Looking Ahead of the Wave: Reimagining State Sovereignty in an Era of Climate Crisis

dc.contributor.advisorHirsch, Susan
dc.creatorMoore, Brigit
dc.description.abstractClimate change threatens to produce destabilizing impacts across the globe, up to and including violent conflict. If climate change is not sufficiently mitigated, certain states, especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS), may even face the novel situation of state extinction due to disappearing territory, mass migration of citizens, or both. Although scientific studies suggest how climate change will alter environmental conditions across the globe, little is known about how leaders who will have to make critical decisions in this new and potentially cataclysmic context respond to this information. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap by examining how leaders in the Pacific understand and respond to the risks and impacts of climate change as they plan for an uncertain future. More specifically, this research investigates if and how climate change may alter conventional conceptions of statehood and sovereignty. The findings, which emerge from a comparative case study of two Pacific atoll SIDS, Kiribati and Tuvalu, whose existence is most threatened by climate change, show that Pacific leaders work to preserve their state’s existence, not only through climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, but also by reimagining state sovereignty to include non-Western priorities. One priority is clarifying international law to preserve maritime sovereignty in perpetuity, regardless of the impacts of climate change-induced sea level rise. The second priority is including cultural sovereignty, or the ability to live according to Pacific cultural values within their homelands, as a priority in maintaining state sovereignty. The reimagining of state sovereignty that is emerging from the Pacific in the context of climate change-related uncertainty has broader implications as well. Overall, it may even serve as a starting point for examining how the Western, state-based system might be reconceptualized as the global community contends with an era of climate crisis.
dc.description.noteThis work is embargoed by the author and will not be publicly available until 2024-08-31.
dc.format.extent387 pages
dc.format.mediumdoctoral dissertations
dc.rightsCopyright 2022 Brigit Moore
dc.subjectClimate change
dc.subject.keywordsPeace studies
dc.titleLooking Ahead of the Wave: Reimagining State Sovereignty in an Era of Climate Crisis
thesis.degree.disciplineConflict Analysis and Resolution
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University
thesis.degree.namePh.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution