Climate change already has begun destabilizing natural systems, prompting unprecedented heat waves, droughts, floods, and severe storms. While scientists admonish us that greenhouse gases must be cut deeply and quickly to avoid the worst impacts, past emissions have committed the planet to some further warming. Resulting physical changes will require a legal system that functions amidst extreme weather, rising seas, and scientific uncertainty about the stability of natural systems upon which we relied in designing institutions and infrastructure. An effective response requires both substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to limit the harm ("mitigation') and significant adaptation. Scholars and policymakers have largely treated mitigation and adaptation as distinct strategies, overlooking critical interactions between the two issues. This Article addresses the resulting gap in scholarship. Adequate preparation for climate change requires fundamentally rethinking systems and infrastructure designed for more stable conditions. Part of this rethinking process includes evaluating whether legal measures designed to red greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately aid or hinder adaptation. Using a case study of one proposed mitigation measure-expanded reliance on nuclear power-this Article illustrates how disconnected approaches to adaptation and mitigation can undermine both efforts. The Article then offers a preliminary framework for holistic climate change governance that directs mitigation investment toward adaptive and adaptable infrastructure that reduces human risks, decreases reliance on complex networks, and moderates the extent of scientific uncertainty that legislators and administrative agencies will face in an unpredictable future environment.
Holistic Climate Change Governance: Towards Mitigation and Adaptation Synthesis,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol85/iss3/2