Climate Change Law and Policy

Course Information

Course Number
Curriculum Level
Areas of Study
Environment and Energy

Section 001 Information


Section Description

This course concerns the issues of law and policy that are involved in the regulation of climate change. Most of the course concerns U.S. law but a consiberable amount of international law is studied as well. It begins with an overview of the causes and effects of global climate change and the methods available to control and adopt to it. We will then examine the negotiation and implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement. The focus will then turn to the past and proposed actions of the U.S. Congress, the executive branch and the courts, as well as regional, state and municipal efforts. The Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and relevant energy laws will receive special attention. We will evaluate the various legal tools that are available to address climate change, including cap-and-trade schemes; carbon taxation; command-and-control regulation; litigation; information disclosure; and voluntary action. Implications for international human rights, energy security, economic competitiveness, federalism, environmental justice, and international and intergenerational equity will be discussed. Adaptation to climate change and geoengineering are examined as well.

School Year & Semester
Spring 2023
JGH 106
Class meets on
  • Monday
  • Wednesday
2:50 pm - 4:10 pm
Method of Evaluation
J.D Writing Credit?

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop understanding of the interaction of international, U.S. federal, state and municipal law in shaping policy and regulatory responses to an emerging global problem.
  • Acquire knowledge of the variety of regulatory techniques that have been applied or proposed to address climate change, and compare efficacy and other characteristics of these techniques.
  • Develop skills in close reading of statutory and regulatory material, and in understanding both their effects and the reasons they were written as they were.
  • Develop skills in applying existing and proposed rules to novel fact patterns.

Course Limitations

Instructor Pre-requisites
Instructor Co-Requisites
Recommended Courses
Other Limitations
This course is jointly listed in the Columbia University Climate School's Sustainable Development program and is open to both law and non-law students, including a limited number of undergraduates.