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Michael Vandenbergh - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Michael Vandenbergh

Professor of Law | Vanderbilt University


Expert in environmental law and how private industry can help slow climate change.





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Can your company stop global warming? Michael Vandenbergh at TEDxNashville OpenLine with Professor Michael Vandenbergh - Vanderbilt Law School Evening Session: Michael Vandenbergh and Thomas Lovejoy Is Global Warming on the Back Burner? Prospects for Change Carbon labeling: putting the power in consumer's hands


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Michael Vandenbergh is a Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University. His research explores the relationship between formal legal regulation and informal social regulation of individual and corporate environmental behavior. His work with Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network involves interdisciplinary teams that focus on the reduction of carbon emissions from the individual and household sector. His corporate work explores the influence of social norms on firms’ behavior and the ways in which private contracting can enhance or undermine public governance. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Vandenbergh was one of the nation’s foremost environmental lawyers. He served as Chief of Staff of the Environmental Protection Agency from 1993-95.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Environmental Law

Corporate Environmental Behavior

Carbon Emissions

Organizational Culture

Climate Change Research

Energy Law and Policy

Accomplishments (1)

Hall - Hartman Outstanding Professor Award (professional)


Awarded 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

Education (2)

University of Virginia School of Law: J.D., Law 1987

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: B.A., Zoology 1983

Affiliations (5)

  • Vanderbilt University : David Allen Distinguished Chair of Law
  • Vanderbilt University : Director, Environmental Law Program
  • Vanderbilt University : Director, Climate Change Research Network
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences : Member, Alternative Energy Future Committee
  • Middle Tennessee Clean Air Partnership : Member, Steering Committee

Selected Media Appearances (5)

Trump's EPA rewrote the rules on air, water energy. Now voters face a choice on climate change issues

USA Today  online


Coupled with market forces and more consumer support for renewable energy, the private sector is decarbonizing on its own. But that is "not a substitute for government action,” said Michael Vandenbergh, a Vanderbilt University professor who is director of the Climate Change Research Network.

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Companies Are Making Major Climate Pledges. Here’s What They Really Mean.

HuffPost  online


“The public sector has failed to take as much leadership as many, many people think we need to take,” said Michael Vandenbergh, co-director of the Climate Change Research Network at Vanderbilt Law School. “I think these efforts, overall, are essential.”

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Government action isn’t enough for climate change. The private sector can cut billions of tons of carbon

The Conversation  online


With President Trump’s announcement to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, many other countries around the world – and cities and states within the U.S. – are stepping up their commitments to address climate change.

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US exit from Paris climate accord makes discussing how and whether to engineer the planet even harder

The Conversation  online


The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has invoked condemnation and consternation from many commentators, including many of the United States’ strongest allies.

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Activism and Regulation in Global Commerce

HuffPost  online


Summit panelists identified other threats to government influence. Vanderbilt Professor Michael Vandenbergh noted that the United States has passed no new environmental legislation since 1990 despite the growing threat of climate change. Last, corruption in many countries has resulted in a laissez-faire approach to business. Phil Radford observed, "In much of the world, bribery is so prevalent that regulation is nonexistent."...

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

Can your company stop global warming?

TEDxNashville  Nashville, Tennessee


Buying Time: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change

Ostrom Workshop Colloquium  Indiana University, Indiana


New Governance for New Challenges

Fate of the Earth Inaugural Symposium: Human Well-Being and the Environment  Michigan State University, Michigan


Private Climate Governance

Kellogg School of Management / Aspen Institute Business and Society Leadership Summit  Northwestern University, Illinois


Private Governance and Legal Scholarship: The Emergence of Private Environmental Governance

Private Governance Workshop, Center for the study of Democratic Institutions and Energy, Environment and Land Use Program  Vanderbilt University, Tennessee


Selected Articles (5)

Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Most climate change policy attention has been addressed to long-term options, such as inducing new, low-carbon energy technologies and creating cap-and-trade regimes for emissions. We use a behavioral approach to examine the reasonably achievable ...

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A comparison of carbon calculators

Environmental Impact Assessment Review


International attention to carbon dioxide emissions is turning to an individual's contribution, or “carbon footprint.” Calculators that estimate an individual's CO2 emissions have become more prevalent on the internet. Even with similar inputs, however, these calculators can ...

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Carbon-Neutral Individual, The

New York University Law Review


Reducing the risk of catastrophic climate change will require leveling off green- house gas emissions over the short term and reducing emissions by an estimated 60-80% over the long term. To achieve these reductions, we argue that policy- makers and regulators should focus not only on ...

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The new Wal-Mart effect: the role of private contracting in global governance

UCLA Law Review


This Article argues that networks of private contracts serve a public regulatory function in the global environmental arena. These networks fill the regulatory gaps created when global trade increases the exploitation of global commons resources and shifts ...

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Inside the administrative state: A critical look at the practice of presidential control

Michigan Law Review


From the inception of the administrative state, scholars have proposed various models of agency decison-making to render such decison-making accountable and effective, only to see those models falter when confronted by actual practice. Until now, the" presidential ...

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