Litigating Climate Change

Litigating Climate Change

Public Lectures

Lecture Theatre 1 (GBLT1), Rear Courtyard, Old Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Quay, Wellington

Litigating Climate Change

Presented by Professor Gerald Torres

Climate change cases are already being handled by USA courts. The most prominent are the atmospheric trust cases currently being brought by youth and supported by James Hansen and other scientists. These cases are asking the courts to compel government to take meaningful action to protect the atmosphere for current and future generations.

There have also been liability suits suggested—and at least one filed—over the effects of climate change. Professor Torres discussed the range of cases being brought and suggested in the USA, focusing on the atmospheric trust litigation and the public trust doctrine which underlies it.

Gerald Torres is Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, Cornell Law School. Professor Torres is former president of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Previously, he was the Bryant Smith Chair at the University of Texas. He is a leading figure in critical race theory, environmental law, and federal Indian Law.

Torres has served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and as counsel to then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. His book, The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2002) with Harvard law professor Lani Guinier, was described by Publisher's Weekly as "one of the most provocative and challenging books on race produced in years."

Torres's many articles include Changing the Wind (Yale Law Review, 2014); The Public Trust: The Law’s DNA (Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy, 2014); Translation and Stories (Harvard Law Review, 2002), Who Owns the Sky? (Pace Law Review, 2001) (Garrison Lecture), Taking and Giving: Police Power, Public Value, and Private Right (Environmental Law, 1996), and Translating Yonnondio by Precedent and Evidence: The Mashpee Indian Case (Duke Law Journal, 1990).

Torres has served on the board of the Environmental Law Institute, the National Petroleum Council and on EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He was the founding Board Chair of the Advancement Project, the nation’s leading racial and social justice organization. He is currently Vice Chair of Earth Day Network as well as serves on the Board of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute.

Torres was honored with the 2004 Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) for his work to advance the legal rights of Latinos. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Stanford and Yale law schools.