Vanderbilt Law School Background Image

Michael P. Vandenbergh

David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law
Director, Climate Change Research Network
Co-director, Energy, Environment and Land Use Program

Michael Vandenbergh is an award-winning teacher and scholar whose research focuses on working with interdisciplinary teams to explore environmental governance, environmental behavior and climate change. His research has developed the concept of private environmental governance and explored how private governance initiatives can address polarization and other barriers to climate change mitigation.  His interdisciplinary work with Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network focuses on the reduction of carbon emissions from the household sector, and he is one of the top 25 law professors in the US based on peer-reviewed literature citations. His book with physicist Jonathan Gilligan, Beyond Politics: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2017) was favorably reviewed in Science, Nature Climate Change and Legal Planet; won the 2018 Chancellor’s Award for Research; and was named by the Environmental Forum as one of the most important environmental policy books of the last 50 years. His article “Beyond Gridlock,” also co-authored with Gilligan, won the 2015 Morrison Prize for North America’s best sustainability article. His other writings have appeared in PNAS, Nature Climate Change and the Columbia, Cornell, Michigan and NYU Law Reviews. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Professor Vandenbergh was a partner at Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C. He served as chief of staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 1995. He began his career as a law clerk for Judge Edward R. Becker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. A recipient of teaching awards at Vanderbilt and at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Vandenbergh teaches courses in environmental law, climate change justice and property. He has been a visiting professor at the Wharton School’s Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and at the University of Chicago and Harvard Law Schools. He is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers and a member of the Board on Environmental Change and Society of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Buying Time: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change, a TEDx talk by Michael Vandenbergh

Book reviews for Beyond Politics: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change

Science magazine

Nature Climate Change

Legal Planet Blog (by Dan Farber)

Research Interests

Environmental law and policy, social and behavioral sciences, private governance, climate change, energy law and policy, presidential control of agency decision making

Representative Publications

  • Beyond Politics, Cambridge University Press (2017) (with Jonathan Gilligan)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Beyond Gridlock," 41 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 217 (2015) (with Jonathan A. Gilligan) (winner of the 2017 Morrison Prize)
    Full Text | SSRN | PDF
  • "Energy and Climate Change: A Climate Prediction Market," 61 UCLA Law Review (2014) (with Kaitlin T. Raimi and Jonathan M. Gilligan)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Private Environmental Governance," 99 Cornell Law Review 129 (2013). Selected for inclusion in the 2015 Land Use and Environment Review, an annual compendium of peer-selected leading law review articles in land use and environmental law.
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "The One Percent Problem," 111 Columbia Law Review 1385 (2011) (with Kevin Stack). Selected for inclusion in the 2013 Land Use and Environment Law Review.
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "Time to Try Carbon Labelling," 1 Nature Climate Change 4-6 (2011) (with Tom Dietz and Paul C. Stern)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Household Actions Can Provide a Behavioral Wedge to Rapidly Reduce U.S. Carbon Emissions," 106 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 18452 (2009) (with Tom Dietz, Gerald Gardner, Paul Stern and Jonathan Gilligan)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "The Carbon-Neutral Individual," 82 New York University Law Review 1673 (2007) (with Anne Steinemann). Selected for inclusion in the 2009 Land Use and Environment Law Review.
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "The New Wal-Mart Effect: The Role of Private Contracting in Global Governance," 54 UCLA Law Review 913 (2007)
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN
  • "Inside the Administrative State: A Critical Look at the Practice of Presidential Control," 105 Michigan Law Review 47 (2006) (with Lisa Bressman)
    Full Text | SSRN | HEIN