Call for Papers

Submission deadline: Monday, October 10, 2016. Online abstract submission form is available here.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, the Environmental Law Program of the William S. Richardson School of Law (University of Hawaiʻi), and the Alaska and Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Programs will host this symposium, which aims to address some of the myriad legal and policy questions that arise as a result of climate change-related impacts on human displacement, migration, and relocation—both internal and cross-border—with an emphasis on recent and near term effects on the United States. In conjunction with the symposium, the Environmental Law Program of the William S. Richardson School of Law, and the Alaska and Hawai’i Sea Grant College Programs are issuing this call for papers. Over two days, symposium participants will, among other things, explore: (i) the challenges faced in identifying and addressing climate-related displacement; (ii) U.S. domestic climate-related displacement and community-led relocation; (iii) climate-related migration in or from the Pacific Islands; and, (iv) common needs and opportunities which may help inform the development of the selected papers.


The 3rd National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, both released in 2014, explore the potential impacts of climate change on human populations within the United States and globally. As the climate changes, the world will continue to see warming temperatures leading to glacial retreat, diminished sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels. Resulting impacts to communities are expected to include an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and coastal inundation of water sources and built infrastructure. Such changes have the potential to affect a wide range of communities, but particularly those in coastal regions.

The drivers of displacement and migration both domestically and internationally are multidimensional and complex, and the impacts of climate change are an additional stressor. As the impacts of climate change become more pronounced, it is likely that more individuals, families, neighborhoods, or even communities will consider relocating as a means of adaptation. Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama established the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which recommended several steps the federal government could take to support adaptation domestically and internationally. In June 2013, President Obama issued Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. Among other initiatives, the EO convened the State, Tribal, and Local Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Theme 4.5 of the 2014 Recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience called for the Federal Government to explore its role in addressing climate change-related displacement, the needs of affected communities, and institutional barriers to community relocation.

Currently, twelve communities in Alaska, three communities in Washington, and one community in Louisiana are strongly considering or have decided to relocate as an adaptation strategy, and that number will likely grow. The lack of an institutional framework for climate-related internal migration has been cited as an impediment to relocation in both a 2009 GAO report on Alaska communities and the 2014 National Climate Assessment. As more communities consider relocation as an adaptation option of last resort, there is a critical need to better define the federal role in community-led relocation and coordinate between different agencies and different levels of government to provide assistance to these communities.

The current administration has also prioritized developing policy to address the needs of communities in other countries facing climate change-related displacement or migration. Further, the U.S. has close ties with some of the countries most threatened by the impacts of climate change, particularly some of the Pacific Island nations.

We seek papers that address legal and policy topics including, but not limited to:

International Law and Policy

Domestic Law and Policy

Cross-Cutting Questions

Deadline and Submission Information

We welcome papers from legal scholars and practitioners from around the world.

The organizers have limited funding to cover the attendance of those participants demonstrating particular financial need. Please indicate whether or not your attendance is contingent on financial support when submitting your abstract.

For more information contact
Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law
William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaiʻi