Climate Risk and the Law

(VIRTUAL) October – November 2022

Instructor: Romany Webb, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School

Fall 2022 Professional Learning Program Info Session- Climate Risk and the Law

Description: Climate change poses significant and growing risks to human and natural systems. Recent advances in climate science, particularly climate change detection and attribution, have helped to clarify the extent to which anthropogenic climate change is driving more severe extreme weather events (e.g., heatwaves and floods) and contributing to slow-onset phenomena (e.g., sea level rise) that already threaten human health, infrastructure, and the environment. Scientists’ ability to model future climate-related risks has also improved significantly in recent years. This workshop will explore whether and to what extent scientific information about the risks posed by climate change currently informs legal decisions regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation. Participants will also consider how climate science might be used in the future to spur further legal action to address climate change.

The workshop will provide participants with an introduction to the science of climate change detection and attribution—the body of research that explores the link between human activities and climate change—as well as how models are used to develop climate change projections. The workshop will then explore how climate change detection, attribution, and modeling have been used in recent climate litigation seeking to compel governments to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and hold emitters liable for damages caused by climate change. We will also discuss how climate science is currently, and could in the future, be used by administrative agencies to inform policy-making and regulatory action on climate change. We will consider a series of case studies, exploring whether and how existing regulatory structures account for climate-related risks to agricultural production, energy infrastructure, and the financial system.

Learning objectives / themes:

  • The science of climate risk: What is climate change detection and attribution science? What can it tell us about the link between human activities and current climate change hazards? What can it tell us about future climate-related risks? How are models used to project climate-related risks?
  • Climate risk and the courts: How can litigation be used to address climate-related risks? How has climate change detection, attribution, and modelling been used in climate litigation to date? What are the key challenges to using climate science in litigation? How can those challenges be overcome?
  • Climate risk and the administrative state: How is climate science used by administrative agencies? To what extent do agencies consider scientific information regarding climate-related risks in regulatory and other decisions? What are the challenges to doing this and how can they be overcome?
  • Legal approaches to managing climate-related risks: What risks does climate change create for the natural and built environment? What specific climate-related risks are facing agricultural producers, energy companies, and the financial sector? To what extent and how does regulation in each of these areas account for climate-related risks? Does existing regulation appropriately and effectively reduce, manage, and allocate climate-related risks?

Who this workshop is intended for: This workshop is intended for individuals who are looking to gain a basic understanding of climate science and how it can be, and currently is, used to support legal action to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation. The workshop may be particularly useful to learners with experience or an interest in climate litigation and regulation. Prior knowledge of climate litigation and regulation is not required, however. The workshop will be accessible to learners from different backgrounds and provide foundational knowledge about the science of climate change, what it tells us about the climate-related risks facing different natural and human systems, and how that information can and should be used to create legal structures that effectively reduce, manage, and allocate climate-related risks.

Learning modalities: This workshop will be offered in a virtual format via Zoom. It will feature of mix of lectures, discussion, and audio/visual materials. Guest speakers will share their practical knowledge and experience as well.

Please note that all courses are taught in English. Proficiency in written and spoken English is required.

Schedule: VIRTUAL October – November 2022. Session 1 will be 2 hours in length. All other sessions will run for 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Session 1: Tuesday, October 18, 5.30-7.30pm

Session 2: Tuesday, October 25, 5.30-7.40pm

Session 3: Tuesday, November 1, 5.30-7.40pm

Session 4: Tuesday, November 8, 5.30-7.40pm

Session 5: Tuesday, November 15, 5.30-7.40pm

Session 6: Tuesday, November 22, 5.30-7.40pm

Session 7: Tuesday, November 29, 5.30-7.40pm