Climate Reparations

34 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2010

See all articles by Maxine Burkett

Maxine Burkett

University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2009


The climate crisis introduces an existential and moral dilemma of unparalleled proportions. The proliferation of carbon-based emissions in the atmosphere is threatening – and will continue to threaten with greater severity – the ecosystems that support all life and human civilisation. The impacts of climate change are experienced unevenly, with the most vulnerable – the ‘climate vulnerable’ – set to suffer first and worst.1 The current and anticipated impacts demonstrate a grand irony: those who will suffer most acutely are also those who are least responsible for the crisis to date. That irony introduces a great ethical dilemma, one that our systems of law and governance are ill-equipped to accommodate. Indeed, attempts to right this imbalance between fault and consequence have resulted in a cacophony of political negotiation and legal action between and amongst various political scales that have yielded insufficient remedies, if any. In this article, I introduce a theory of climate reparations to meet the great and disproportionate injuries that will result from anthropogenic climate change.

Suggested Citation

Burkett, Maxine, Climate Reparations (October 1, 2009). Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 10, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Maxine Burkett (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States

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