ABOUT

Our work ensures that scientists can conduct, publish, and discuss their research and advocate for science without the threat of political harassment, censorship, or legal intimidation.

Our Mission

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) protects the scientific endeavor by putting its legal expertise to work for scientists who are threatened or silenced due to their findings or fields of study. Our work preserves and expands scientists’ rights and strengthens the legal protections that promote scientific integrity.

How We Protect the Scientific Endeavor

We’ve fought for the scientific endeavor since 2011. Our initiatives ensure that scientists can conduct, publish, and discuss their research and advocate for science without the threat of political harassment or legal intimidation.

Our goals are simple: We want scientists to be able to focus on understanding climate change, threats to public health, and other critical human and environmental issues — and we want to ensure trust in science.

We provide a range of free legal services to scientists, including educating researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities. Our initiatives include:

  • Offering legal aid clinics at scientific conferences
  • Giving educational workshops and webinars to the research community
  • Publishing free resources for scientists and attorneys

In recent years, we’ve documented federal and state attacks on science and assisted numerous researchers facing government censorship attempts. Today, in addition to our ongoing initiatives, we’re focused on restoring scientific integrity and guarding against the return of anti-science ideologies.

During the past decade, we’ve assisted hundreds of scientists and educated thousands more about their rights. We remain the only organization in the United States that provides free legal advice and education to academic and government researchers targeted by groups trying to undermine science and erode scientific integrity.

Our History

CSLDF was founded in 2011 by Scott Mandia, Joshua Wolfe, and Charles Zeller. This climate-conscious group came together in response to increasing legal attacks on climate scientists and the immediate need to defray the legal costs of an ideologically-motivated lawsuit against the University of Virginia and pioneering climate scientist Michael Mann.

The group’s initial effort raised over $100,000 to cover Mann’s legal bills. In spring 2014, following three years of litigation, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in Mann’s favor.

Following this success, Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University science historian and author of Merchants of Doubt, and Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground Inc., joined what would become our founding board.

As we grew into a permanent organization, we added to the legal and educational services we offer the climate science community and began assisting researchers studying other environmental issues.

Our staff and a committed group of pro bono attorneys, law professors, interns, and volunteers achieve and advance our mission of protecting the scientific endeavor.

Meet the Driving Forces Behind CSLDF

We’re a focused, tenacious, and passionate group. Our diverse team includes lawyers, scientists, professors, filmmakers, media professionals, and fundraising experts.

Staff


Tiffany Challe

Communications Coordinator

Tiffany joined CSLDF in June 2021 as Communications Coordinator. She graduated in 2015 with a Master’s Degree in Sustainability Science and Education from the Graduate Center at CUNY. During her studies, she conducted fieldwork on climate change adaptation and sustainable food production and performed community outreach in the small island developing state of Barbuda, West Indies. Tiffany interned at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Equator Initiative, supporting communications efforts and developing case studies.

Prior to joining CSLDF, she was a Communications Consultant at UNDP for the Environmental Governance Programme. She is also currently a Communications Associate at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.


Lauren Kurtz

Executive Director

Prior to joining CSLDF as executive director in 2014, Lauren was a litigation associate at the international law firm Dechert LLP. At Dechert, she represented commercial and individual clients on a variety of multi-billion and multi-million dollar commercial disputes as well as litigation over Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, document discovery claims, and defamation claims.

She has also held legal and policy positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and worked as a law clerk at an environmental non-profit group in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Lauren received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was involved in the Environmental Law Project.


Adrienne La Forte

Program and Development Assistant

Adrienne joined CSLDF in 2022 to assist in fundraising and development goals. She is currently a Masters student at the Columbia Climate School and holds a Bachelors degree from Tufts University in Environmental Studies and Political Science. Prior to joining the team, she worked as a paralegal at Ropes & Gray and a legislative aide for the City Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Rachael Lyle

Senior Staff Attorney

Prior to joining CSLDF, Rachael practiced complex civil litigation at a law firm in Washington, D.C., where she prosecuted claims against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors on behalf of states’ attorneys general and Native American tribes to recover damages caused by the opioid epidemic.  She was also a public defender in Alabama where she represented individuals facing incarceration who could not afford legal counsel.

Rachael began her legal career as an associate in the New York office of a law firm litigating labor class actions on behalf of low-income restaurant workers.  She received her B.A. in Environmental Ethics from NYU, and her J.D. from Tulane University Law School during which time she worked as a law clerk at New York Environmental Law and Justice Project.


Kaitlin Morrison

Project Attorney

Prior to joining CSLDF, Kaitlin litigated at environmental nonprofits, where her practice focused on working with communities to protect the right to healthy homes, clean water, and safe food, and holding corporate polluters accountable. She has also served as the Director of New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute (NYCELLI) since 2019.

Kaitlin clerked for Judge Gerard Lynch on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Judge Denise Cote on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Kaitlin holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women studies from the University of Washington, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.


Susan Rosenthal

Project Attorney

Susan Rosenthal is an attorney with an extensive background in legal and policy research. She previously worked for the Energy Programs Consortium (EPC), a joint venture of the four national associations that represent state energy officials, which provided training and technical assistance to state and local governments to help develop new clean energy programs.

Prior to joining EPC, Susan was an associate specializing in mortgage-backed securities at Heller Ehrman LLP; she also worked in legal events and in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at a large life insurance company. Susan received her J.D. from Rutgers Law School – Newark.


Meredith Weber

Finance and Grants Specialist

Meredith is focused on growing CSLDF’s base. In a previous role at Second Stage Theatre, she oversaw the Friends of Second Stage donor program and managed relationships for a portfolio of forty Trustees. Prior to Second Stage, she worked at Symphony Space as a grant writer and the New 42nd St. Inc. in operations. Meredith received her masters from Columbia University.


Lucy Wells

Development Director

Lucy has worked in fundraising for over a decade in the US, UK and Australia, after beginning her career working for the UK Government. She has experience helping organizations in multiple cause areas, including scientific research, education and health. Lucy is a dual UK/Australian citizen and has an MA in Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies from Oxford University.

Board of Directors


Joshua Wolfe

Co-founder and President

Josh is an entrepreneur who specializes in energy, the environment, and climate. He started his career as a photographer focused on telling the story of climate change, becoming the youngest person to receive the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography from the Sierra Club.

Along with climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Josh co-authored Climate Change: Picturing the Science (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009). According to NPR, “It’s an important subject, and Wolfe and Schmidt make a compelling case that we should care.”

Josh develops projects across a wide variety of mediums and leads a creative firm which does everything from build apps to produce documentary films.


Scott Mandia

Co-founder and Chair

Scott is Professor of Earth and Space Sciences and Assistant Chair of the Physical Sciences Department at Suffolk County Community College. He’s taught meteorology and climatology for more than 20 years. He received the American Geophysical Union Ambassador Award in 2014 and is a 1997 recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Scott co-authored Rising Sea Levels: An Introduction to Cause and Impact and a series of weather and climate learning modules, Investigations in Atmospheric Sciences. He co-founded the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, which matches media and government individuals with climate questions to climate scientists who have the expertise to answer them.


Charles Zeller

Co-founder and Treasurer

Charles began following climate science after retiring a career developing computer systems. As he learned more about the field and attacks on science intensified, he became increasingly involved in supporting policies, organizations and individuals concerned about the significance of climate risks.

Charles serves on Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute’s advisory board, and brings a wealth of business and management knowledge to the CSLDF board. He also serves on the advisory board of Organizing for Action, a community organizing group that advocates for the agenda of former President Barack Obama.


Naomi Oreskes

Board Member

Naomi Oreskes is Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. Prior to that she was Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

Her research focuses on understanding scientific consensus and dissent, and she’s written opinion pieces for Nature, Science, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and other major media outlets.

Naomi coauthored the book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming. It was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, received the 2011 Watson-David Prize from the History of Science Society, and was made into a film.

Andrew Frey

Andrew Frey

Vice President

Andrew is a Partner at Mayer Brown. He’s earned the esteem of clients and colleagues alike, both as a successful appellate litigator and as a sophisticated legal thinker and strategist. In 2006, Andy was included on the National Law Journal’s list of “Top 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” Chambers USA 2008 recognized Andy as “unique in his position as New York’s only pure appellate lawyer.” He was named one of Benchmark’s 2013 Appellate National and New York Litigation Stars and is ranked a top lawyer in the field of appellate practice.

Andy focuses on U.S. Supreme Court and federal and state appellate practice. In the Supreme Court, he’s responsible for hundreds of briefs on the merits, a similar number of certiorari petitions, and several thousand briefs in opposition to certiorari petitions. He has argued 66 cases in the Supreme Court, and numerous cases in the federal courts of appeals and in the supreme courts of 12 states. His advice on appellate litigation strategy is widely sought and valued.

His professional accomplishments have been recognized with the Burton Award for Legal Achievement (2005); the Presidential Award for Meritorious Service (1985); the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award (1980); and the John Marshall Award from the U.S. Department of Justice (1975).

Michael Oppenheimer

Michael Oppenheimer

Board Member

Michael is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School, the Department of Geosciences, and the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University. He is the Director of the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment at the Woodrow Wilson School and Faculty Associate of the Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies. He joined Princeton from the Environmental Defense Fund, where he was chief scientist and manager of the Climate and Air Program.

Michael is a long-time participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007. He’s been a member of several panels of the National Academy of Sciences as well as the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Studies. He received the 2010 Heinz Award and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In the late 1980s, Michael and other scientists organized two workshops under the auspices of the United Nations that helped precipitate the negotiations that resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Jeffrey Masters

Jeffrey Masters

Board Member

Jeff Masters co-founded The Weather Underground, Inc. in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. in air pollution meteorology at the University of Michigan. Jeff wrote much of the software that ingests and formats the raw National Weather Service data used on the Weather Underground website and created most of the imagery on its tropical page. He served as the Weather Underground’s chief meteorologist until the company was sold to the Weather Company in 2012.

Jeff now writes a regular opinion column for Scientific American on weather and climate events. Before obtaining his Ph.D., he was part of the Hurricane Hunters as a flight meteorologist for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center. The University of Michigan College of Engineering awarded Jeff its 2006 Merit Award as the Alumnus of the year from their Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences Department.

Michael Gerrard

Michael Gerrard

Board Member

The founder and faculty director of the groundbreaking Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and one of the foremost environmental lawyers in the nation, Michael Gerrard is an advocate, litigator, teacher, and scholar who has pioneered cutting-edge legal tools and strategies for addressing climate change. He writes and teaches courses on environmental law, climate change law, and energy regulation. He was the chair of the faculty of Columbia University’s renowned Earth Institute from 2015 to 2018. 

For three decades, before joining the Columbia Law School faculty in 2009, Gerrard practiced law in New York. As an environmental lawyer, he tried numerous cases and argued many appeals in federal and state courts and administrative tribunals. He also handled the environmental aspects of diverse transactions and development projects and provided regulatory compliance advice to an array of clients in the private and public sectors. Several publications rated him the leading environmental lawyer in New York and one of the leaders in the world.

A prolific author, he has written or edited 13 books, including Global Climate Change and U.S. Law, the first and leading work in its field (co-edited with Jody Freeman). His most recent book is Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (co-edited with John Dernbach). His 12-volume Environmental Law Practice Guide and four-volume Brownfields Law and Practice each received the Association of American Publishers’ Best Law Book of the Year award.

Gerrard is the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. He has also chaired the New York City Bar Association’s Executive Committee and the New York State Bar Association’s environmental law section. He has served on the executive committees of the boards of the Environmental Law Institute and the American College of Environmental Lawyers. 

Gerrard also has taught courses at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and the University of Malta. He has lectured on environmental law in Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Great Britain, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Taiwan, Vatican City, and throughout the United States. He has worked with the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the legal issues caused by rising sea levels that threaten the island nation.

Join Our Legal Team

We need lawyers and firms to assist us on a pro bono basis by advising scientists. Send us a message to start a conversation.

Press Inquiries

Our attorneys are happy to talk with journalists about our work and topics at the intersection of climate and the law.

Take a Stand for Science

Science is under sustained attack. Your support help us fight for scientists and defend scientific integrity.

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