International and Domestic Law Dimensions of Climate Justice for Arctic Indigenous Peoples

38 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2014

See all articles by Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner

Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner

University of Kansas - School of Law

Randall S. Abate

Florida A&M University - College of Law

Date Written: February 2, 2014


Climate change is disproportionately impacting Arctic American indigenous peoples. Consequently, these communities are environmental justice communities. The environmental justice claims of Arctic American indigenous peoples result from the effects of climate change intersecting with indigenous peoples’ human rights. In order to explore these realities more fully, part I of this article discusses how American indigenous nations are environmental justice communities and discusses the unique factors that may apply to environmental justice claims arising in Indian country. The article then presents two case studies to explore how, if at all, these concepts have been previously applied to environmental justice claims brought by various American indigenous communities. Part II addresses the Inuit Circumpolar Conference’s (ICC) petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in December 2005. Part III considers the Native Village of Kivalina’s lawsuit filed in federal court in the United States in February 2008 against numerous private emitters of greenhouse gases.

Although the ICC and Kivalina claims involve different forums, defendants, and legal theories, both were brought by American indigenous communities in response to the negative impacts of climate change on their communities. Accordingly, evaluation of the ICC’s and Kivalina’s claims is helpful in understanding how environmental justice as applied to indigenous communities may include consideration of factors not applicable to environmental justice claims raised by other environmental justice communities.

Moreover, this article will underscore how Arctic American indigenous peoples’ environmental justice claims also involve human rights dimensions, as climate change is destroying their environment and, as a result, their culture. As fully explained in part I, environmental justice claims arising in Indian country must take into consideration indigenous sovereignty, the federal trust relationship and the unique connection between many indigenous communities and their land and environment. In both of the case studies examined here, the legal forums failed to take these legal factors into consideration. As a result, the indigenous communities suffered.

Keywords: climate justice, kivalina, inuit, climate change, environmental justice, human rights, indigenous people

Suggested Citation

Kronk Warner, Elizabeth Ann and Abate, Randall S., International and Domestic Law Dimensions of Climate Justice for Arctic Indigenous Peoples (February 2, 2014). Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 113, 2013. Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner (Contact Author)

University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States
785-864-1139 (Phone)

Randall S. Abate

Florida A&M University - College of Law ( email )

201 Beggs Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
United States

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