Climate Change - An Overview


A recent study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program states that evidence showing a warming of the climate is “unequivocal” and attributes this warming to human activities.1 This June 2009 study caps what has been a year of increased focus on combating the perceived threats of climate change. Both the public sector and the private sector are developing programs to address the threat of climate change. On the international level, countries have entered into treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce emissions of GHGs; on national and state levels, programs have been enacted or are being developed to similarly reduce emissions; and private entities and NGOs are participating in voluntary emission reduction programs. The challenge, however, is great. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has called for a “second industrial revolution” to meet the technology challenges presented by the need to reduce GHG emissions.2

This paper discusses basic concepts relating to climate change and provides an overview of the regulatory programs affecting or potentially affecting the regulation of greenhouse gases.

1 Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, 2009, at 9.
2 Secretary Chu California Institute of Technology Commencement Address, June 12, 2009 (available at, last visited 6/25/2009).

Presented to the 21st Annual Environmental Law Superconference, Austin Texas, August 5-7, 2009

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