Author: Robin Kundis Craig

This post is part of the Yale Journal of International Law Volume 37, Issue 2 symposium. Other posts in this series can be found in the related posts below. [Robin Kundis Craig is a professor of law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law] Margaux Hall and David Weiss do all of us a great service in continuing the dialogue regarding the relationship between human rights and climate change in their article, “Avoiding Adaptation Apartheid: Climate Change Adaptation and Human Rights Law.” In particular, their article rightfully points out that the human rights implications for climate change adaptation may be significantly different from those for climate change mitigation, in terms of substantive content, legal viability, and procedural feasibility. As I have argued in the natural resources and environmental law context, climate change adaptation is a different problem from climate change mitigation. By necessity, climate change mitigation—the steps toward reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions with the ultimate goals of first stabilizing and then reducing their atmospheric concentrations—requires international cooperation. It also requires sacrifice on the parts of some peoples and sectors, at least until some transition away from a carbon-based economy becomes technologically and economically possible. As a result of both of these realities, climate change mitigation efforts are plagued both by feet-dragging and free-riding, both of which complicate the very thorny issues of equity in implementing mitigation strategies around the globe. Nevertheless, as Hall and Weiss correctly note, implementing climate change adaptation strategies—that is, strategies for coping with the socio-ecological impacts of climate change—is a for more complex problem. For example, these strategies tend to be more focused on the local and regional scale, although at least some international coordination would be helpful for problems such as food and disaster aid and climate change refugees. Moreover, as Professor J.B. Ruhl at Vanderbilt has recently pointed out, climate change will produce winners as well as losers, complicating the potential willingness of all affected persons to embrace adaptation strategies, even in a small geographic location.