Synthesis of Climate Change Policy in Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Branches of U.S. Government

Robert Brinkmann
Sandra Jo Garren


In recent years, the United States has struggled to develop a comprehensive policy for climate change and concomitant greenhouse gas emissions that addresses the current scientific thinking on the topic. The absence of any clear legislative or executive approach dominated national discussions and the court system was used to litigate a variety of issues associated with global warming. This paper synthesizes actions taken in the three branches of government prior to and immediately following the Obama election. In the Judicial branch, several branches of law have been used to force government and private parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the historic greenhouse gas lawsuit, Massachusetts et al. v. the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), and under the direction of the Obama administration, the U.S. EPA has taken significant action to regulate greenhouse gases. In the legislative branch, a comprehensive energy and climate bill passed the House of Representatives and comparable and alternate energy and climate bills were debated in the Senate indicating hope for legislation in the 111th Congress. However, these bills proved to be unsuccessful, therefore leaving the U.S. EPA and the courts the only options for national climate policy in the near future.


climate change policies; climate policy frameworks; domestic policy instruments; greenhouse gas emissions; United States; cap and trade; climate change

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