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"Flattening the Curve" – COVID-19 and Climate Change


June 30, 2020



Presented by the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and co-sponsored by ELI

Everyone has now heard of "flattening the curve," a call for collective action to limit the worst effects of COVID-19. Advocates of climate action have begun to note the uncanny similarities between unchecked climate change and the pandemic, including the challenges brought by exponential growth, increased public awareness of the problem, and the imperative of a unified public response. Both pandemics and climate change know no boundaries and have the most impact on vulnerable communities; but ultimately they affect us all. Both jeopardize the safety, well-being and inherent dignity of those affected. And both trigger legal and ethical obligations of governments and the private sector to protect and safeguard the civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights that pandemics and climate change threaten equally. Because climate change, like COVID-19, is a global problem with local consequences, addressing it will require a collaborative and coordinated set of solutions implemented locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. Attorneys have a major role to play by writing and advocating for meaningful change. Speakers described the lessons COVID-19 has taught us about the need for an effective global response; and they will identify a variety of legal actions governments and the private sector must take to "flatten the curve" and keep the worst effects of climate change at bay.

Lisa Benjamin
(Moderator)– Assistant Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School
Sara Bronin – Faculty Director, Center for Energy & Environmental Law, University of Connecticut School of Law
Michael Gerrard – Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law School; Faculty Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
Tracey M. Roberts – Associate Professor of Law, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University
Adam Zipkin – Legislative Counsel, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker