Choosing a Future

Choosing a Future

The Social and Legal Aspects of Climate Change

Edited by Anna Grear and Conor Gearty

The issue is no longer whether climate change is happening; it is rather what we should now be doing about it. Drawing together key thinkers and policy experts, this unique volume – also a Special Issue of the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment - engages with the human dimensions of climate change, offering a timely intervention into contemporary debates about the challenging relationship between law and society in a time of climate crisis. The result is an imaginative, well-informed and provocative collection of contemporary engagements with the greatest challenge of the age, concerned not only to understand the current crisis but to offer perspectives on how it can be addressed. At the heart of this volume is the conviction that change is urgent, possible and morally imperative.

Chapter 10: Climate justice: the claim of the past

Stephen Humphreys

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


This synthetic appraisal of the collection of papers in this issue argues that historical injustice saturates the problem of climate change. Those most vulnerable to climate change today are largely those who already lack resources – who have been on the wrong end of colonial history, or who have been globalization’s losers, or who have suffered neglect, exclusion or simple rapacity at the hands of their own governments. They are those who have benefitted little or not at all from a carbon-intensive global economy, but who have long suffered its side effects – resource stripping, food price spikes, impoverishment and now the ravages of climate change. Following the other authors in this issue – and examining human rights law, trade law and the overarching ideal of the rule of law – the paper notes that the particular form taken by law in international and transnational affairs, having largely followed the historical progress of industrialism, colonialism and globalization, is peculiarly ill-suited to the task of addressing this vulnerability.

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