We wage innovative legal and grassroots campaigns to protect people, wildlife and ecosystems from climate change and the dirty and dangerous fossil fuel industry. We work to eliminate greenhouse pollution and speed the just transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

ABOUT THE CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE

Climate change is the single greatest threat we've ever faced — not only to human society but to the Earth's web of life.

The Center's Climate Law Institute was founded to unite our programs in coordinated and ambitious strategies to protect wildlife, ecosystems  and communities from the catastrophic dangers and damages of climate disruption. For more than a decade, we have helped develop and shape a new area of the law: climate change litigation. 

Many people feel overwhelmed by the enormous challenge of the climate crisis. This is understandable: Its root causes are complex and closely linked to many other aspects of social and economic injustice.

Yet there are solutions. We must immediately adopt the many legal and technological tools available today to greatly reduce greenhouse pollution. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. Deeper changes to remove structures that favor extractive, polluting industries and other forms of inequality are also urgently needed. 

Our program is unique because we combine cutting-edge legal strategies with grassroots organizing that mobilizes people power for lasting and meaningful change. We work with people and organizations fighting for other progressive causes because it is the right thing to do and necessary in order to address many of the causes of the climate crisis and make the world a better place.

We work at every level, from the international climate negotiations to federal policy to local ballot measures, to speed climate solutions and the just transition to a clean energy world.

Specifically, the Climate Law Institute:

• Brings precedent-setting litigation using existing environmental laws to slash greenhouse pollution and promote the just transition from a fossil fuel economy to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

• Mobilizes people to wage grassroots, public pressure campaigns while building a progressive movement for the deep social changes we need to avert the climate crisis.

• Advances ambitious, protective and science-based campaigns to ban fracking, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and speed the transition away from all fossil fuel production and use.

• Promotes innovative endangered species conservation strategies to address climate change and protect our precious public lands so that they continue to sustain wildlife populations, provide clean water and sequester carbon.

• Develops new laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen loss and damage from climate change — laws that build on our successful foundation of environmental law and do not roll it back.

HOW WE DO IT

• Strategic, creative litigation

• Mobilization of people power and movement building

• Visionary, effective policy advocacy

MILESTONES

The Center's climate program has:

• Won the first Endangered Species Act listing for global warming-threatened species — the staghorn and elkhorn corals found off the Florida coast.

• Forced the George W. Bush administration to publicly acknowledge for the first time, in December 2006, the scientific connection between greenhouse gas emissions and species endangerment in response to our petition to gain Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears.

• Won a key 2007 victory on greenhouse gas vehicle emissions when the nation's highest court sided with our coalition and struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  

• In August 2007 won a landmark case challenging federal suppression of climate science. Under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, we argued that the Bush administration must complete a research plan and scientific assessment of climate change impacts in the United States. The court agreed, ordering the government to produce the overdue reports by May 2008.

• Won a key 2008 legal victory requiring the Department of Transportation to fully analyze climate change when setting fuel economy standards for the nation's passenger car fleet, and to factor the economic cost of climate damage (“social cost of carbon”) when using an economic model to set the standard.

• Won an ongoing moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing in California in 2011 and through additional legal victories.

• Along with Californians Against Fracking and many local partners, banned fracking in six California counties — including in Monterey County in 2016 — while building momentum for a statewide ban.

• Overturned the EPA's free pass to the biomass energy industry in a key 2013 legal victory.

• Pioneered the need for greenhouse gas analysis in California Environmental Quality Act reviews and won a 2015 California Supreme Court victory setting out the need for meaningful analysis and mitigation.

• Filed the petition and lawsuits that led to the EPA's landmark 2016 finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse pollution from airplanes endangers our health and climate.

• Along with 350.org, petitioned the U.S. EPA to set a national, science-based pollution cap of 350 ppm for CO2 under the Clean Air Act.

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CLIMATE CRISIS HOTLINKS

Oil trains have been called pipelines by rail, virtual pipelines and — due to their tendency to explode in a derailment — even bomb trains. Whatever you call them, they're bad news.

According to a Center report, sea-level rise is a deadly threat to 233 protected species — from the Hawaiian monk seal to the loggerhead sea turtle. Learn more now.

 

Airplane Emissions: Aircraft emit staggering amounts of CO2 — 11 percent of emissions from U.S. transportation sources. Learn about our campaign and take action to hold the airplane industry accountable.

Fracking: Sullied water ... greenhouse gas pollution ... threatened wildlife. Learn more about the Center's fight to halt fracking in California and beyond.

Global Warming and Life on Earth: Up to 70 percent of the planet's species face extinction due to global warming by century's end if current emissions continue, scientists say.

overpopulationClearcutting — the most CO2-spewing logging method — is devastating to wildlife, habitat and water quality. Learn how we're fighting it for forests and our climate.

The Arctic Meltdown: The North Pole is a flashpoint in the global warming crisis. Learn about the meltdown and what it means for Arctic species.

Energy and Transportation: Innovative technologies and challenging cultural shifts must combine to replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy systems.

Population and Climate Change: People worldwide are starting to address warming by reducing their carbon footprint. But we not only need smaller footprints — we need fewer feet.

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Baner photo © Thomas D. Mangelsen/ImagesofNatureStock.com; young ribbon seal photo by Dr. Peter Boveng, NOAA