Faculty Focus: Professor Katrina Kuh

An avid long-distance runner, Professor Katrina Kuh has loved the outdoors since she was a child. This passion for the outdoors turned into a passion for the environment, which led Professor Kuh to pursue her JD, and ultimately, a career in environmental law. Professor Kuh joined Haub Law in 2017 and is currently the Haub Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law and serves as the Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Hack Competition. She teaches Administrative Law, Environmental Survey, Climate Change Law, International Environmental Law, and Torts. Learn about Professor Kuh’s background, her thoughts on traveling, climate anxiety, and more in this candid Q&A.

How did you become interested in environmental law and climate change law? 

My parents always loved the outdoors. We were often tight on money and camping felt like getting something for nothing. Coupled with the fact that I’m a long-distance runner, I spent a lot of time outside. I spent two summers living and working in Boulder, CO just so I could run there. The single biggest predictor of whether a person will care about environmental issues is whether the person spent time in nature as a child with a trusted adult and that was something we did together often as a family.

In terms of climate change, I wasn’t a visionary. In law school, we all had to satisfy a writing requirement to graduate. My good friend wrote a paper on possibly being able to sue large GHG emitters under nuisance. It was ultimately cited by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Connecticut v. EPA.  He was a visionary! I only really started to focus on climate change after I started teaching at Hofstra Law School in 2007. They let me develop a seminar and I created a course on climate change law. Every time I teach climate change law, I think that the next time that I teach it, there will surely be a new federal statute focused specifically at GHG reduction, but, alas, I’m still waiting. As a professor, I really love teaching the class. Every time you teach the class you have to rework it because it is constantly changing and evolving.

What are some of your other projects you are working on?

I just had an article published in the Marquette Law Review, Informational Regulation, the Environment, and the Public, contributed to a report, Legal Aspects of Climate Change Adaptation. I’m working on a couple of new writing projects as well. I’m working on a law review article with a professor from another school that explores eco-necro tourism, or “last chance” tourism, from a legal perspective. I’m also writing a book chapter focused on environmental aspects of the constitution with James May, a Pace alumnus and visiting scholar, and editing a book based on a project by the Environmental Law Collaborative, Adapting to a 4 C World.

Earlier this year, a book of which I am a co-author came out - “Climate Change Law: An Introduction.” I wrote this with fellow Haub Law Professors Karl S. Coplan, Shelby D. Green, Katrina Fischer Kuh, Smita Narula, Karl R. Rábago (former professor), and Radina Valova. There are many policy makers who don’t have a JD who are finding themselves working on climate policy issues. Even those who do have a JD may not have taken a course specific to climate policy. This book is a punchy, straight to the point introduction to climate change. We wanted to come together to provide an onramp to climate policy in the US. The goal is to define terms, but also get the readers quickly to the legal questions and debates. I will be using it as one of the texts for the Climate Law class at Haub Law moving forward. I even did a Q&A on the book when it came out to go over the basics of it!

At Haub Law you are the Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Hack Competition - can you talk a bit about that?

Yes, we just announced the problem for the next competition, which invites students to propose a private environmental governance initiative. The goal in selecting and drafting the problem is to find an emerging environmental issue that could benefit from a new perspective and is manageable for students to address in a meaningful way in the competition timeframe. We like encouraging interdisciplinary teams and want to encourage students to think about intersections between law and policy.

How do you deal with Climate Anxiety? 

I’m a worrier by nature and I struggle with this. I was talking with my kids at dinner and said, jokingly, marry whomever you want, just make sure they’re Canadian, so you can get a Canadian passport. My daughter was sobbing the next morning because she felt it was too much pressure to marry someone Canadian. It’s important to think about worrying that’s productive versus unproductive. The best antidote, for me, is feeling like you’re trying to do something. Working on climate mitigation eases my climate anxiety. 

How do you approach travel?

When I travel with my family, I prioritize taking them to special places that will be significantly altered in their lifetimes. We’ve been to the Everglades, Venice, Glacier National Park, glacier skiing in Europe, and to the Galapagos. Over Christmas, I wanted to take my kids to Grande Isle in my birth state - Louisiana. However, due to Hurricane Ida, they’re were not allowing non-residents.

Learn more about Professor Kuh.