Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law

Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law

Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series

Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren

This timely Research Handbook discusses the challenges brought about by the need to adapt to a changing climate. It considers how adaptation is necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere which is already unavoidable due to past emissions.

Chapter 14: Climate change adaptation and environmental and pollution control law

Jonathan Verschuuren

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law


Environmental law, including pollution control law, is relevant for adaptation in three ways. First, pollution control law helps to make the natural environment (land, water, air) resilient to change. A natural environment that is already weakened by contamination will suffer greater negative impacts by climate change than a pristine environment. The combination of an influx of nutrients into surface waters, for example, and rising water temperatures can lead to massive harmful algal blooms in both marine and freshwater aquatic environments.1 Adaptation policies should, therefore, be aimed at further reducing or preventing the emission of pollutants into the environment. Second, environmental law instruments will have to be applied for adaptation purposes. Installations vulnerable to extreme weather events, flooding or droughts have to be made resilient to these impacts of climate change so as to prevent pollution. Flooding of a chemical industry plant or a waste management site, for instance, can lead to serious pollution in a large area. Therefore, permits and other legal instruments aimed at regulating these activities, have to force the owners of these installations to be prepared for such impacts. Environmental impact assessments can be used to discover whether industrial installations, infrastructure projects or other large-scale human activities are, from a long term perspective, ‘climate proof’.

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