The theme of this year’s seminar is global warming and climate change.  We will view three films, read ten books, study four judicial decisions, and supplement these with a variety of popular press and more technical articles.  Topics will range from the debate over the causes of global warming to the existing and predicted consequences of climate change to the difficult questions of adaptation and remediation, as well as the fractious issues of domestic political response and geopolitical coordination.

Readings and Assignments

We will meet on the following Mondays to discuss the corresponding books and other materials.  This list of readings is subject to change as we may be joined by guest speakers (in addition to Professor Takacs, who is scheduled for October 13th) and they may want to assign different materials.  All of the books are available on Amazon, and most are published both in book form and in Kindle format.  If you are not a fan of Amazon, you may order the books through your local bookstore or through other national retailer's such as Powell's Books.  It is likely that most local booksellers will not have these books in stock, however, so your should order the books well in advance of the date on which we will discuss them.

1.  August 18th: Introduction

For the first day of class, I will simply introduce the seminar and answer questions.  Please read the following short article:

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Big Heat, The New Yorker, July 23, 2012

Bill McKibben, Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?, New York Review, July 10, 2014

2.  August 25th: Climate Change in Popular Culture

Al Gore & Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth (film), Bjorn Lomborg & Ondi Timoner, Cool It (film), and James Cameron & Jerry Weintraub, Years of Living Dangerously (film)

An Inconvenient Truth



Cool It




Years of Living Dangerously


Supplemental Viewing and Reading

If you would like to read the books that inspired the first two films, they are:

Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It (2007)

If you want to see more Hollywood stars opine on global warming and climate change--and you subscribe (or know someone who subscribes) to Showtime--you may watch the other eight episodes of "Years of Living Dangerously" online at Showtime Anytime.

3.  September 8th: Our Changing Planet: The Causes and Consequences of Global Warming and Climate Change

Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006)

Burton Richter, Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Part I (2010)

Supplemental Reading

IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers (2013)

Matt Ridley, Whatever Happened to Global Warming?

Wall St. Journal, Sept. 4, 2014

Video: The Climate Crazies, Wall St. Journal, Sept. 10, 2014

4.  September 15th: U.S. Domestic Law, Prelude and Part One: From the Kyoto Protocol to Massachusetts v. EPA

David Victor, The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming (2001)

Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)

Supplemental Reading

Text of the Kyoto Protocol

5.  September 22nd: U.S. Domestic Law, Part Two: The Failure of Greenhouse Gas Legislation and the Polarization of Climate Change Politics

Eric Pooley, The Climate War (2010)

David Leonhardt, Overcome by Heat and Inertia

N.Y. Times, July 20, 2010

Lee Wasserman, Four Ways to Kill a Climate Bill

N.Y. Times, July 25, 2010

Ryan Lizza, As the World Burns

The New Yorker, Oct. 11, 2010

Climate of Doubt, Frontline, Oct. 23, 2012

Supplemental Reading

Kate Sheppard, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Waxman-Markey

Energy/Climate Bill, Grist, June 4, 2009

Robert Stavins, A Closer Look at the Kerry-Lieberman Cap-and-Trade Proposal,

Grist, May 19, 2010

6.  September 29th: U.S. Domestic Law, Part Three: The Limits of Judicial Intervention

and the Prospects of Unilateral Executive Action

American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. -- (2011)

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., 696 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2012)

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA -- U.S. -- (2014)

Elizabeth Kolbert, Has Obama Fulfilled HIs Promise on Carbon Emissions?

The New Yorker, June 2, 2014

Supplemental Reading

Howard Learner, Emerging Clarity on Climate Change Law: EPA Empowered

and State Common Law Remedies Enabled, 44 Environmental Law Reporter 10744 (2014)

EPA, Application of Clean Air Act Permitting Programs to Greenhouse Gases Following the Supreme Court's Decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, July 24, 2014

7.  October 6th: Alternative Responses to Climate Change, Part One: Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Diversifying the Energy Portfolio

Burton Richter, Beyond Smoke and Mirrors, Parts II & III (2010)

Supplemental Reading

IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers (2014)

8.  October 13th: Alternative Responses to Climate Change, Part Two: REDD+ and Other International Incentives

Professor Cliff Rechtschaffen, who is currently a senior advisor to Governor Brown, will join us the first hour to discuss AB 32 and California's overall strategies for controllong greenhouse gas emissions.  Please read the following to prepare for his talk:

Michael Hanemann, California's New Greenhouse Gas Laws (2008)

AB 32 and SB 535

California Air Resources Board, Climate Change Scoping Plan (2008), pp. 4-24

First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan (2014), pp. ES-1 to ES-4

Professor David Takacs will then join us for the second hour to talk about his work with REDD+.  

There are no additional readings for this portion of the class.

*** Please note that we will begin class at 9:15 so that we have ample time for both discussions. ***

9.  October 20th: Alternative Responses to Climate Change, Part Three: Geoengineering

Clive Hamilton, Earthmasters (2013)

10.  October 27th: Our Warming Planet, Part One: Displacement and Migration

Collectif Argos, Climate Refugees (2010)

Supplemental Reading

IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Summary for Policymakers (2014)

U.S. Department of Defense, 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (2014)

Gregory White, Climate Change and Migration (2011)

11.  November 3rd: Our Warming Planet, Part Two: Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction (2014)

12.  November 10th: Our Warming Planet, Part Three: Opportunities

McKenzie Funk, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming (2014)

13.  November 17th: Our Warming Planet, Part Four: The Morality of the Status Quo

Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization:

A View From the Future (2014)

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

Democracy Now!, Sept. 17, 2014

Supplemental Reading

John Broome, Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World (2012)

Class Participation

Each of you will be responsible (along with one or more of your classmates) for leading the seminar on one of these days.  This will include background research to add appropriate detail to the class discussion, biographical information about the author, and a summary of the book’s critical reception.  I also would like you to prepare a set of questions to initiate and guide the class discussion.  I will assist both before and during class.  I would like these classes to be something of a hybrid between a law school seminar and a book club.

To enable me to make the appropriate assignments, I would appreciate your emailing to me a brief statement that describes: (1) the class meeting that you would like to lead; and (2) any skills or background that you can bring to the class discussions.  I will use your statements to assign responsibility for each of the class meetings.  I will do my best to honor your preferences.  I also need to ensure, however, that we have a variety of backgrounds and perspectives on each topic.

Papers and Grading

You will be required to write either a short paper on each set of readings or a more lengthy essay on one or more of the topics evoked by the readings.  You may choose your own subjects or select from a list of suggestions that I will provide.  The short papers will be due at the beginning of the class in which we will discuss the readings.  Term papers will be due at the end of the semester.  

Only term papers (potentially) satisfy the College’s upper-division writing requirement.  Section 703 of the Academic Regulations defines the writing requirement as follows:

Writing requirement. All students must write a substantial research paper that demonstrates professional and scholarly proficiency in research, analysis, and writing. Students may satisfy this requirement in either a seminar or a two-unit independent study with a substantial writing component.  The Academic Dean shall designate the seminars that have a substantial writing component. . . . All of the following requirements must be met in order to satisfy the writing requirement:


a. The student must inform the instructor that the student wishes to have a paper fulfill the writing requirement.

b. The student must submit a topic and receive approval of it from the instructor.

c. The student must submit at least one preliminary draft to the instructor for comments and suggestions.

d. The student must submit a final draft that is approximately 7000 words in length, or longer, exclusive of footnotes and endnotes.

e. The student must receive a grade of C or better on the final draft of the paper.  

f. The paper must be a substantial research paper that demonstrates professional and scholarly proficiency in research, analysis, and writing.

g. The instructor must certify in writing that all of the above requirements have been met.

Your grade will be based 75 percent on your paper (or papers) and 25 percent on your class participation, including the session that you are responsible for leading.

If you are taking this seminar as the culminating class for the environmental law concentration, you must write a term paper and present the results of your research to a panel of the College's environmental and natural resources faculty.

Supplemental Sources

          Mark Maslin’s Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction (2009), provides an excellent overview of the subject.  The best single volume treatment of the science, sources, consequences, and policy options for addressing climate change, however, is William Nordhaus's The Climate Casino (2013).  There are now two casebooks on global warming and climate change: Hari Osofsky and Lesley McAllister, Climate Change Law and Policy (2012); and Chris Wold, David Hunter, and Melissa Powers, Climate Change and the Law, 2nd ed. (2013).  The Global Warming Reader (2012), edited by Bill McKibben, provides an array of important scientific documents and policy essays on the topic.

          If you are interested in a broader range of perspectives, there are scores (if not hundreds) of other books and articles from which to choose. I would especially recommend:

     •     Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

     •     Gwyneth Cravens, Power to Save the World (2007)

     •     Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Release 2.0 (2008)

     •     James Lawrence Powell, Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming and the Future of the Water in the West (2008)

     •     James Garvey, The Ethics of Climate Change (2008)

     •     Al Gore, Our Choice (2009)

     •     James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren (2009)

     •     David Owen, Green Metropolis (2009)

     •     Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Discipline (2009)

     •     Anna Lappé, Diet for a Hot Planet (2010)

     •     Peter Ward, The Flooded Earth (2010)

     •     Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars (2010)

     •     Howard Friel & Thomas Lovejoy, The Lomborg Deception (2010)

     •     Andrew Dessler & Edward Parson, The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change, 2nd ed. (2010)

     •     Jeff Goodell, How to Cool the Planet (2010)

     •     Eli Kintisch, Hack the Planet (2010)

     •     Eric A. Posner & David Weisbach, Climate Change Justice (2010)

     •     Heidi Cullen, The Weather of the Future (2010)

     •     Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (2010)

     •     Kathryn Harrison & Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom, eds., Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change (2010)

     •     Christine Shearer, Kivalina: A Climate Change Story (2011)

     •     Laurence C. Smith, The World in 2050 (2011)

     •     William deBuys, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest (2011)

     •     Orrin H. Pilkey & Keith C. Pilkey, Global Climate Change: A Primer (2011)

     •     Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (2011)

     •     Stephen M. Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (2011)

     •     Gregory White, Climate Change and Migration (2011)

     •     Michael E. Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012)

     •     Climate Central, Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future (2012)

     •     Dale Jamieson, Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed--and What It Means for Our Future (2014)


Environmental Law Seminar