Environmental Law & Policy Clinic Hosts State Discussion of Legal Theories for Climate Change Responsibility
On Monday, April 25th, the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic hosted a workshop attended by staff from state Attorneys General offices to discuss the latest climate science and to think critically about legal theories for potentially assigning responsibility for climate impacts. The workshop, organized in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists, featured presentations by Harvard Law School students Byron Ruby (JD ’17) and Alice Lee (LLM ’16), building on work by students Olivia Bensinger (JD ’17), Brenden Cline (JD ’16), Joshua Friedmann (JD ’17), and Ross Peterson (JD ’17) during a prior semester.
“This was an incredible learning opportunity,” said Ruby. “It was exciting to research cutting edge environmental issues and present my findings to practicing attorneys and leading academics.”
The workshop also featured presentations by scientists on projected climate change impacts and the attribution of different impacts to human influences on the climate, drawing from the findings of the recent National Academies of Sciences report, Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change.
Panelists included Emmett Clinic Senior Clinical Instructor Shaun Goho, as well as Cara Horowitz (UCLA Law School), Phil Mote (Oregon State University), Naomi Oreskes (Harvard University), Peter Frumhoff (UCS), Sharon Eubanks (Bordas and Bordas, PLLC), and Carroll Muffett (Center for International Environmental Law).
Richard Lazarus, the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law at Harvard University, said “hosting events like this one is a key role for academic institutions like Harvard Law School. What better place to convene practicing attorneys and academics to think critically about emerging legal and scientific issues? To consider dispassionately not just which theories of legal responsibility might be viable, but no less importantly which may not be. We are lucky to have fabulous students and attorneys on staff doing cutting-edge applied research on the most important environmental issues of our time.”
In recent years, the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and the Harvard Environmental Law Program as a whole have convened multiple educational workshops for regulated entities, federal, state, and local officials, and other key players on climate change and related issues. The offices of State Attorneys General are an important audience for such programs given their lead role in defending and enforcing the law.
“It is the normal business of Attorneys General staff to keep informed and to have access to the latest thinking about issues important to their work. We were pleased to be able to create a space for them to convene and learn,” said Goho.