Why Every Lawyer Should Care About Climate Change

On November 20, 2015, the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association will consider a resolution calling for government to acknowledge and act on the urgent problem of climate change caused by human activity. As a supporter of the resolution, I have been asked “why is this an issue for lawyers and the bar association?”

In my view it comes down to a question of justice, as the undeniable effects of climate change will include disruption of the life, liberty, and property of people in our country and throughout the world. Solutions are available. They need to be debated, adopted, and expressed in law. But social, political, and economic forces prevent many elected officials from even acknowledging the problem, much less pursuing solutions.

As a community of lawyers, one of our primary concerns should be furtherance of justice. Faced with one of the greatest challenges our society has ever faced, it is right that lawyers should speak out in favor of solutions through law. This falls squarely within PBA’s mission: the advancement of jurisprudence, promotion of justice, protection of the disadvantaged, and advancement of proper legislation.

In June of 1963, President John F. Kennedy convened 244 leading lawyers from throughout the United States, including leaders from the state bars and the American Bar Association, to a meeting at the White House where he asked for their support on civil rights through law.

Days before that meeting, the President gave one of the most important speeches of his life, calling on “every American” to “stop and examine [their] conscience” on the subject of racial justice.

The need for action on civil rights in the summer of 1963 was undeniable. As President Kennedy recognized, “events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.”

The need for action on climate change is now undeniable. Just as the support of the legal community was needed in 1963 on civil rights, so too is it now needed on climate change.


Steve Harvey

President, A Call to the Bar: Lawyers for Common Sense for Climate Change



This is an excerpt of an article that was originally published in the October 2015 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Environmental & Energy Law Section Newsletter. Click here to read the full newsletter, including the full resolution and full article (located on page 6)