Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2016

Publication Citation

23 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 819 (2016)


This Note discusses the effects of climate change that threaten Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Specifically, with increasing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting in rising sea levels and higher frequency of extreme weather events, many citizens of SIDS are forced abandon their homelands, which are no longer livable. Although SIDS are some of the smallest contributors to GHG emissions, and therefore contribute the least to climate change, SIDS are some of the countries most heavily affected by the negative effects of climate change. The global community has an obligation to accommodate these displaced people, partially due to the significant imbalance of power between larger, industrialized countries (that often emit higher levels of GHGs, but feel the adverse effects to a lesser degree) and smaller developing countries (such as SIDS, which disproportionately feel the negative effects of climate change). In addition to this power imbalance, the global community should protect citizens of SIDS as global citizens. As these small nations disappear, their citizens will be forced to rethink their local and national identities, but they will continue to be global citizens. However, a successful structure for remedying these losses will provide citizens of SIDS with the ability to relocate entire populations together, as autonomous nations. It is essential to classify these people as environmental refugees and create a system to relocate them that preserves as much of their autonomy and culture as possible. In addition to addressing the effects of past pollution, the international community must also focus on preventing further damage by limiting future GHG emissions.