What the Pandemic Can Teach Climate Attorneys

10 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020 Last revised: 19 Jun 2020

See all articles by Sara C. Bronin

Sara C. Bronin

Cornell University - College of Architecture, Art & Planning; Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: April 5, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more rapid changes to the law than most of us have seen in our lifetimes. These changes have remade, and in many cases severed, our social and economic connections to each other, in ways unprecedented except during war.

As many have argued, climate change is also a dire emergency, requiring an equally sweeping legal response. Climate change is COVID-19 in slow motion, but with less clarity and far greater destructive capacity.

Lawyers, like legislators and executive branch leaders, are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with creativity and improvisation. We may find that attorneys seeking to address climate change will be able to learn valuable lessons from the legal response to COVID19.

Part I of this Essay, echoing a point that has already been made many times now, explains why, on a practical level, COVID-19 and climate are intertwined. Part II argues that climate attorneys should focus on coronavirus lawsuits, which could be more consequential to climate progress than recent executive or legislative action. Part III of the Essay identifies three specific lawsuits climate attorneys should track. And Part IV concludes with a thought for attorneys as we weather this pandemic – and a warming planet – together.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, climate, vector, migration, climate change

Suggested Citation

Bronin, Sara C., What the Pandemic Can Teach Climate Attorneys (April 5, 2020). Stanford Law Review Online, Vol. 72 (May 2020). , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3569320 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3569320

Sara C. Bronin (Contact Author)

Cornell University - College of Architecture, Art & Planning ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Cornell University - Law School

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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