Alumni Lectures feature Chemistry at Illinois alumni who have, with the foundation of their chemistry studies at Illinois, made a meaningful impact in their chosen field.
The Making of Environmental Law: The Challenges of Climate and the Challenge of Climate Change
Thursday, March 28, 2024
4:00 - 5:00 PM
109 Turner Hall
Light refreshments provided.
*This lecture is open to all UIUC students, faculty, and staff*
Register here: Alumni Lecture Registration
My latest book, The Making of Environmental Law tells the story of environmental law from its emergence in the United States to the present day. My lecture will reflect the structure of the book, with a special emphasis on the challenges of climate change and environmental justice.
Part I provides a theoretical overview of the challenges facing environmental lawmaking. This includes the unique attributes of both the Earth’s ecosystem—its complexity and dynamism—and environmental law—its complexity, scientific uncertainty, dynamism, precaution, and controversy—that make environmental lawmaking difficult. It also explores how the structure of the United States’ lawmaking institutions can impede environmental lawmaking.
Part II describes and analyzes the major highlights in environmental law during the twentieth century. This discussion includes an overview of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, which in combination explore how an initial bipartisan embrace of robust environmental lawmaking later evolved into partisan gridlock and inaction.
Part III then turns to the twenty-first century. This part begins with a review of the “super wicked problem” of climate change, and then considers the environmental legacies of the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations. This discussion details the “whiplash” in environmental law over the course of three sharply divergent and partisan presidencies.
Finally, Part IV offers overarching takeaways from environmental law’s history, and it considers environmentalism’s trajectory over the decades to come as it faces the compelling problems of both climate change and environmental justice.
Richard Lazarus is the Charles Stebbins Fairchild Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches Supreme Court Advocacy, Environmental Law, Torts, and Climate Lawyering. His primary scholarship concerns Supreme Court decision making and environmental law. Professor Lazarus has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in more than 40 cases and has presented oral argument in 14 of those cases. In 2020, Professor Lazarus published The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court (Harvard University Press 2020), which tells the inside story of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court’s most famous environmental law case. In 2023, he published the second edition of The Making of Environmental Law (U. Chicago Press 2023), a history of U.S. environmental law. Professor Lazarus previously worked for the Solicitor General's Office (1986-89) at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was Assistant to the Solicitor General. Professor Lazarus graduated from Harvard Law School and has a B.S. from the University of Illinois in Chemistry and a B.A. in Economics.