W&L Symposium Advises Obama Administration on Climate Change

Lexington, VA Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Climate Change and the Economy
Prof. Hari Osofsky addresses the effects of environmental regulation on economic growth.
The first days of the President Obama's presidency have been dominated by the economic crisis and debate over the contents of a stimulus plan. Nevertheless, early actions by the new administration have signaled its commitment to address climate change as part of a comprehensive energy plan that will mark a major shift in U.S. policy.

This month, legal scholars, economists and scientists from W&L and around the nation will converge at the Washington and Lee University School of Law for a symposium exploring the vast array of issues implicated by climate change. Panelists also will assess the Obama administration's initial steps at addressing the effects of climate change and anticipate the challenges ahead.

The symposium will be held on Friday, February 20 in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall, on the campus of Washington and Lee University. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m., with opening remarks at 9:00 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

President Obama's energy plan includes an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and reengaging the international community in treaty negotiations related to climate change. An early directive to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reassess a California waiver request allowing the state to establish emissions controls that are more restrictive than federal guidelines suggests the administration is serious about the change of course.

However, Hari Osofsky, associate professor of law at Washington and Lee and one of the symposium's organizers, notes that many challenges remain for the Obama Administration.

"What makes climate change such a knotty problem is that you have issues of scale at a scientific level and at a regulatory level," says Osofsky, who is an expert in climate change regulation. "When these worlds come together it makes it particularly difficult to figure out policy decisions."

In all, 16 scholars representing an array of disciplines will participate in panel discussions covering scientific and policy uncertainty, regulatory models, energy strategy, and justice issues related to climate and energy policy.

"The hope is that out of this interdisciplinary meeting will emerge a dialog that will be useful to the new administration as it addresses this problem," adds Osofsky.

The symposium, sponsored by the law school's Journal of Climate, Energy, and the Environment and Environmental Law Society, will also serve as an expression the University's commitment to sustainability. Organizers actively encouraged remote participation by panelists, thereby reducing the environmental costs associated with air and car travel to Lexington.

Osofsky also addressed the current national focus on the economy and the perception that climate change can be bad for struggling businesses.

"It's certainly the case that environmental regulation can negatively affect the economy," says Osofsky. "But we are so behind the curve with taking steps to address the problem that there are a lot of opportunities to have environmental win-wins we haven't even pursued yet."

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