New Law Class Focuses on Climate Change

Issue Date: 
February 4, 2008


Google “climate change” and you’ll get more that 24 million hits, from a Wikipedia definition to a New York Times story on global warming to YouTube’s “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See.” The world is taking notice and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is no exception. This term, from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Pitt is offering a new law course, Climate Change and the Law.

Jennifer Smokelin—a 1992 summa cum laude Pitt law alumnus and an attorney at Reed Smith, Downtown—developed Pitt’s multidisciplinary course, which offers students a three-pronged approach to the issue, making the course appropriate for law, business, and engineering students. The course is designed to help students understand the science, law, and business of climate change by exploring the problems of global warming and climate change, law and policy, and corporate environmental strategy.

“Only by understanding these three areas can this budding legal community adequately grasp the magnitude of this issue and begin to address it,” said Smokelin, who earned her bachelor’s of science degree in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

To accomplish this goal, Smokelin has recruited the help of two guest lecturers: M. Granger Morgan and John Fillo. Morgan is the Carnegie Mellon University Lord Chair Professor in Engineering, professor and department head in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management.

He was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences for his work related to climate change. Fillo is a certified professional environmental auditor at Environmental Resources Management, a global environmental consulting services company that helps businesses identify risks and opportunities related to greenhouse gas emission constraints and new carbon trading regimes.

Topics to be discussed in the new law class include “What Science Can Tell Us About the Climate Change Problem,” “Fundamental Legal Concepts of Air Pollution Control,” “Evolution of Kyoto Protocol,” “What Lawyers Need to Know About Emission Trading Programs,” and “Business Impacts of a Carbon-constrained Economy.”

At Reed Smith, Smokelin represents clients in a broad range of environmental issues, including environmental civil enforcement and litigation matters, as well as regulatory and transactional issues. In the area of climate change, Smokelin helps clients understand the potential impact of greenhouse gas legislation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states and the European Union.