels, including how these relationships create opportunities and obstacles to climate change action. Students strategize how to develop and implement legally defensible climate change measures that are supported by stakeholders, including drafting implementation and supporting documents. The course begins with a brief introduction to climate change and its projected impacts and then reviews the legal framework of climate change law, including the evolution of climate change related laws in the United States and related litigation. This analysis focuses on the federal level, but also considers the separate authority of states and municipalities to take action. Massachusetts and Boston are the primary case studies for the course. Substantive issues that are addressed include administrative law and the relationship between congressional statutes and agency regulations; the structure of the federal Clean Air Act and history of air regulation in the United States; federalism, particularly the relationship between federal, state, and municipal governments in regulating air pollution; and the judicial review processes. The course applies this legal framework to an in-depth review of specific climate change issues, such as strategies for managing development in flood-prone areas. In this context, the course examines a range of legal and policy tools. At the federal level, for instance, we consider the implications of federal maps that designate flood risk areas without considering projected impacts of climate change and incentives created by federally-subsidized flood insurance. The course then considers strategies for improving regulation and removing obstacles to climate change measures, including through state and local actions, such as revised building codes and zoning laws. We review the process that municipalities often follow in climate change planning, with a focus on the technical and legal challenges that communities need help addressing. Through this analysis students learn about substantive legal issues such as preemption and takings law, procedural aspects of rulemakings, and opportunities for public involvement in policy and regulatory development. In addition to learning about the substantive legal issues covered in the course, students develop or practice legal research skills associated with researching statutes and regulations and interpreting judicial decisions. Students also gain experience with activities relevant to designing and implementing climate change strategies by writing comments on regulations, drafting statutory or regulatory language, and writing corporate climate change statements.


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