Scott W. Stern


Climate reparations are, to employ an old cliché, an idea whose time has come. Of course, calls for reparations have been emanating from the Global South since long before scholars in the Global North started paying attention. The United States has been in the midst of a public debate over reparations for many years. And reparations have become among the more contentious issues pushed by campaigners and even delegates at international climate summits. Yet, although legal scholars have begun to contend with climate reparations, there is hardly a robust body of literature on the matter. The subject deserves—demands— deep scrutiny.

This Review has two goals. First, it seeks to advance a brief but rigorous case for climate reparations. Second, it aims to broaden legal discussions of climate reparations by placing the subject in direct conversation with the histories of land enclosure, seizure, and privatization. It attempts to do this by reading two seemingly disparate books alongside one another: Reconsidering Reparations by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò (2022) and The Long Land War: The Global Struggle for Occupancy Rights by Jo Guldi (2022). Considering these two recent works side by side allows us to see the historical and analytical building-blocks for the sturdiest possible case for reparations, a case that is responsive to the past, clear-eyed about the present, and even hopeful for a radical future. In the end, it is revealing that two such different books ultimately conclude with the same prescription—that a massive reordering of the world order is perhaps the only thing that can save it.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.