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A newly published paper from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law looks carefully at the 82 legal battles over climate change that got underway during President Trump's first year. Roughly 75% seek to uphold or advance climate policies.

Expand chart
Adapted from Adler, "U.S. Climate Change Litigation In the Age of Trump: Year One"; Note: Lawsuits studied are from 2017; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: The courts are an important battleground for climate policy, in part because unwinding or freezing a predecessor's policies often requires careful bureaucratic and legal spadework that provides opponents with avenues for litigation.

State of play: Columbia Law School fellow Dena P. Adler explored 82 cases, most of which were filed last year, while a few were prior cases that "pivoted" in response to Trump's deregulatory push. The study breaks down the cases in numerous ways, including a look at the different policy areas the cases address (see chart above).

One level deeper:

  • Overall, nearly three-fourths are what she calls "pro" cases — that is, plaintiffs are seeking to advance or uphold climate policies and safeguards. The balance are "con" cases that she says are designed to "undermine climate protection or support climate policy deregulation."
  • 28% were about integrating climate considerations into environmental reviews and permitting; 17% were aimed at defending Obama administration policies and decisions; 15% were about promoting "transparency and scientific integrity" under Trump; and 13% are aimed at "advancing or enforcing" additional protections.
  • Non-governmental organizations brought over half the cases analyzed, including the bulk of the "pro" lawsuits.
  • The Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency were the most frequent defendants, together accounting for 35 cases.
  • Of 14 cases directly defending Obama-era policies and decisions, 6 of those focused on delays of policy were able to reach some form of resolution.

What's next: "Though courts have issued a few decisions and litigation has pressured agencies to publish some outstanding rules, the 'stickiness' of these outcomes remains uncertain. Neither of these results preclude an agency from subsequently rolling back the policies at issue through the rulemaking process," she writes.

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.