Post Hurricane Sandy: New ABA Book on Legal Challenges Stemming From Climate Change Effects

03 Dec, 2012

In Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, the new ABA book The Law of Adaptation to Climate Change: United States and International Aspects reads like a sobering and prescient guide for navigating a changing environment, both actual and legal. Its chapter authors, representing a variety of legal disciplines, describe and assess the legal challenges stemming from the effects of climate change, including severe storms and associated flooding. In the Northeast, many of these legal challenges have become a reality in recent weeks. 


One key topic the book tackles is the effects of sea level rise and adaptation strategies through resistance, hard armoring and soft armoring. Hard armoring is using engineered structures such as sea walls to keep shorelines in a fixed position or to prevent flooding; soft armoring uses natural systems to fortify coastlines, as through beach nourishment. The book identifies and explains the legal considerations of both types of armoring strategies.   


The book also addresses another method for adapting to sea level rise: coastal retreat measures designed to move people and property out of vulnerable areas. It reviews and evaluates legal strategies that could be used to implement retreat, including regulation, targeted capital investment to direct development out of vulnerable areas and market-based and tax incentives to encourage voluntary retreat. 


Many other issues in The Law of Adaptation are not only relevant but urgent in the post-Sandy Northeast — issues regarding infrastructure, buildings, domestic disaster preparedness and response, and insurance. Each chapter identifies significant climate impacts, reviews possible adaptive responses and highlights significant legal questions raised by those possible responses.    


The book is edited by Michael B. Gerrard, a professor and director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, and Katrina Fischer Kuh, an associate professor of law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, where she teaches courses on environmental law. 


Picture: ABA President, Laurel Bellows. 

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