Climate Change, Sovereignty and Statehood
Rosemary G. Rayfuse
University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law
September 21, 2011
INTERNATIONAL LAW IN THE ERA OF CLIMATE CHANGE, R. Rayfuse and S. Scott, eds., Edward Elgar, 2012
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/59
Climate change presents a unique threat to the territorial integrity of states, indeed, to the very notion of statehood itself. Climate change will affect the physical territory of states in a number of ways, such as the loss of viable eco-systems due to desertification, increased soil salinity, flooding of coastal and low-lying regions or loss of reliable access to land due to increased severe weather events such as hurricanes. Coastal states, in particular those with low-lying coastal areas, will also be affected by permanent loss of land through shoreline erosion caused by extreme weather events and sea-level rise. Moreover, it has been recognised that by rendering some inhabited land incapable of sustaining human habitation, climate change will also result in the forced migration of some or all of a population from their lands. In particular, it has been suggested that by the end of this century a number of low-lying small island states such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives, may be rendered totally uninhabitable due to sea level rise. This begs the question as to the continued statehood of these entities. In light of these sometimes dire predictions, this chapter examines the challenges posed by climate change to the international law on statehood. It does so in the context of analysis of the legal construction of statehood, how the law regulates the dissolution of states, and whether the law is adequately positioned to deal with the threat to statehood and sovereignty posed by climate change.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: international law, statehood, sovereignty, climate change, international personality, quasi-statehood
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32, K33
Date posted: September 21, 2011 ; Last revised: November 18, 2014
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