Law Professor and Sustainability Fellow Randall Abate Advocates for Climate Justice

“Climate justice” focuses on the need for equitable responses to the pressing challenge of climate change that is being felt here and now, a problem disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized people internationally.


FAMU Law Professor Randall Abate, who has been awarded one of five Sustainability Institute Faculty Fellowships for the 2016-17 school year, will soon publish a book surveying governance challenges for climate justice in multiple case studies across the world. He explains that the book will help “put a human face on the climate change crisis that we are currently facing in the world, in the U.S., and here in Florida.”

The book is titled, Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges, and will be published in December, 2016. Professor Abate will teach a climate justice course at FAMU College of Law in the spring of 2017, drawing on the rich case studies in the book that cover North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, the United States, and Australia.

The case studies address impacts on affected communities including island nations, indigenous peoples, women in rural areas, South Florida residents, and animals.

The book raises the climate justice challenges that these regions and communities face and proposes legal solutions. During his sabbatical in fall 2016, Abate will travel to the U.K., Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, Vanuatu, Australia, and three cities in the U.S. to teach courses and deliver lectures related to the book. He delivered lectures in Norway and Canada this summer on atmospheric trust litigation, which is the topic of a chapter that he prepared for this book.

 to rest of world

Many people are being displaced due to rising sea levels.

The regulation of climate change is complex and challenging, as it crosses international boundaries. Climate justice seeks to promote more equitable allocation of the burdens of impacts at local, national, and international levels, Abate says. Climate justice law is founded on international human rights and environmental justice theories.

“Whether we are considering the plight of indigenous peoples in the Arctic or low-lying island nations in the South Pacific, climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and polar melting affect many human rights including the right to health, food, shelter, culture, and life,” he explains.

“Climate justice takes many forms,” he continues, “sometimes in the form of court cases based on environmental and/or human rights-based theories, sometimes in the form of proposed treaty or statutory protections, and sometimes simply in the form of raising awareness of and sensitivity to the vulnerability of marginalized communities to climate change impacts and offering them a right to be heard.”


Agriculture is being greatly affected by climate change. 

Abate’s focus on climate justice is founded on a view of sustainability as a necessary consideration for responsible economic activity. He recognizes that resources should only be used in a way that ensures their availability for future generations. As such, one aspect of climate justice that Abate has been concerned with is atmospheric trust litigation. “This theory involves lawsuits brought by youth plaintiffs against state and federal government entities alleging that the government has a fiduciary duty to

protect the atmosphere for the benefit of current and future generations,” Abate writes. This theory draws on sustainability and its environmental stewardship foundations.

Abate has been a law professor at FAMU’s College of Law in Orlando since 2009. Upon return from his sabbatical, he will begin a three-year term as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Law in January, 2017. His body of work focuses on domestic and international environmental law (with an emphasis on climate change law and justice), animal law, ocean law, and constitutional and human rights law. In addition to the forthcoming book, he has published four other books and dozens of articles in law journals.

“Climate change is the greatest environmental, social, legal, and political challenge that the world has ever faced. And embracing the essence of what sustainability means may provide us with an effective response to this daunting challenge,” Abate says. 


Disruptions from flooding are causing economic and social harm.

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