Environmental Law Professors Suggest Disruptions to Legal System Necessary to Attain Climate Innovation


(Washington, D.C.): To date, U.S. law has largely served as an obstacle to an honest assessment of our preparedness to face the climate change challenge. Given that society has become comfortable amidst mild climatic conditions, and given a pervasive reluctance to change, extreme and abrupt climatic changes will hit hard. Our current legal structure maintains a dangerous status quo and it is time to unleash the potential of communities and the private sector to produce innovative solutions. The topic is the subject of a new book from the Environmental Law Collaborative—a rotating group of environmental law professors who assemble every other year to think, discuss, and write on an important and intriguing theme in environmental law—aptly titled, Environmental Law, Disrupted.

“The law has not kept up with the science of climate disruption and species extinction, to name but two of the existential threats facing humanity in the 21st century,” commented Vermont Law School’s Prof. Pat Parenteau, upon reviewing the book. “Environmental law is long overdue for a complete makeover to address the root causes of ecosystem degradation, unsustainable consumption of natural resources, and systemic racism. This book captures the thinking of the most innovative scholars in the legal academy.”

Some essays consider the disruptive effects of environmental changes on human and ecological safety, security, and well-being, suggesting that the impacts of climate changes are not accounted for in the current legal system. Some identify key changes needed to respond to climatic challenges, social inequities, and dwindling grey and green resources. Others deconstruct social, political, and professional frameworks to understand how such influences might be used to disrupt the current regime, or even ones where expectations are being disrupted with the endorsement of law. Taken together, these essays provide an understanding of the cause, effect, and opportunity that environmental disruption presents in the climate change era. The book also includes a jointly authored chapter on the legal system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of framing opportunities to reimagine environmental law.

“While we should not forget or diminish the environmental progress that has been made over the past 50 years, we must understand that we’ve been following a map that, for the most part, provided directions to destinations that needed to be reached in the 1980s and 1990s,” wrote LeRoy Paddock, Associate Dean for Environmental Law Studies at The George Washington University Law School, in the book’s foreword. “Outdated policies cannot assure just environmental outcomes for current and future generations. This book makes important contributions to finding the disruptive instruments that, we hope, will lead to solutions to the unprecedented challenges in front of us.”

Keith Hirokawa, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship and Professor of Law at Albany Law School, and Jessica Owley, Professor of Law and Faculty Director for the Environmental Law Program at the University of Miami School of Law, co-edited the volume and contributed chapters to the book. Other contributing authors include:

  • Rebecca M. Bratspies, Professor of Law at the CUNY School of Law and the founding director of the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform.
  • Vanessa Casado Pérez, Associate Professor of Law and Research Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University School of Law.
  • Robin Kundis Craig, the Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
  • Juliane L. Fry, Associate Professor of Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry at Wageningen University and the Amsterdam Institute of Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.
  • Lissa Griffin, Professor of Law and Ian J. Yankwitt Faculty Scholar at Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law.
  • Blake Hudson,  Samuel T. Dell Professor of Law at the University of Florida School of Law, where he also serves as Director of the school’s Environmental and Land Use Law Program.
  • Sarah Krakoff, Moses Laskey Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School (currently on leave while she serves as Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife in the Biden Administration).
  • Katrina F. Kuh, Haub Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law at the Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law.
  • Melissa Powers, Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School.
  • Shannon Roesler, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law.
  • Jonathan Rosenbloom, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School.
  • J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School.
  • Erin Ryan, Elizabeth C. & Clyde W. Atkinson Professor and Associate Dean for Environmental Programs at the Florida State University College of Law.
  • David Takacs, Professor of Law at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

The book, published by ELI Press, the Environmental Law Institute’s book division, is on sale now. For more information, visit https://www.eli.org/eli-press-books/environmental-law-disrupted.

Other books by the Environmental Law Collaborative include:

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