Climate Change, Public Health, and the U.S. Supreme Court

Free online event

Presented in partnership with the Center for the Law and the Public’s Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Webinar recording

Join the Center for the Law and the Public’s Health and the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University for a discussion about how the newly configured U.S. Supreme Court may rule on climate change cases and other matters vital to public health.

On January 19, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case arising out of Baltimore City’s climate change litigation against BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. The City is seeking damages from these energy companies for the impact of global climate change—specifically, it says that the companies’ production of fossil fuels has led to a warming climate, sea-level rise, and increased costs to maintain the infrastructure needed for the City to combat flooding. The case before the Supreme Court involves the question whether the suit must be heard by the state court, as the City contends, or can be heard instead by a federal court, which the companies prefer.

Our panel of experts in environmental law and policy—including the chief of the Affirmative Litigation Division at Baltimore City’s law department, who is overseeing the city’s lawsuit—will use this case as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about the Supreme Court’s possible jurisprudential moves related to climate change and a variety of vital public health matters likely to come before the Court.


  • Sara E. Gross is the chief of the Affirmative Litigation Division at the Baltimore City Department of Law, serving as counsel for mayor and City Council on a variety of civil cases, including the city’s case against BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. She has been with the Baltimore City Law Department for nine years and is currently also involved in the City’s case against Monsanto.
  • Robert Percival is the Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and director of the Environmental Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law. He is internationally recognized as a leading scholar and teacher in environmental law. Since 1992 he has been the principal author of the most widely used casebook in environmental law in the U.S., Environmental Regulation: Law, Science, and Policy, now in its eighth edition. Percival is a former Supreme Court law clerk who has written extensively on the Court’s handling of environmental cases.
  • Amir Sapkota is a professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health within the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. His work focuses on improving understanding of the impacts of climate change on human health, with an overall objective of driving policy discussion to inform effective and meaningful public health adaptation strategies that will minimize climate change driven morbidity and mortality at local, national and global levels.


  • Thomas A. Burke is the Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health Risk and Society at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management. A former state environmental and health official in New Jersey, he served as the EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator for research and development in the Obama administration.