Washington Law Review


Currently, there are no adequate mechanisms under international law to balance the competing tensions climate change presents to state sovereignty. On one hand, climate change threatens state sovereignty because the catastrophic loss of life and property of millions of people would deprive states of control over their domestic territories. Yet, other states rely on claims of their sovereignty to reject international legal obligations to mitigate climate change. This Article attributes the inadequacy of international law in the climate context to the evolution of the international community into an economic union that has historically privileged material interests over legal rights. It argues that given the high improbability of supplanting this economic union with a legal union that protects sovereign rights while also checking sovereign powers, an entirely innovative approach is necessary to redress climate change-related rights violations. It further argues that the focus of law and policy makers should shift away from inadequate explanations of the relevance of international law provided by current international legal theories toward normative-based solutions to address violations of both sovereignty and human rights.

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