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Scaling 'Local': The Implications of Greenhouse Gas Regulation in San Bernardino County

17 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2009 Last revised: 17 Apr 2015

Hari M. Osofsky

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: March 2, 2009


This Essay analyzes local climate regulation in San Bernardino County as a window into the complexities of defining a local scale in an interconnected world. As a purely territorial matter, U.S. cities and counties differ substantially in their size, the physical geography that they encompass, and the needs of their population. Structurally, they remain administrative subunits of states with significant autonomy. Finally, their substantive decisionmaking requires them to engage with a wide range of actors at different scales as they make decisions about multiscalar problems.

These layered interactions suggest that a law and geography analysis of San Bernardino County might help to capture the nuances of appropriate and effective local policymaking with respect to climate change. Although law defines the boundaries of San Bernardino in specific ways, the interaction among legal and socio-political spaces reveals a more complex terrain. As local actors span a wide range of geographic and legal scales, urban and rural environments, and the relationships they each entail, supposedly local climate regulation involves multiple territories at different levels of government.

More specifically, the Essay explores the dynamics between place and space, and their construction of scale, to provide insights into the boundaries of this "local" territory. Part II describes the overlapping regulatory authorities and sociolegal spaces that converge in San Bernardino County as it addresses the problem of climate change. Part III examines those overlaps through a law and geography lens - specifically geographic network theory and bottom-up networking - to explore the scale of the local climate efforts in the County. The Essay concludes with reflections upon the broader consequences of the dispute for how we conceptualize the "local" and its role in climate regulation.

Keywords: climate change, climate change litigation, san bernardino, local government, county, law and geography, geography, california, place, space, scale, environmental law, international environmental law, transnational, international, regulation, property, land use, planning, local

Suggested Citation

Osofsky, Hari M., Scaling 'Local': The Implications of Greenhouse Gas Regulation in San Bernardino County (March 2, 2009). Michigan Journal of International Law, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Hari M. Osofsky (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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