Document Type



Maryland Law Review




Urgent emission reduction and community adaptation efforts are necessary to avert catastrophic climate-change harms. To assess our nation’s progress toward such efforts, this Article develops a comprehensive structural analysis of U.S. climate policy at the federal, state, and local levels. It observes that current climate policies reflect disparate federal, state, and local strategies around emissions regulation, emission reduction subsidies, adaptation, and liability approaches. The Article then analyzes the dynamics between federal, state, and local strategies in these policy areas.

This examination leads to some surprising conclusions. Under current policy alignments, further emission regulation measures do not appear to be realistic policy options. Though such regulatory measures have long been considered the most efficient climate interventions, this analysis suggests they have little near-term prospect for further deployment. Rather, current dynamics among the states and federal government indicate that previously second- and third-choice policies, like subsidies and liability measures, have greater potential for expansion. Thus, these less-favored policy approaches may represent the best hopes for pressing emission reduction efforts.

Further, the analysis suggests that while most climate adaptation policy is implemented at the local level, federal adaptation policies require the more immediate attention. Because federal adaptation policies reflect a deferential funding strategy, where the federal government attempts to match support with state and local policy preferences, altering federal programs to better recognize state and local choices will enhance adaptation efforts at all levels of government.