State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate change law comes to Columbia

Climate change is coming to the legal profession in a big way. And law schools are starting to notice, with Columbia Law School announcing today that it has hired environmental lawyer Michael Gerrard to head a new Center for Climate Change Law.

Just a few years ago, the idea that climate change could command its own legal practice would have seemed incredible. But last month’s election of Barack Obama, along with numerous state efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, means we’ll probably see comprehensive federal climate change regulation in the next few years. And that means more opportunities in the legal profession, whether it be in government, the private sector or the nonprofit sector.

The law school previously offered a climate change seminar, but Gerrard’s hiring signals a more serious commitment in this area. Gerrard is the former head of Arnold & Porter’s New York office and the author of a climate change law textbook.

As the law school’s press release notes, climate change law will be more than just a subset of environmental law. It will be a cross-disciplinary practice, encompassing corporate law, energy law and land-use law, among other practices.

This is my first post for Climate Matters; I’m happy to be here. I am a second-year student at Columbia Law School, and hope to take Gerrard’s course next semester. In the coming months, I plan to blog about developments in climate change law. Unless the economy overwhelms everything else, 2009 promises to be an historic year in the effort to avert climate change’s worst effects.

-Michael Barnett

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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