Bringing the heat: Burke Center director discusses recent rise in federal climate litigation

photo of Professor Adler speaking at an event

Professor Jonathan H. Adler discussed the recent increase in climate change litigation in federal courts, the legal theories driving these lawsuits, and the unique challenges they present to federal courts in recent remarks at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Professor Adler, the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law, delivered his remarks, “It’s Getting Hot in Here: Climate Change Cases Heat up in (Federal) Court” on November 8, 2019. This lecture was recorded and is available for on-demand viewing.

In the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007, federal courts have seen a surge in climate change litigation. Professor Adler noted that standing was difficult for climate litigants prior to this ruling and this relaxation of Article III standing opened the door for litigants to raise climate-related claims against federal agencies and private litigants. Professor Adler also noted that common law causes of action, such as private nuisance, are difficult when addressing climate change. He observed that the breadth of the problem and the number of entities involved makes these cases more challenging to litigate.

Professor Adler also discussed Juliana v. United States, the so-called “Kids Climate Case,” and its potential to further modify climate law. This case is currently pending an en banc petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Professor Adler expects the court to focus on whether the plaintiffs satisfied the requirements of Article III standing.

This lecture was just one of a series of programs sponsored by the Burke Center intended to showcase different views and perspectives on environmental law. Additional programs are highlighted on the Center’s website.