Professor Richard Lazarus on The Puzzle of American Climate Politics

lazarusTopic: Professor Richard Lazarus on The Puzzle of American Climate Politics

Institution: Harvard Law School

Bio: Richard Lazarus is the Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law at Harvard University, where he teaches environmental law, natural resources law, Supreme Court advocacy and torts. Professor Lazarus has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 40 cases, and has presented oral argument in 13 of those cases. His primary areas of legal scholarship are environmental and natural resources law, with particular emphasis on constitutional law and the Supreme Court. He has published two books, The Making of Environmental Law (U. Chicago 2004) and Environmental Law Stories (Aspen Press, co-edited with O. Houck 2005). He was also the principal author of Deep Water — The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling (GPO 2011), which is the report to the President of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission, for which he served as the Executive Director. The Commission was charged with investigating the root causes of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and recommending changes in law and policy to reduce the risk of future spills and to mitigate their impact. Prior to joining the Harvard law faculty, Professor Lazarus was the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Professor of Law at Georgetown University, where he also founded the Supreme Court Institute. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 and has a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in economics from the University of Illinois.

Episode Summary:

Professor Lazarus talks about the puzzling recent history of climate politics in the US, and suggests some structural as well as cultural reasons as to why climate policy has proved so politically poisonous in America. Some potential steps forward are discussed, including an end to the de-facto requirement of super-majority in the US Senate.



1. Lazarus, Richard J. “Super Wicked Problems and Climate Change: Restraining the Present to Liberate the Future,” 40 Environmental Law Reporter:

2. Lazarus, Richard J. “Environmental Law After Katrina: Reforming Environmental Law by Reforming Environmental Lawmaking,” 81 Tulane Law Review 1019 (2007):


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Intro/Outtro Music: Bolling: Suite For Cello And Jazz Piano Trio – Baroque In Rhythm