Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law
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Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Edited by Susan C. Breau and Katja L.H. Samuel

International law’s role in governing disasters is undergoing a formative period in its development and reach, in parallel with concerted efforts by the international community to respond more effectively to the increasing number and intensity of disasters across the world. This Research Handbook examines a broad range of legal regimes directly and indirectly relevant to disaster prevention, mitigation and reconstruction across a spectrum of natural and manmade disasters, including armed conflict.
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Chapter 8: Disasters, international environmental law and the Anthropocene

Tim Stephens


International environmental law has been profoundly shaped by disasters. While international environmental law has been developed in order to avert or ameliorate catastrophes attributable to human activities, it also has relevance to the emerging field of disaster law that is primarily concerned with natural disaster preparedness, mitigation and response. This is not least because of the increasing difficulty in distinguishing natural from human-induced disasters in the Anthropocene. However, an international environmental law fashioned in the aftermath and shadow of a disaster suffers from several failings, fixating on discrete incidents and the risks of recurrence, rather than on the larger structural shortcomings in the international order that is enabling global environmental decline.

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