23 Wake Forest J. Bus. & Intell. Prop. L. 19.
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in four million years. Human influence on the planet is so great that we likely have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, which codifies the impact of humans. The effects of climate change — which were only visible to trained observers and in computer models several decades ago — can be seen by everyone. And the best available science tells us we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or below across the globe by 2050, if not earlier, to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption. We have less than thirty years, and much of the needed work must be done by 2030.
Climate disruption is not the only challenge to achieving a sustainable society. We also face enormous challenges in other areas critical to the long-term success of the human project, like national governance, deepening inequality, pandemic response, unmet human needs, and environmental degradation.
In this context, which has no precedent in human history, should lawyers just keep behaving the way we ordinarily behave: counseling clients, drafting legal documents, and litigating cases? Or do we have a calling to do more?