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29 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 261 (2022)


Philosophy professor Timothy Morton uses climate change as his foremost example of what he calls a hyperobject: an object that occupies both more physical space and more time than humans can usefully comprehend. For example, one can understand local meteorological occurrences in isolation without necessarily understanding that a given storm was more severe than it should have been because an overall increase in global temperatures makes for a more aggressive, active hydrological cycle. Environmental organizations focused on raising awareness understand this. Public campaigns to wed the nebulous idea of climate change to specific, concrete images are incredibly memorable: think of a polar bear struggling to stand on a diminished iceberg. In light of climate change's unique status as a problem, it may seem more reasonable that climate change has yet to meet its ideal legal match regarding causes of action; climate change is too large and too slow-moving to be tackled by traditional schools of thought within the law. Indeed, the number of countries that have recognized a justiciable cause of action for climate change are far outweighed by countries that have not.

Climate change activist groups often pursue multiple legal approaches and appeal to multiple levels of authority worldwide, as there are many imperfect options available. Indigenous nations, depending on the country in which they are contained, may have treaty-based or otherwise more specific causes of action available for climate-related legal actions. An examination of currently ongoing climate litigation that features Indigenous parties in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Argentina provide insight into how Indigenousspecific domestic legal approaches may shape climate-related adjudication going forward.