Author Q&A – Randall Abate

Written by: Randall S. Abate


Randall Abate talks to us about his new book, Climate Change and the Voiceless, and how the law can protect those most vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change.


1.    Who do you refer to when you use the term ‘Voiceless’?

For purposes of this book, the term “voiceless” refers to future generations of humans (including current youth and the unborn), wildlife (but not domestic animals or animals in agriculture), and natural resources.  “Voiceless” in this context refers to how these communities lack the ability to protect their interests under the law.

2.    What inspired/influenced you to create the book?

My research and teaching have been focused on environmental law and policy issues for my 26 years in academia. For about the past 15 years, my focus has narrowed to address climate change law and policy issues, with an emphasis on climate justice.  Within the past five years, an additional focus in my teaching and research has been in the field of animal law and policy, and the parallels and synergies between animal law and environmental law.
This book project represents an integration of these three strands of focus in my research and teaching (climate justice, animal law, and environmental law) and identifies a common vulnerability that these seemingly different voiceless communities of entities share. The three voiceless communities addressed in this book share common vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and are insufficiently protected through existing legal mechanisms.
The time is right for this book project because of what I refer to as a “perfect storm” of legal, environmental, social, scientific, and political developments that are drawing attention to how the global community needs to focus on increased government stewardship responsibilities and increased rights-based protections for these voiceless communities.  Climate change-related disasters abound in the U.S. and abroad, including the California wildfires, Hurricane Dorian, and the Amazon fires; politicians regularly clash on regulatory strategies on climate change with such proposals as the Green New Deal in the U.S.; the climate change treaty negotiation framework has failed miserably; the news from the IPCC and its October 2018 1.5 degrees report continues to send more grim messages about our climate-changed future, and it is a bad situation that seems to get worse by the day with recent headlines regarding a spike of 3.5% in U.S. GHG emissions this past year even with the closure of many coal-fired power plants.

The time is right for this book project because of what I refer to as a “perfect storm” of legal, environmental, social, scientific, and political developments…

3.    Could you give us a brief summary of the main issues that you address in the book?

The book argues that the law needs to: (1) enhance government stewardship of the voiceless communities and (2) implement rights-based protections for these communities.  It provides detailed case studies from around the world describing initiatives and successes on these two objectives in each of the voiceless communities. But those successes were achieved in isolation from the other voiceless communities and they were not always achieved in the context of responses to the climate change crisis. The book seeks to have the law consider enhanced protections for the voiceless communities collectively and to leverage the climate change crisis as a vehicle for more effective and immediate legal protections for these communities. These efforts ultimately will enhance protection of human communities from the threats of the climate change crisis through improved ecosystem resilience.

4.    What audiences do you have in mind for the book e.g. practitioners, students, academics?

Although the book provides an in-depth legal analysis of the issues and is likely of greatest interest to law professors, lawyers, and law students, it is meant to have “crossover appeal” and be accessible to non-legal audiences with little or no background in climate change law and policy. Many of the book talks that I have delivered around the world on this book have involved non-legal audience. These attendees regularly share with me that they fully understand and appreciate the messages that I deliver in this book. I am already aware of three undergraduate professors who plan to adopt this book for their courses on environmental policy, climate policy, sustainability, and related topics.

5.    What is the one key thing that you would like readers to take away from the book?

The most effective response to the climate change crisis is a transition to an ecocentric model of regulation in which human and nonhuman communities are considered to be equally important and interconnected components of one vulnerable global ecosystem.  Voiceless communities are the foundation of the future of our fragile planet and the law needs to ensure their protection through measures that enhance governmental stewardship of these communities and implement rights-based protections for them to ensure that the enhanced stewardship duties are fulfilled.  Short-sighted and unsustainable economic objectives created this climate change crisis. The sustainable development paradigm needs to be imposed as a mandate to enable a transition away from this unsustainable exploitation of future generations, wildlife, and natural resources.

6.    What is the biggest obstacle facing the implementation of legal developments within the context of climate change and climate justice?

There are many obstacles that must be overcome to ensure that climate change and climate justice challenges are addressed effectively. The most significant challenge is the need to promote awareness of these issues and develop the political will to implement effective legal responses. This book seeks to help raise that awareness and inspire that political will.

Climate Change and the Voiceless by Randall S. Abate

Climate Change and the Voiceless by Randall S. Abate

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About the Author: Randall S. Abate

Randall S. Abate is the inaugural Rechnitz Family and Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy, and Professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at Monmouth University, New Jersey. In his twenty-five years of full-time law teaching, he has taught international and comparative law courses on en...

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