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Tracy Hester
Climate Intervention Law
LAW 5397
Spring 2019




LAW 5397

Spring 2019

University of Houston Law Center
Fall 2019

Prof. Tracy Hester


Class Hours:    Monday-Wednesday 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm
                        Room BLB 3

Office Hours:  I’m in TUII 142 on Tuesdays from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, or any other time by appointment.

You can also reach me at 713-743-1152 or tdheste2@central.uh.edu to schedule a visit at any other time.


Course Description:

Climate change poses one of the greatest threats of our time, but our legal and regulatory systems have enormous difficulties in responding to it.  As a result, the consequences of climate change are inexorably growing while global emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity continue to accelerate.  To help bridge the gap between increasing emissions and the pace of governmental and private action, the emerging field of climate intervention explores options to directly control or alter the environment in ways to offset or prevent climate change effects.  These strategies, so far, have generally fallen into two categories:  technologies that reduce the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, and methods that directly remove large amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.  Both of these approaches pose unique challenges to environmental law and climate change regulatory policy.

This class is the first law school class offered in the United States on climate intervention law.  We will explore how this nascent field of law will grow, and experiment with different approaches and frameworks that could apply to climate intervention initiatives under international law and under U.S. and state laws.  As part of that process, we will also discuss the growing field of climate change law in general and how it might interact with climate intervention work. 

As an outcome of taking this class, you should be able to identify key regulatory issues and liability risks associated with climate intervention efforts and strategies to help manage those risks (including, if needed, halting a project entirely).

The class will use a combination of lectures, class discussions, case studies, in-class exercises and sample problems.   Where possible, we’ll use real-life proposed experiments and demonstration projects, and will reach out to bring key researchers to speak with us where possible.


Course Materials:

I will provide reading materials in a draft coursebook that will be provided at the start of the semester.  In addition, I'll distribute class handouts and supplemental materials as needed.  We’ll also use a basic class website where you can access additional optional materials as well as recordings of class lectures.



Our reading assignments will follow the course syllabus, although we may vary a bit in pace and coverage as the semester progresses (i.e., expect changes as we go). Of course, you should read each day's assigned materials in advance and be prepared to discuss them in class.

Class Participation

In general, I will treat you in class the same way that I’d treat you as a new attorney working for me at a law firm.  So please be prepared to discuss the readings assigned for that day as well as to think creatively about how to apply those materials to new situations and hypotheticals.  I’ll call on you randomly, but we’ll make sure that everyone has a chance to participate in the discussion before the semester’s end.  You will also have a limited number of opt-outs (no excuses necessary), but you can’t get credit for the class unless you attend at least 80% of the sessions.  You can also attend remotely via Zoom, but at this time you cannot use Zoom to attend for more than five classes over the semester without special permission.


Assessments and Grading

Your grade in this class will be based on a take-home final examination. You will have eight (8) hours to complete the exam, although it should not take you more than three hours.  You can use your personal notes or outlines that you create, your draft coursebook for this class, and any handouts. No other outside or outlines or briefs, please. We'll discuss the final exam’s format and other issues later in the semester.

I’ll adjust grades by one notch (i.e., a half-grade) based on class participation as merited. It works both ways - you can raise your grade with energetic and insightful participation, or you can lower it by consistently failing to prepare adequately for class.


Personal Resources

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help students who are having difficulties managing stress, adjusting to the demands of a professional program, or feeling sad and hopeless. You can reach CAPS (www.uh.edu/caps) by calling 713-743-5454 during and after business hours for routine appointments or if you or someone you know is in crisis. No appointment is necessary for the “Let's Talk” program, a drop-in consultation service at convenient locations and hours around campus.   Go to http://www.uh.edu/caps/outreach/lets_talk.html .