Anxiety about the fate of human civilization is rising. International Law has an essential role to play in sustaining community of nations. Without enhancing International Environmental Law, the biosphere that sustains all nations is imperiled. Laws in the United States can either impede or advance global environmental stewardship. What is entailed in such a choice?
The biosphere is changing. At a time when extraordinary technological prowess allows governments the capacity to know how deeply they are altering Earth's biosphere, nations experience a perverse inability to cooperate together. The Arctic is melting rapidly, with knock on effects for sea level rise and alterations in the hydro-logic cycle world-wide. As both the UN Global Environment Outlook (Geo-5) or the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Global Warming 1.5° C” indicate, global environmental trends are destabilizing and can overwhelm societies on each continent. Governments do not respond effectively. Their tepid response to climate change, as embodied in the Paris Agreement of 2015, is the best evidence that States need to reassess their cooperation. Shallow considerations of realpolitik no longer suffice. Nor do otherwise conventional questions, born of once sound practices from the “business as usual” eras, about how governments might methodically shape new treaties or incrementally advance international law while Earth's biosphere rapidly degrade.
States will need to rediscover the benefits and burdens of international cooperation. The aspirational norms of the United Nations Charter are still in force, albeit too little encouraged. More than needing reaffirmation, they require progressive development. Collaborative principles of law can be framed to provide the shared vision that States will require as the Earth's human population grows from 7.6 billion today toward 9.8 billion by 2050. This article suggests the contributions that international environmental law can made toward this objective.
Nicholas A. Robinson, Transnational Perspectives on the Paris Climate Agreement Beyond Paris: Redressing American Defaults in Caring for Earth’s Biosphere, 34 Md. J. Int’l L. 301 (2019), https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/1155/.