U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two

By Dena P. Adler

More than two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate changerelated regulatory rollback brought before the courts has yet survived legal challenge. Nevertheless, climate change is one arena where the Trump Administration’s regulatory rollbacks have been both visible and real. The Administration has delayed and initiated the reversal of rules that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from stationary and mobile sources; sought to expedite fossil fuel development, including in previously protected areas; delayed or reversed energy efficiency standards; undermined consideration of climate change in environmental review and other decisionmaking; and hindered adaptation to the impacts of climate change. However, the Trump Administration’s efforts have met with constant resistance, with those committed to climate protections bringing legal challenges to many, if not most, of the rollbacks.

This paper seeks to provide a landscape level view of how litigation is shaping climate change law and policy during the Trump Administration. To this end, it categorizes and reviews dozens of climate change cases filed during 2017 and 2018 to shed light on how litigation is counterbalancing—and at times complementing—the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine climate change protections. The analysis focuses specifically on “climate change cases,” defined as cases that raise climate change as an issue of fact or law. From the U.S. Climate Change Litigation database, maintained by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Arnold & Porter, this analysis identified 159 climate change cases from 2017 and 2018 pertaining to federal climate change policy.

Read the report U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two in Columbia Law School's Scholarship Archive.