Last December in Paris, high-level representatives of nearly 200 countries gathered to negotiate a global agreement to hold back rising temperatures. They did so with grim awareness that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000. When the historic conference concluded, the member nations had agreed by consensus on a number of measures, including to keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial times; to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning between 2050 and 2100; to review and potentially scale upward each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years; and for rich countries to provide “climate finance” to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
In the wake of the conclusion of the historic Paris Climate Change accords, Yale Law School Professors Harold Hongju Koh and Douglas A. Kysar asked Todd D. Stern to join them in teaching a Fall 2016 course at the Law School on The Past, Present and the Future of Global Climate Change: Law and Policy. For more than seven years, Stern was the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and widely acknowledged as one of the most critical forces behind the successful outcome in Paris.