Global Climate Change (S)


This seminar will examine the why and the how of Global Climate Change: Why enforced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions controls are vital for the Earth, and whether and how they can be achieved. Having experienced increasingly extreme weather events around the world, the ultimate global climate change question is whether major GHG emitting countries will join in a realistic effort to stabilize and reduce atmospheric GHG concentrations. Current atmospheric GHG concentrations will shortly reach 400 ppm (parts per million). Evidence now links the 400 ppm level to the "new normal" climate, yet the world's peoples and governments are not yet acting effectively to stabilize and reduce that level. Domestically the picture is mixed. The White House accepts that effective action must be taken, but Congress is divided. Public opinion surveys increasingly accept the need for action, but the current poor economy is thought to preclude the key market-based mechanism for GHG emissions reduction: placing an escalating price on carbon emissions. What can be done? International negotiations have articulated agreed goals, promising GHG emissions limits through an enforceable climate treaty by 2015. US EPA and some other federal agencies are seeking to regulate GHG emissions through rule-making. Some US states and domestic corporations are adopting and beginning to implement GHG emissions controls. Whether such measures will provide effective US leadership for global actions remains to be seen. The seminar will survey important developments ranging from the outcomes of twenty years of international climate negotiations to the legal, economic and political dimensions of US climate action. Law and lawyers play an increasingly vital role in coming to terms with climate change. Each student is required to write brief response papers on assigned current climate proposals, and to select a climate change topic for research as approved by the instructor. Potential research topics will be posted on Blackboard. Students will present the results of their research to the seminar towards the end of the semester. LIMITED WRITING REQUIREMENT: Where appropriate, some research papers may serve as the basis for expansion to the level required for upperclass writing credit. ** A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.