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Climate Change in Court

Monday, March 11, 2019 at 2:55pm to 4:10pm

Plant Science Building, 233

Presented by Zach Clopton (Law School, Cornell University)

In many ways, lawsuits are a poor fit for the problem of global climate change. Proving individual harms from climate change is scientifically difficult. Even if one could prove that they had been harmed by climate change, it is not obvious whom they should sue. And even if they knew whom to sue, it is not obvious what law had been broken. But in the face of a federal government seemingly uninterested in addressing climate change, those committed to action on climate have turned to courts. To do so, they have developed creative theories of legal wrongs, and often they have turned to unexpected plaintiffs to serve as the faces of those lawsuits. Cities and states in particular have taken on a leading role. This seminar will review these efforts and critically examine the role of courts and litigation in ongoing efforts to fight global climate change. It also will explore what these efforts reveal about the American system of government and its capacity to respond to pressing global problems.


The 2019 Cornell University Climate Change Seminar meets Monday afternoons through May 6. This university-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Experts from Cornell University and other universities will present an overview of the science of climate change and climate change models, the implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems, and provide important economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue.

The seminar is free and open to the Cornell and Ithaca Community at large.

Organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

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Event Type



Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Sustainability


CCSSP: Cornell Climate Smart Solutions Program


Contact E-Mail

Peter Hess

Contact Name


Zach Clopton

Speaker Affiliation

Law School, Cornell University

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