Seminar on Climate Science and the Energy Transition in Climate Litigation

August 29, 2022 9:00 am — 4:15 pm
George Washington University, Washington, DC

An ELI Climate Judiciary Project Event

The number and scope of climate-related lawsuits in the U.S. has expanded significantly since 2015. Growing public awareness and urgency about climate risks is driving climate-related litigation in many areas of the law. Meanwhile, climate science has identified links to potential duties of care, establishing a basis for those seeking to demonstrate responsibility and obtain redress, and increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions.

As a result, judges are increasingly having to consider technical and scientific arguments, requiring a basic understanding of climate science and solutions. One key frontier facing society is the energy transition, driven by state “net-zero” policies, federal requirements and priorities, corporate divestment efforts, environment and social governance policies, and market forces. Resulting developments have already started to find their way into the courtroom, including through challenges to pipeline approvals and the siting of renewable energy facilities.

The Climate Judiciary Project, in collaboration with George Washington University, will host an invitation-only, day-long seminar on climate science and the energy transition for the judiciary. The program will feature leading scientific and legal experts, and will cover basic climate science, an overview of climate litigation, and the technical and legal aspects of the energy transition. There will be ample time for Q&A and discussion.


Randall Abate will discuss trends in climate litigation. Mr. Abate is the Assistant Dean for Environmental Law Studies at GW Law. Prior to his current role, he served as the inaugural Rechnitz Family and Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy and a Professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at Monmouth University. He has a BA from the University of Rochester and an MSL and JD from Vermont Law School.

Rachael Jonassen will discuss the basics of climate change science. Dr. Jonassen is Director of the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Management Program in the Environmental and Energy Management Institute at GWU. From 1978 to 2006, she served as Professor of Hydroclimatology. She has also served as Program Director for Carbon Cycle at the National Science Foundation and as NSF representative to the US Global Change Research Program. She has a BA from Dickinson College and MS and PhD degrees from the Pennsylvania State University.

Scott Sklar will discuss the green energy transition. Mr. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at GWU teaching three interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy. He also serves as the Energy Director of GWU’s Environment & Energy Management Institute and President of The Stella Group, Ltd., a global clean technology owner’s rep firm facilitating optimization of clean distributed energy utilization and technology integration primarily for commercial, industrial, institutional, infrastructure and local governments.

Donna Attanasio will discuss energy policy, legislation, and litigation trends. Ms. Attanasio leads GWU’s Energy Law Program and Sustainable Energy Initiative. Prior to her current role, she was a partner at White & Case LLP, in its Energy, Infrastructure, Project and Asset Finance practice (Energy Markets and Regulatory Group). She also served as the chair of White & Case’s renewable energy task force. She has BA from Smith College and a JD from Harvard Law School.

The Climate Judiciary Project of the Environmental Law Institute provides neutral, objective information to the judiciary about climate science and law. ELI, a non-partisan environmental law organization, has more than three decades of experience delivering environmental judicial education in the US and internationally.

Materials will be posted as they are received.