Facing climate change with optimism

In the course titled Climate Change & the Energy Evolution, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law students learn how to use their legal skills to decarbonize the world’s economy.

As concerns about warming global temperatures and rising sea levels continue to grow, climate change has increasingly dominated political, economic, and scientific decision-making across the world—and the private energy sector is at the heart of many essential conversations pertaining to greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Satellite view of receding sea ice from space.
Receding Arctic sea ice, as seen from space. (Image: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio)

In the new course Climate Change & the Energy Evolution, co-Lecturers in Law Maggie Peloso and Kaam Sahley guide University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students in a deep dive into the private energy sector and its impending transformation as the world shifts toward more sustainable energy solutions.

Both Peloso and Sahley are partners at Vinson & Elkins. Peloso concentrates her work in the firm’s Environmental & Natural Resources practice, while Sahley is in Energy Transactions & Projects. Accordingly, Climate Change & the Energy Evolution stands out as an intentionally pragmatic course geared toward preparing students for meaningful careers assisting in the rapid decarbonization of the global economy.

Students enrolled in Climate Change & the Energy Evolution spend the first half of the course analyzing climate science, discussing the need for the dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and familiarizing themselves with the variety of regulatory stakeholders who drive the legal realities of the energy transition.

Because climate science continues to evolve and regulatory decisions within the energy sector are often highly politicized, this material can change from semester to semester. During the course’s first iteration in 2021, the Presidential Inauguration offered a natural opportunity to contrast Trump Administration policies from Biden Administration promises; this year, a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report included major developments from climate scientists.

“You’ve got a lot of regulatory flux, and that makes teaching the course both very challenging and very rewarding. Being able to teach students cutting-edge concepts and trying to get them to engage with material in the way that they will be expected to as lawyers is really fun,” Peloso says. “We spend a lot of time on current events. We spend a lot of time thinking about how the dynamics of the energy market are changing and how those changes are important factors when thinking about the kinds of things you might get asked to do as a lawyer and how you’re going to help.”

Read more at Penn Law News.