Coffee Hour with Hari Osofsky: The Geography and Regulatory Role of Climate Change Litigation

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

About the talk

Climate change litigation has expanded massively over the past decade. There have been cases filed across 6 continents in twenty-four countries and the European Union. In the United States alone, there have been 655 cases involving climate change and over 230 have been filed on other jurisdictions. A substantial portion of my research for more than a decade, often in collaboration with Jacqueline Peel of the University Melbourne, has examined the geography and regulatory role of these cases. We have examined both the direct regulatory role of this litigation, and the ways in which cases have an indirect regulatory role in changing behavior through increasing costs and influencing norms. I also have looked at the role of litigation in multi-scalar climate change governance, arguing that it plays a diagonal regulatory role, bringing together key actors and policies at multiple levels.

My talk will provide an overview of the geography and regulatory role of this litigation and also examine future trend lines. Although most of the cases have focused on mitigation, an emerging set of cases consider adaptation questions. Similarly, while the vast majority of cases have involved statutory and administrative law—including the most significant case, Massachusetts v. EPA—some recent high-profile cases involve human rights, constitutional rights, and common law claims. Finally, there is an increasing interest in using corporate and financial law avenues to address climate change.

About the speaker

Hari Osofsky Hari M. Osofsky is dean of Penn State Law and the Penn State School of International Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Law, professor of international affairs, and professor of geography. Osofsky’s over 50 publications focus on improving governance and addressing injustice in energy and climate change regulation. Her scholarship includes books with Cambridge University Press on climate change litigation, textbooks on both energy and climate change law, and articles in leading law and geography journals. Osofsky’s article on governance and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was selected for inclusion in Land Use and Environment Law Review’s annual compilation of the top land use and environmental law articles, and she has been awarded the Daniel B. Luten Award for the best paper by a professional geographer by the Energy and Environment Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers. Osofsky also has collaborated extensively with business, government, and nonprofit leaders to make bipartisan progress on these issues through her leadership roles and teaching. Osofsky received a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Oregon and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Prior to joining Penn State, she served on the faculties of University of Minnesota Law School, Washington and Lee University School of Law, the University of Oregon School of Law, and Whittier Law School. She also was a nonresidential fellow with the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs during the 2003-04 academic year.

Suggested reading

A Rights Turn in Climate Change Litigation? (PDF)

Contact us

Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Angela Rogers in advance of your participation or visit.

Angela Rogers  office: 814-865-2493 email:

Coffee Hour