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Spring 2014UVA Lawyer - Home
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Policy Implications of Climate Science

Paul G. Mahoney

Dean Paul Mahoney

Were you to poll my faculty colleagues about the policy implications of climate science, you would not surprisingly find diverse views. Projecting into the future is a complex and uncertain undertaking, making it difficult to assess the costs and risks of action or inaction.

Making sense of imperfect and incomplete data is a constant challenge. But while academic researchers can wait to draw conclusions until we have adequate evidence, lawyers and clients do not have that luxury. They must anticipate and adapt to evolving regulations and even shape industry standards. Inside this edition of the UVA Lawyer, we hear from Bob Wyman ’80, who leads his firm’s response to the growing demand for advice on climate issues; Brad Keithley ’76, an energy consultant familiar with state and federal governments’ environmental initiatives; and Glenn Brace ’86, the claims director for a global specialty insurer that has formed an in-house climate study group. 

Several members of our faculty also have a great deal of experience and learning in this area. We conducted a roundtable discussion featuring three of our environmental law experts, Jon Cannon, Jason Johnston, and Michael Livermore. Each approaches the policy debate from a different perspective. Jon is a former general counsel of the EPA and has a wealth of institutional knowledge and a keen understanding of the promise and limitations of the regulatory process. Jason uses his considerable quantitative skills to dig deeply into the scientific literature on which policymakers rely and argues that regulators should be more willing to acknowledge the gaps in their knowledge. Michael is a leading theorist of the use of cost-benefit analysis in agency rulemaking and insists that policy proposals be evaluated against plausible alternatives rather than an ideal but unobtainable optimum. I hope you find their discussion of how to improve regulatory policy illuminating.

I had the pleasure of attending the Virginia Law Review’s centennial banquet this spring. Justice Antonin Scalia, a former member of our faculty who has published with the Law Review, came to Charlottesville to speak at the event. A centennial is an occasion to take stock of the past and plan for the future. The Law Review has a proud history, some of it recounted in these pages, and will remain an important part of our intellectual life. The editors and alumni of the Law Review celebrated by raising over $1 million that will put the organization on firm financial footing for the foreseeable future.

I wish all our friends and alumni a colorful spring and enjoyable summer and I look forward to seeing you in the course of my travels.