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/events/Burkett_Maxine_0.jpg The Malone Speaker Series of the Florida Climate Institute is proud to host Dr. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law (U Hawaii) & Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, on Thursday, February 8 at 2:00pm in the Reitz Union Chamber at the University of Florida. The event will be streamed live and archived online here.


Climate change is as much a sociopolitical phenomenon as it is a geophysical one.  Beyond contentious domestic politics and the intricacies of global climate governance, evinced by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and two and a half decades of subsequent negotiation, climate change unabated promises to upend centuries-old efforts to bring order and stability to communities across the globe.  No one effect of climate change evinces that more than the loss of habitability driving climate-induced displacement, migration, and relocation.  Though discussed at the periphery of legal and policy discourse (mostly in academia), decision-makers will soon have to confront loss of physical territory and the unviability of many places human communities currently call home.  Further, and consistent with so many of climate change’s worst impacts, the least responsible will be subject to the most disruption—whether it is as a migrant or a host of those who have moved. In the U.S., indigenous communities are at the frontlines of planned relocation with no comprehensive framework for response or a determination of individual and community rights in the process.  To effect security and well being, a mandate for functioning legal systems, a swift response is critical.  Further, most ethical frameworks demand a just and equitable response. 

Few appreciate the enormity of the task.  According to estimates based on current UNFCCC state parties’ nationally determined contributions, the globe will likely experience a 3.3˚ to 3.6˚ C temperature increase.  This increase would quite literally produce a whole new world.  In light of what we do not know about how climate change will disrupt existing socio-political systems and what we do not know about the nature and content of so-called “climate surprises,” Prof. Burkett argues that we are, in fact, behind a veritable veil of ignorance.  In this original position (marked by the current state of nature), a relevant theory of justice is required.  Drawing on John Rawls’ seminal work, Burkett argues that to forge a just society in an endlessly changing climate—and protect and advance the rights of all and particularly the most vulnerable—a deep and concerted inquiry into which structures can support social justice is essential at this time.  

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