Against Nationalism: Climate Change, Human Rights, and International Law

In: Danish Yearbook of Philosophy
Boudewijn de BruinFaculty of Economics and Business, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands,

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Climate change threatens humanity more than anything else. If we talk of nationalism, we ought therefore consider its pros and cons in light of the climate emergency. Anatol Lieven believes that civic nationalism along the lines of Chaim Gans, David Miller, and Yuli Tamir helps combat global warming. He thinks that when nationalists recognize that climate change is just as threatening to the survival of their nation-state as wars, they will make the sacrifices necessary to avert the threat. In this view, the military has an important role, and migration will have to be restricted. In this paper, I show that this solution is at best highly risky, and more probably unsound. However difficult it will be to realize, addressing climate change must be based on international cooperation, normatively grounded in human rights. I show how international law rather than civic nationalism gives us examples of how to go forward.


Climate change threatens humanity more than anything else. If we talk of nationalism, we ought therefore consider its pros and cons in light of the climate emergency. Anatol Lieven believes that civic nationalism along the lines of Chaim Gans, David Miller, and Yuli Tamir helps combat global warming. He thinks that when nationalists recognize that climate change is just as threatening to the survival of their nation-state as wars, they will make the sacrifices necessary to avert the threat. In this view, the military has an important role, and migration will have to be restricted. In this paper, I show that this solution is at best highly risky, and more probably unsound. However difficult it will be to realize, addressing climate change must be based on international cooperation, normatively grounded in human rights. I show how international law rather than civic nationalism gives us examples of how to go forward.


Nationalism seems an odd position to take. Two global wars taught “the peoples of the United Nations” that it is a far better ideology to “unite our strength,” to focus on our “common interest,” and “to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.” Nationalism has brought us wars. Globalism will bring us peace. Or so the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations may be taken to suggest.1

Yet scholars such as Chaim Gans,2 Jürgen Habermas,3 Will Kymlicka,4 David Miller,5 and Yuli Tamir6 argue in favor of some kind of nationalism.

How in the world can nationalism be seen as attractive?

The rhetoric of peace and security fortunately still has some force.7 “Never again—that is Europe!,” the Austrian novelist Robert Menasse rightly wrote in Die Hauptstadt.8 But the nationalist thought is that we need some shared sense of identity for politics to work. Outside of ‘solidaristic communities’9 it will be hard to get life decently organized. We need nationalism, even if we do not like it.

Climate change threatens humanity more than anything else. If we do not find ways to mitigate and adapt to the effects of global warming, our descendants will inhabit a world considerably more hostile to our species than our own. It is a platitude to say that we should act now. The United Nations Environment Programme calls it the “Climate Emergency.”10 It may seem like fiddling while Rome is burning to talk of nationalism today. So, if we do dare talk of nationalism, then we must at least consider its pros and cons in the light of whether it helps solve this emergency. To address that question is what I seek to do in this article. By doing so, I hope to shed light on what role nationalist perspectives—or rhetoric—could possibly play in rational political deliberation and collective decision-making.

So the question up for discussion here is, Do we need nationalism now?

A widely broadcast yes comes from international relations scholar Anatol Lieven.11 His is a bold claim, a counterintuitive claim, for are not the most prominent nationalists on the global stage also the staunchest climate change deniers? And is not climate change a nonterritorial problem par excellence, which cries for a transnational approach?12 How could nationalism—the “measles of mankind,” as Einstein called it—be of any use to us today? Lieven’s answer in a nutshell is that if we cannot beat the nationalists, we should become nationalists ourselves too. He thinks that “to defeat the Trumps and Bolsonaros on climate change, it is necessary to seize the weapon of nationalism from their hands and turn it against them.”13 As Lieven’s is currently the strongest argument for nationalism along these lines, I task myself in this article with evaluating its plausibility. If Lieven fails, nationalism fails, at least as a rational answer in the current state of emergency. If he succeeds, we should all become nationalists.

I structure my argument as follows. I begin with a quick overview of the relevant portions of the debate on nationalism. I then turn to Lieven’s approach, which I carve up into arguments from state interests, sacrifice, the military, and migration. Subsequently, I show that these arguments fail, and I present an alternative, more globalist position.14


It is standard to contrast ‘ethnic’ and ‘civic’ forms of nationalism.15 ‘Ethnic’ nationalism (also called ‘classical,’ or ‘exclusionary,’ or ‘essentialist’ nationalism)16 views the state as an ‘ethno-nation,’17 based on a shared sense of origin, often grounded in mythical views about an alleged common past. Nationalism along such lines entails duties on the part of citizens to align their lives with their respective ethnic traditions so as to sustain and preserve the ethnic community. This form of nationalism is sometimes said to be the typical Central and Eastern European variety.18

‘Civic’ nationalism (also called ‘patriotism,’ or ‘constitutional patriotism,’ or ‘liberal patriotism’)19 sees a nation as grounded not in ethnic but in cultural ties. While these ties may be just as mythical as those that underlie the ethno-nation, “the ultimate genetic origin [of the people] is absolutely irrelevant” to this form of nationalism.20 No racial or ethnic homogeneity is needed here. What matters is only that “the melting together with different races should have produced a people with a distinct and common character of its own.”21 What matters for civic nationalism is that the nation is “held together by common national sentiment.”22 This form of nationalism, it is sometimes alleged, is its Western European manifestation.23

Nationalism is a good thing, or so some authors argue. When nationalism succeeds in creating an ‘invented tradition,’24 the nation affords individuals value by shaping their identities, advocates of ethnic nationalism believe. When nationalism leads to an ‘imagined community,’25 the nation fosters, according to civic nationalism, a level of solidarity within the community that serves the purpose of increasing social justice; the nation then becomes a ‘solidaristic community.’26 And what makes advocates of these ethnic and civic ideologies nationalists is that they think that such a community should be a state, that is, an entity comprising a people living on and bounded by a territory with some form of government.27 They think that the political unit and the national unit must be ‘congruent.’28 They think that such a community of people, bound by ethnic or civic ties, must strive for political sovereignty over some given territory. They think the best unit is the state—the ‘nation-state,’ to be precise.

Interpreted as an empirical position, ethnic nationalism has little force. The consensus view in social science today is that the so-called Warwick Debates ended with a victory for those who, like Ernest Gellner,29 deny the fact that nations necessarily have to go back to a shared ethnic past, and that the line from earlier ethnic communities to today’s nations is much less direct and immediate than scholars such as Anthony Smith claim.30 Take the oft-discussed example of Estonia, where hardly any substantial sentiments of ethnic commonality were present in the early 1800s, but which in 1920 formed a state. The key contention driving ethnic nationalism—that your personal identity only flourishes to the extent that it partakes in groups held together by ethnic ties—is historically dubious, to say the least. If you want to be a nationalist, then only civic nationalism is a viable option—if indeed it is.

Lieven’s is among the most recent attempts to develop a viable form of civic nationalism.31 While indebted to such theorists as David Miller32 and Roger Scruton,33 he introduces a number of new elements that make his position on nationalism interesting in its own right. The core of Lieven’s view is that a nation is characterized by a common identity or common national sentiment. This identity or sentiment may be grounded in partly mythical, partly factual narratives, such as—Lieven’s example—the view of the British about their decisive role, ‘fighting almost alone,’ in the first years of the Second World War.34 This identity is not ethnic, Lieven seems to think, but it has a strong cultural and ideological core, which suggests such things as a set of shared values or principles that guide or regulate life within the respective state.35 And it is this common identity that is assumed to create a sense of mutual responsibility among citizens. It generates the level of solidarity that is necessary for citizens to discharge the duties that the state imposes on them. It is through this sovereign solidaristic community that people view the state as a legitimate source of coercive power that makes them pay their taxes and support measures to combat unemployment, and—important for the connection with the climate emergency discussed in the next section—ultimately generates a sense of willingness to risk and sacrifice one’s life or happiness for the sake of one’s own country. Nationalism so construed may be incompatible with liberalism; it should, however, be compatible with democracy as well as with a modified form of capitalism not unlike the social market capitalism tradition of Germany. Such modification of capitalism may involve a substantial degree of state intervention, but Lieven—unlike Scruton—believes that this is justifiable, for climate change is “the biggest market failure ever.”36 Even though nationalism so construed may ultimately be incompatible with the demands of what Lieven calls “higher morality,” we may have to accept nationalism as one of those things “whose good aspects we should turn to good effect.”37 In other words, we need civic nationalism now to combat climate change, and we must learn to live with the potential downsides.

Climate Change

State Interests

But how is civic nationalism thus construed supposed to help to circumvent the threat of the climate emergency? In brief, the idea is that states must come to realize that the traditional military threats to their survival are far less dangerous and urgent than the consequences of climate change.38 Due to global warming, territories will change, and people will die or migrate—not unlike what happens in wars, but probably much worse. That is, global warming interferes with the interests of states, and it interferes more intensely than classical foreign and domestic security threats. This ‘argument from state interests’ is the first step of my summary of Lieven’s argument presenting nationalism as a solution to climate change.


The second step is the ‘argument from sacrifice.’ It is needless to argue that addressing climate change requires sacrifices by present generations for the sake of future generations. The thought now is that such sacrifices are more readily made in the type of solidaristic communities valued by civic nationalists (that is, in nation-states) than under other social or political constellations. So this second step asserts that nationalistic sentiments are more likely than other feelings and attitudes to move people to accept measures that benefit future generations at the expense of current generations.39


Yet solidarity remains ineffective as long as it is not put to use the right way. Here Lieven sees a distinct role for the military. Climate change mitigation and adaptation require specific sorts of expertise, partly technical, partly practical, and it is this practical expertise that should be in good hands with the military. The military has in some countries traditionally been involved in construction and engineering works—witness, for instance, the United States Army Corps of Engineers taking care of flood prevention. Perhaps more importantly, the military has specific expertise pertinent to how we deal with intense dangers and risks in situations of great uncertainty. The military do not think like philosophers or economists, and Lieven thinks that is a good thing.40 Moreover, unlike the expertise of climate scientists and policymakers, military expertise is acceptable to people who have so far been strictly in the camp of the climate science deniers; for, Lieven argues, conservatives generally respect the military as a source of knowledge.

This line of reasoning implies a complete overhaul of military priorities, though. Territorial disputes, for instance, will no longer be so urgent. As of writing this article, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom have formed a new strategic alliance, which many observers interpret as an attempt to represent their interests vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea. Following Lieven’s line of argument, this can only be characterized as stemming from a seriously mistaken view of the shared interests of these three states: “Territorial disputes like Crimea and the South China Sea should be treated in the same dispassionate way that we treat other post-imperial territorial disputes in the world. They should be relegated to their proper minor place in the broader scheme of Western national interests, especially compared to the threat of climate change.”41 Let us call this range of thoughts the ‘argument from the military.’42


A fourth step concludes the argument for civic nationalism as a solution to climate change. It concerns migration. Plainly put, Lieven’s point amounts to the observation that climate change is exacerbated (or at least accompanied) by global migration in two ways. First, it is claimed that migration currently preoccupies the minds of ‘green’ or ‘liberal-minded’ politicians too much for them to persuade significant shares of the electorate that see migrants as a source of social and political disruption. This is true, he claims, just as much of the Democrats in the United States as it is of French and German green parties, whose adoption of ‘progressive’ causes has made “the creation of national majorities behind action against climate change even more difficult.”43 In fact, “[m]igration is already helping to undermine the political unity of Western states.”44 Second, climate change itself is a cause of global migration, Lieven thinks, as global warming makes a significant part of our planet uninhabitable. To summarize this ‘argument from migration’: climate change is thought to “[help] drive migration, [and] migration also helps hinder serious action against climate change.”45 Such ‘progressive’ causes as open borders, free migration, developmental aid, and human rights are hence ‘luxuries’ for Lieven, and “the first things that get tossed out in a real emergency are luxuries.”46 No ‘green intersectionality’ or ‘wokeness’ for Lieven, then.47

Against Nationalism

To proffer nationalism as the solution to global warming is surely provocative, and Lieven should be applauded for having put climate change on the table of international relations scholars as well as social scientists working on nationalism.48 But does all this make sense?


I discuss the four elements from the previous section in reverse order. So I start with the argument from migration. It is certainly a good thing to rethink one’s priorities in a state of emergency, and it is au fond quite plausible that some of the so-called ‘progressive’ causes will have to be put on hold. It is unclear, however, whether global warming should be expected to lead to an increase in migration that makes it a genuine ‘luxury’ to accommodate the human rights of people who flee their country as a result of floods, droughts, or other events caused by climate change. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that by the end of 2018, the global population of those who had been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflicts, or human rights violations had grown to nearly 71 million people—almost twice the size of the global population of forcibly displaced persons in 2009.49 So indeed, migration does increase. Yet it is unclear to what extent this increase should be attributed to climate-related events. The 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ipcc), which is the most recent synthesis at the time of writing, cautions against overstating the risk of migration as a result of global warming; it notes that evidence about migration resulting from droughts and other extreme weather circumstances is quite mixed.50 A 2020 ipcc report on climate change and land, by contrast, gives a more downbeat evaluation: climate change “can amplify environmentally induced migration (medium confidence),”51 while extreme weather and climate-related events “may lead to increased displacement … (high confidence).”52 What this mixed body of evidence shows is at least that we should not predict migration increases based on little more than gut feelings fueled by what we read in the media. Despite what the media may seem to communicate, more asylum seekers arrived in Europe in the 1990s than in the last ten years.53 What we think about migration is too often not based on facts. The argument from migration is not sufficiently firmly rooted in the best evidence that is currently available, and I take this to support the view that the idea that climate change deniers may be tempted to shed their irrational disbeliefs, if policymakers join their nationalism and embrace their equally irrational disbeliefs concerning the size of migration, may well make things worse. At least there is no guarantee that it will not.

A host of international treaties and other agreements underscore this point. To begin with, quite a bit of progress has been made with respect to the normative principles that are used to adjudicate international environmental conflicts. I turn to this point later, but for now it suffices to say that a strictly ‘state interest-based’ no-harm principle was gradually replaced by a ‘shared interest-based’ principle focusing on ‘the common concern of humankind,’54 and guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.55 In other words, the international community is increasingly aware of the fact that the effects of global warming will be distributed quite unequally. In a few decades from now, Small Island Developing States such as the Maldives, Kiribati, and Tuvalu will no longer exist above sea level, and while their populations are small, it is hard not to agree that climate change-related events should be included in the definition of ‘refugee’ so as to establish a legal category of ‘climate refugee’ that makes migration not a privilege but a right for them.56

This is all the more natural if global warming is on a par with war. Comparing the threat of climate change with the dangers of war, as Lieven does (let us call this the ‘war analogy’), should in other words lead one to be more rather than less concerned with the fate of members of disadvantaged groups: it is the interests of these people that wars typically harm most. In this context it may be relevant to refer to the 2015 Paris Agreement,57 the goal of which is to improve the execution of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The preamble of the Paris Agreement calls upon parties to respect human rights as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities, and people in vulnerable situations, and it also mentions gender equality and empowerment of women as important goals as well.58 The Paris Agreement is nothing less than a normative revolution, as it is the first legal document in which the harms and wrongs of climate change are so clearly articulated in terms of human rights. Calling respect for human rights a ‘luxury’ that we may have to give up in case of emergency fully ignores the fact that what makes climate change a threat to humankind is exactly that it harms the most fundamental interests of human beings, including the right to life. This observation is underscored by the key role that human rights have started to play fairly recently in climate change litigation. Courts are increasingly willing to grant that states as well as multinational corporations have duties to protect and/or respect human rights that entail more or less concrete climate change mitigation obligations. This strongly suggests that a plausible normative justification for far-reaching action against climate change may exactly be to protect and respect human rights. If that is correct, a likely part of a global strategy to combat climate change will be measures that address the needs of climate refugees and/or measures that decrease the urgency to migrate. Climate change and human rights, that is, are not a zero-sum game.59 Much can be learned here from initiatives around the Arctic Council, which are meant to protect the fragile region’s ecosystems against global warming in tandem with the human rights interests of inter alia indigenous people, offering an interesting model of international cooperation without the need to postulate a political unit called ‘the Arctic’—and so, one could say, without nationalism.60 There is also evidence that climate change litigation creates decidedly non-nationalist, ‘transnational,’ narratives.61


I now turn to the link between nationalism and the military. This link has great historical plausibility. There is evidence that the nationalisms of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France arose out of a constructed or invented sense of commonality among elites and masses that would be worth defending against intrusions by other nations.62 Quite clearly soldiers fight more fiercely than mercenaries to fend off what they see as attacks on their nation’s honor. Inculcating the masses with a mythical sense of national identity may be more effective than paying them to fight.63

It is unclear, however, whether a sense of national identity would help people to fight climate change. One reason is that the relation between nationalism and war is different from that between nationalism and climate change. The ‘war analogy’ may not hold water. A war backed by nationalism is a war of the common identity and ideology of one nation-state against another. Beefing up one’s nation’s identity naturally underscores social, cultural, and ideological differences with other states, and may indeed have some motivating force on the battlefield. The threat of climate change does not, however, arise out of an entity that one can contrastively criticize for its misguided (or evil) ideology. Climate change is not a territory one can invade and conquer. Climate change is not a people one can kill, or whose hearts one can win, or a government one can overturn and replace with a ‘better’ one. Climate change is not a culture or an ideology. We are not just playing a ‘strategic game’ as in war, but rather more a ‘game against nature,’ and as game theory teaches us, such a game requires a rather different approach;64 to the extent that there is room for strategic maneuvering, we are playing a game with ample room for ‘free riding.’65 At most, then, the military might be a communication channel.66


Advocates of civic nationalism might retort that I am taking things too literally here. Conceding that climate change is not a state that endangers our security, they might still wish to maintain part of the ‘war analogy,’ namely, that civic nationalism endows people all over the world with the sort of motivation that is necessary to take relevant action against global warming. In particular, civic nationalism should make it easier for people to be persuaded to accept sacrifices now, for a future that only their distant descendants may experience.

This is a thought that must be taken seriously; for if it works, then indeed we have found a wholly new way to enlist for the fight against climate change people who so far have been largely out of reach of mainstream policymakers. Ultimately, however, whether nationalism so construed is a rational answer to global warming is an empirical question. It is the question of whether people who share a common sense of national identity with others are more likely to support climate change mitigation and adaptation measures that visibly go against their own interests.67

So the question is, will civic nationalists accept measures that make them worse, but future generations better off?

Nationalism and Environmentalism

To my knowledge, no research has so far been conducted to explore the relationship between civic nationalist attitudes and willingness to sacrifice for future generations’ sake.68 So we have to content ourselves with research exploring the link between nationalism and relevantly related outcome variables. In this subsection, intensely indebted to a recent review article on nationalism and climate change by nationalism studies scholar Daniele Conversi,69 I briefly consider historical evidence on nationalism and environmentalism. In the next subsection, I turn to social science and psychology research on nationalism and other variables.

A casual inspection of the rounds that followed the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (the ‘Earth Summit’) shows how a focus on national interests of China and the United States has been more an obstacle than a facilitator of progress.70 Many states have clear short-term interests as owners of fossil fuel resources, and their ‘resource nationalism’71 has had, more often than not, rather counterproductive effects. There is evidence that the attitudes toward fracking in Poland,72 and toward oil and gas production in Russia,73 which are both highly antithetical to solving the climate emergency, must be accounted for in nationalist terms. It has also been pointed out that nationalism in Saudi Arabia is centered around oil; the national oil company, Saudi Aramco, is claimed to be the largest polluter globally.74 For the nationalist, the respective resources are seen as key to national identity, and what such nationalists plan to do with these resources is not too conducive to combating climate change.

It is true that sometimes nationalism may work. The Scottish National Party, for instance, has declared a climate emergency,75 and the Scottish executive has developed a proposal to ‘rewild’ the highlands, which displays some degree of nationalism.76 In Catalonia, too, nationalists have put forward environmental protection regulation.77 But if nationalism works, it does not work reliably, for in another Spanish region, Basque Country, it has not led to any relevant action against climate change.78 So even if we restrict ourselves to one nation only, nationalism’s effects are unpredictable. Nationalism in the former Eastern Bloc supported environmentalism and led to the establishment of the first national park in the Soviet Union,79 but the environment quickly disappeared from nationalist feelings once the Bloc had come down.80 To conclude, it is surely tempting to many to try and copy and paste the German response to nineteenth-century industrialization, which was a kind of romantic nostalgic nationalism,81 or perhaps Theodore Roosevelt’s nationalism, which led to the creation of national parks in the United States.82 To present this as a solution to global warming is, however, far too simple.

Nationalism and Further Outcome Variables

Nationalism has been credited with causing (or helping to establish) a wide array of good things far beyond marshaling support for the fight against global warming. Machiavelli, for instance, already thought that nationalism contributed to some level of equality in republics.83 John Stuart Mill is often cited for his claim that freedom is well-nigh impossible “in a country made up of different nationalities.”84 And Tocqueville, equally famously, held that alongside religion, nationalism is necessary to realize shared goals.85 These thoughts are echoed in contemporary scholarship. Shared national identity, it is alleged, makes positive contributions to the perceived legitimacy of political institutions; creates stability, solidarity, and mutual trust; and—probably the most important element of this line of reasoning—establishes the type of ‘solidaristic community’86 that is key if citizens are to accept redistributive taxation for the good of the people.

But empirical evidence is so very mixed.

As noted by Harris Mylonas and Maya Tudor, to whose review the present subsection owes a great debt, nationalism supported democracy and equal freedom in Poland but compromised it in Croatia.87 Stressing national unity in Rwanda increased trust among different ethnicities.88 In cases (in the United States) where national identity was strongly associated with one particular ethnicity, however, the reverse happened.89 Winning an international football championship reinforces national identity and increases trust among people of different ethnicities.90 But research also points out that participating in the world championship91 is positively associated with state aggression; the same is true for celebrating national holidays.92

And how likely is it that promoting nationalism will not lead to the wrong type of nationalism? Lieven’s argument is to the effect that civic nationalism is a force for the good in our fight against global warming. But do policies exist that make people civic nationalists, but are guaranteed not to make them ethnic nationalists? Research from social science gives us reason to be careful here. Whether citizens identify ‘civically’ with the nation, or ‘ethnically,’ may depend on little more than whether their ethnic group holds power,93 or where they live (urban or rural areas), or what their educational achievements are, or whether they are employed or not.94 Moreover, it may be conceptually tempting to distinguish ‘good’ types of nationalism that are conducive to solidarity without an intention to harm other nations, and ‘bad’ types of nationalism that come with a denigrating stance toward other nations. Gandhi used nationalism for progressive purposes; Modi’s nationalism risks turning Muslims into ‘second class citizens.’95 Empirically, however, the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ nationalism does not fly: they are quite strongly correlated at the level of the individual citizen.96 Finally, whether or not the behaviors of a particular person happen to be motivated by ‘good’ or ‘bad’ nationalist attitudes is highly dependent on context.97 All in all, then, relying on nationalism to fight climate change is at least quite risky. Or in the words of Donald Tusk, then president of the European Council:

The history of our nations shows how easy it is to transform the love of one’s homeland into a hatred towards one’s neighbours. How easy it is to transform the pride for one’s own culture into a contempt for the culture of strangers. How easy it is to use the slogans of one’s own sovereignty against the sovereignty of others.98

State Interests

The last argument to turn to is the contention that climate change runs counter to state interests. Recall that it was Lieven’s idea to view global warming as a threat to state interests, and to view this observation as the basis of his argument for nationalism as a solution to climate change (the ‘war analogy’). This view may contribute something new to international relations scholarship (as Lieven seems to suggest) as well as to nationalism studies (if Conversi, whose work I discussed above, is right).99 Other disciplines have, however, been less negligent in examining the repercussions of global warming for the state.

The International Community

This is in particular true of the field of international environmental law, a discipline that has gained great importance since the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment of 1972 (the ‘Stockholm Declaration’), which marked the first moment the international community faced the threat our own behavior creates for the survival of the planet.100 International law is built on war and peace. Such concepts as state sovereignty and territorial integrity find their origin in the investiture controversy between secular powers and papacy in the Middle Ages that, one can say, culminated in the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years’ War and the Dutch War of Independence in 1648. The League of Nations is a product of the First World War; the United Nations of the Second. These and other documents have as their main goal ‘[t]o maintain international peace and security,’ as the Charter of the United Nations has it.101

It goes without saying that wars go against the interests of states; they endanger their very existence. The standard conception of a state is an entity consisting of a people living on and bounded by a territory with a government of sorts.102 A state attacking another state may kill and harm its people, invade or damage its territory, overturn or disempower its government. If all states respect the principle of sovereign equality as it is enshrined in international law,103 there will not be war in this sense. A great diversity of legal instruments are meant to further this aim. They are, in a sense, meant to protect each individual state against other states.

International environmental law, by contrast, has over the years developed into a body of rules and principles that are based on a completely different sort of realization. These principles are meant to protect all states together against global warming. As hinted at above, this is certainly not what it started with. The old Roman maxim of sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas (the principle of no harm) was long key, a proscription against polluting other states, but not against the environmental degradation of one’s own territory. Gradually, however, the focus on the protection of purely national interests weakened, and concerns about the value of protecting the seas outside of national territorial bounds (resulting in the Convention on the High Seas104 in 1958), the unowned Antarctic region (resulting in the Antarctic Treaty105 of 1959 and the Madrid Protocol106 of 1991) as well as the Outer Space Treaty107 of 1967. This move away from ‘state interest-based’ thinking to ‘shared interest-based’ thinking culminated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change108 of 1992. The first sentence expresses the signatories’ recognition that climate change affects us all: “change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind,” and “the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response.”

So what?

I am not putting forward here the view that states should be replaced by some international governing body, a view that Lieven calls “utterly pointless.”109 Perhaps Lieven is right that this “[i]sn’t going to happen”110 and that equally a genuine ‘global village’111 may not materialize anytime soon. Perhaps he is wrong. I have no view on this. I do disagree with Lieven, however, in that I think that climate change is a phenomenon that invites us to develop a new mode of thinking about international relations that goes beyond classical state interests. Our climate is a ‘global commons’: it belongs to us all. But there is no global authority that has the competence to enforce climate mitigation and adaptation measures on states and private actors.112 In such a world, I believe, something else is needed than a sole focus on national identity. The principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ alluded to above, which made its first appearance in the Rio Declaration,113 is a starting point here.114 It is to the effect that a fair distribution of the burdens of climate change has to reflect the fact that states polluting most should pay most, with an eye to the interests of states that are affected most.

The War Analogy

To put this into relief, it may be helpful to return to the supposed analogy between war and climate change, or more precisely, to the claim that civic nationalists should see climate change as threatening the state just as wars threaten their survival, and that therefore they should be ready to make sacrifices just as soldiers and civilians do in times of war. My contention is that this claim only has some plausibility when two conditions are satisfied.

First, the link between climate change and state interests should be sufficiently clear and concrete. This probably applies to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu, whose territories are highly likely to disappear in the near future as a result of global warming. As Lassa Oppenheim, the father of international law, said, “A state without a territory is not possible.”115 If we think through the consequences of global warming for the survival of states, then indeed climate change may be a ‘time-bomb’ under (at least some) states.116 So, yes, the state interests of Kiribati and Tuvalu are under threat.

But a mere link between climate change and state interests is insufficient for this argument to work. There must, second, be a link between sacrifice and salvation that is sufficiently empirically plausible. But when? There is wide agreement among scholars and other commentators that the interests of the peoples of Kiribati and Tuvalu seem to have been insufficiently taken into account in international agreements to combat global warming. This means that the sacrifices these peoples may consider will not save their lands and protect their distant descendants. To save the territories and peoples of these Small Island Developing States, it is the citizens of other states who should make sacrifices. Hopefully they will, but it seems odd to expect them to be motivated by civic nationalism to make these sacrifices. The Dutch civic nationalist will—qua nationalist—at most be motivated to make sacrifices to prevent Amsterdam from flooding. If dams and dykes need to be built, then the civic nationalist will pay the taxes, even if they know they will die before water levels become threatening. But qua civic nationalist, they will not pay to save Kiribati.117 Nor are all states as endangered as the Netherlands. Russians and Canadians may believe that global warming brings net benefits to them, for instance when the Arctic Ocean opens up as a result of the melting of sea ice, creating new possibilities for commercial navigation,118 or when natural resources become available as a result of vanishing permafrost, which Lieven acknowledges.119 Nationalistic sacrifice will not do it then.

The Earth Is an Ocean

If this shows that the interests of states may not necessarily be lined up in a way that makes an application of civic nationalism successful, another relevant concern is whether a sole focus on states (rather than other things) may ultimately blind us to the fact that state territories only make up a relatively small part of our planet. An idea routinely connected with the Christmas Eve view from the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 is that our planet is an ocean.120 A year earlier, Arvid Pardo, ambassador of Malta to the United Nations, gave a visionary speech at the General Assembly in which he already advocated seeing our planet’s resources as a “common heritage of mankind,” not unlike Kant’s proposal in Zum ewigen Frieden.121 But while this conception of our planet (and in particular, the high seas) partly found its way into the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,122 the vision that lies behind it is still dependent on assumptions about national sovereignty and territory. Rather than being a force for the good, nationalism seems an obstacle to protecting the ocean’s ecosystems and animals. We should therefore, as Davor Vidas aptly comments, “start to acknowledge that the territorial dimension … is not the primary one that matters, and that in any part of the sea, be it under sovereignty or not, we should ultimately be led by some of the same, shared concerns.”123 Civic nationalism is unlikely to save the seas. A fortiori, civic nationalism is unlikely to save our planet.


It is easy to destroy an argument. It is more difficult to replace it with a better one. I do not have the space here to present a fully worked out alternative to nationalism. Some small comments must suffice.

To begin with, I think it is important to realize that it would do no harm if a global organization were set up (preferably by the United Nations) to coordinate our response to the climate emergency with just as far-reaching competences as, say, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. Current international climate law is hopelessly fragmented and lacks integration with inter alia financial and trade law. It is high time that climate policy becomes an integral part of economic and social policymaking.124

Second, I reiterate that in talking about states, we may find ourselves talking about the less relevant unit of analysis. I think we should certainly keep talking about states (including but not limited to nation-states). But we should in addition (and with more force and attention) be thinking about oceans (as argued above), and should also turn to what are the bigger causal contributors to global warming: corporations. It has been estimated that around 70 percent of global emissions are caused by only one hundred companies globally.125 Even if we set aside a ‘global village’126 as an unlikely future, we should not underestimate the extent to which business is already ‘deterritorialized.’127 Look at how multinational corporations operate in various jurisdictions, with their global supply chains, or look at how our daily consumption patterns rely on international trade and e-commerce. Describing nationalism as “the most powerful source of collective action in modern history,”128 Lieven seems insufficiently to appreciate that business has become a powerful source of collective action. No view of how to solve climate change can afford to ignore this power, because it is business as it was shaped since the industrial revolution that—alongside happiness and justice—has brought about global warming. That is why it is only natural that the focus of global initiatives to combat climate change should be here.

This redirection of focus has the advantage that some of the objections against globalism that nationalists tend to marshal are no longer very forceful. It is not a globalism about states. It is not a globalism that seeks to establish a ‘global governance.’129 It is not even a globalism that necessarily excludes nationalism. It is a globalism in which multinational enterprises are more intensely regulated, because it is in our common interest—and often but not always in the interests of individual states too—to make sure that such enterprises do not operate in a legal vacuum.130 And perhaps most importantly, as I have suggested in this article, this is a globalism that affords a key role to human rights; for my hope is that unlike much of environmental and climate legislation today, a human rights-based globalism would immediately stage climate change at the highest global forum.

One may raise a worry: human rights in my approach may seem to have entered back into the discussion only because fostering them ‘accidentally’ turns out not to harm efforts to combat climate change. But that would be a serious misreading of my argument. What I have shown is that a globalist approach to climate change may derive its normative justification from the fact that climate change endangers human rights. If it did not, the need to take action would be seriously less acute.

One might also worry that globalism will have to remain altogether powerless. In his response to his critics in a special issue of New Perspectives, devoted to his book, Lieven seizes the opportunity to relate his views to the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he acknowledges, has “in certain respects” underscored “the need for international cooperation and coordination.” Yet

most of the necessary measures to control the pandemic were—and could only be—taken by states. Only states have the power to close borders, impose lockdowns, and conduct mass vaccination campaigns. The states that did far the best in limiting the spread of covid were those of East Asia: strong nation states (whether authoritarian or democratic) enjoying strong legitimacy and trust in their populations. There is nothing like the European Union in East Asia—but just compare the records of the two regions when it comes to covid.131

Apart from the fact that comparisons such as these require a vastly greater degree of empirical and statistical ingenuity (note, for instance, the significant differences in Covid-19 responses between the otherwise very similar Nordic countries), Lieven seems to overlook the fact that the European Union (EU) does have the power to close borders. As a global standard setter, the EU can literally close its borders to whatever does not satisfy particular criteria. This is spelled out among the ideas of the European Green Deal: “all chemicals, materials, food and other products that are placed on the European market must fully comply with relevant EU regulations and standards.”132 Lieven also fails to take into account that such powers are quite independent of whether the EU should be seen as a state, or as an integrated or supranational legal order. States cannot only “close borders, impose lockdowns, and conduct mass vaccination campaigns.” As Lou Henkin quipped, “It is probably the case that almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all the time.”133 So states cannot only close borders; they can and do also cooperate.

I conclude. I have argued in this article that advocating civic nationalism as part of a campaign against climate change is not an easy task; for such strategy does not have a sure outcome, and it may have highly unintended effects that bring us even farther from home. If we spend the time and money to gather round the national flag, then my sense is that we should rather spend it on promoting a globalist attitude instead, focus on our oceans and on business, and place human rights center stage.

The question I wanted to answer in this article was whether we need nationalism now, in times of the climate emergency. I have shown that the answer to this question is no. We do not need nationalism now. And if we do not need nationalism in an emergency, when would we need it?


I am grateful to Jens van ’t Klooster, Quintus Masius, Marco Meyer, Mareike Moraal, Nikolaj Nottelmann, and an anonymous reviewer for detailed written comments on an earlier version of this article. All errors are attributable to the author alone, and not to these helpful commentators.


Chaim Gans, The Limits of Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 18.


Jürgen Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1992).


Will Kymlicka, Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).


David Miller, On Nationality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).


Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).


See, e.g., Boudewijn de Bruin, “The EU is Not an End in Itself, But a Means to Peace,” in Twelve Stars: Philosophers Chart a Course for Europe, ed. Twelve Stars Initiative & Bertelsmann Stiftung (Gütersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2019).


Robert Menasse, Die Hauptstadt (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017).


David Miller, Principles of Social Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).


“Facts about the Climate Emergency,” (accessed January 25, 2022).


Anatol Lieven, Climate Change and the Nation State: The Realist Case (London: Allen Lane, 2020). For reviews, see, e.g., Pilita Clark, “How to Heal the Planet,” Financial Times, February 22, 2020; Adam Tooze, “Politics for the End of the World,” New Statesman, April 1, 2020. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for bringing the following special issue to my attention: “Forum: Anatol Lieven’s Climate Change and the Nation State,” in New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021). This special issue includes Mats Braun, “Why Nationalism Is Not the Right Doctrine to Combat Climate Change—A Central European Perspective,” New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021): 197–201; Stefanie Fishel, “Can Climate Nationalism Save Us?,” New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021): 208–214; Roger Hallam, “Reality for Realists: Climate Change and the Nation State,” New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021): 215–218; Miriam Matejova, “From Realist to Pragmatic Solutions to Climate Change: Reading Anatol Lieven’s Climate Change and the Nation State,” New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021): 202–207; and a response by Anatol Lieven, “Response from Anatol Lieven,” New Perspectives 29, no. 2 (2021): 219–223.


Karin Arts and Martijn Scheltema, “Territorialiteit te boven: Klimaatverandering en mensenrechten,” in De grenzen voorbij: De actualiteit van territorialiteit en jurisdictie (Deventer: Wolters Kluwer, 2020), 89.


Lieven, Climate Change, xvi.


I should point to a key assumption conceded for argument’s sake: that nationalism is something one can so readily choose (or make others so readily adopt). This assumption follows if we believe that nationalism should be promoted as a solution to climate change at the expense of other (e.g., globalist) solutions. An alternative and more modest assumption is that we are in the business of showing that nationalism is ‘compatible’ with combating climate change, in the sense that it should not be overly difficult to convince nationalists of the urgency of taking concrete action. Under this alternative assumption, nationalist and globalist approaches to climate-change mitigation and adaptation would best work in tandem. Thanks to Marco Meyer for this observation. Much of Lieven’s writing suggests to me that he adopts the first assumption, as he sees nationalism as something to select. See, e.g., his response to his critics in Lieven, “Response,” 220 (“If we take the threat of anthropogenic climate change seriously then it is our ethical as well as political duty to combat it now, and by any effective means available. Nationalism is one such means”). It has also been observed that Lieven’s position may not be at odds with globalism. See, e.g., Richard Beardsworth, “Climate Science, the Politics of Climate Change and Futures of ir,” International Relations 34, no. 3 (2020): 374–390, at 383 (“The nationalism advocated by Lieven is not the opposite of cosmopolitanism”).


See, generally, Nenad Miscevic, “Nationalism,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta (Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2020),; Harris Mylonas and Maya Tudor, “‘Nationalism: What We Know and What We Still Need to Know,” Annual Review of Political Science 24, no. 1 (2021): 109–132. For a third variety of nationalism, called ‘indifferent nationalism,’ uncovered by means of statistical techniques from archetype analysis, see Sjoerd Beugelsdijk and Juliette de Wit, “Symbolen en tradities, burgerlijke vrijheden, of niets van dat alles? Een individuele profielschets,” in Denkend aan Nederland (The Hague: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, 2019), ch. 8.


Mylonas and Tudor, “Nationalism,” 111.


Miscevic, “Nationalism.”






Lieven, Climate Change, 56.


Miller, Principles of Social Justice.


Lieven, Climate Change, 70.


Miscevic, “Nationalism.”


Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (New York: Verso, 1983).


Miller, Principles of Social Justice, 26.


Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, 1933 (


Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 1.




Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991).


Lieven, Climate Change.


Miller, Principles of Social Justice.


Roger Scruton, How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).


Lieven, Climate Change, 82.


One might object to this reading on the grounds that ethnicity plays a larger role, as UK nationality law is based primarily on ius sanguinis. Many thanks to Quintus Masius for pointing this out.


Vivien Stern, S. Peters, and V. Bakhshi, Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change (Government Equalities Office, Home Office, 2006).


Lieven, Climate Change, 142.


Ibid., xii.


Ibid., 78.


Ibid., xvii, 11.


Ibid., 144.


It is slightly unclear how this relates to Lieven’s more recent (2021) claim to the effect that the situation in Ukraine at the time of writing may at the same time have to qualify as “the most dangerous problem in the world.” See Anatol Lieven, “Ukraine: The Most Dangerous Problem in the World,” Nation 313, no. 11 (2021): 14–19.


Lieven, Climate Change, 116.


Ibid., 49.


Ibid., 24.


Ibid., xxv.


Ibid., 129. Before proceeding, it is important to stress that speaking about ‘luxuries’ in this context does not entail that Lieven is against human rights per se, but rather reflects the fact that his focus is on the interests of states rather than individuals, and that following his realist approach to international relations, human rights will only have a chance of being realized if they are supported by states. Thanks are due to an anonymous reviewer for pressing me on this point.


Daniele Conversi, “The Ultimate Challenge: Nationalism and Climate Change,” Nationalities Papers 48, no. 4 (2020): 625–636, at 628 (“nationalism studies have not yet produced a reflection on this global challenge”).


unhcr Global Trends 2018, (accessed 24 January, 2022), 2, 4.


C. B. Field et al., eds., Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 628.


P. R. Shukla et al., Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems: Summary for Policymakers, rev. ed. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2020), 18.


Ibid., 23.


Yasha Holtuin and Else Lohman, “De grenzen voorbij: De jaarvergadering 2019 van de Nederlandse Juristen-Vereniging,” Nederlands Juristenblad 28 (2019): 2028–2035, at 2034.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1771 unts 107 (


Principle 7, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, UN Doc. A/conf.151/26, Rev. 1 (


Cf. Lieven, Climate Change, 35–36 (“The causes of mass migration include climate change and environmental factors together with poverty, oppression, over-population, and conflict. It does not make sense, therefore, to talk of ‘climate refugees’ as such, or to create a new legal category for them”). Migration and refugee law already distinguish between the status of migrants on the basis of such criteria. A more fundamental question is, then, what this means for the nationality of, say, Kiribati citizens. There are as yet no provisions that regulate the nationality of people whose state vanishes. See, e.g., Hana Drif, “La survie de l’État face au changement climatique,” Revue de droit international d’Assas 3 (2020): 10–27.


Paris Agreement, UN Doc. fccc/cp/2015/L.9/Rev/1 (


For the development of the ‘environmental justice’ movement that sought to draw attention to the fact that environmental harm is often localized in poor and minority communities, see, e.g., Rebecca Tsosie, “Indigenous Peoples and Epistemic Injustice: Science, Ethics, and Human Rights,” Washington Law Review 87, no. 4 (2012): 1133–1202, at 1151. ‘Environmental justice’ is now a term accepted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (epa). See A particularly relevant example is uranium mining, which happens particularly in lands belonging to the Navajo Nation and causes significant harm there. See Tsosie, “Indigenous Peoples,” 1169–1175. Claims that nuclear energy creates few victims, as put forward by Lieven, may easily forget to take these considerations of environmental justice into account. See, e.g., Lieven, Climate Change, 107.


Thanks to Mareike Moraal.


Timo Koivurova, “The Arctic Council: A Testing Ground for New International Environmental Governance,” Brown Journal of World Affairs 19, no. 1 (2012): 131–144, at 131.


See generally Phillip Paiement, “Urgent Agenda: How Climate Litigation Builds Transnational Narratives,” Transnational Legal Theory 11, nos. 1–2 (2020): 121–143.


Andreas Wimmer, Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation, and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).


A variant of this process can be seen in the nationalisms in postcolonial Africa and Asia, where educated urban elites deployed nationalist rhetoric in an attempt to justify their idiosyncratic political goals. See, e.g., Maya Tudor, The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).


This is perhaps reinforced by an example of a case where the ‘war analogy’ does apply: nationalistic protectionism in corporate law. It is widely documented that, despite free trade rhetoric and regulation, most countries operate with legal regimes that offer specific protection to domestic shareholders against (hostile) takeovers. The benefits that wealthy citizens gain through such protection may help to create the type of ‘solidaristic community’ that advocates of civic nationalism deem necessary if citizens are to accept redistributive taxation schemes. See, e.g., for Sweden, Peter Högfeldt, “The History and Politics of Corporate Ownership in Sweden,” in A History of Corporate Governance around the World: Family Business Groups to Professional Managers, ed. Randall K. Morck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). Or they may help to conform to other types of national cultural norms; see, e.g., Mariana Pargendler, “The Grip of Nationalism on Corporate Law,” Indiana Law Journal 95, no. 2 (2020): 533–590.


Lieven finds it difficult to see why the UK should see missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as more important than combating climate change. But the UK may reason that when others do not follow, one-sided climate action amounts to a waste of resources, whereas regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, they are playing a strategic game in which inaction has considerable relative disutility. Rob Nixon characterizes climate change as ‘slow violence,’ unlike, e.g., the events of 9/11 that motivated military action in Afghanistan while obscuring that the number of people harmed by global terrorism is negligible as compared to the number of people harmed by global warming. See Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). For an argument that the specific difficulties of combating climate change have to do with its ‘tragedy of the commons’ form, see, e.g., Stephen M. Gardiner, “A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption,” Environmental Values 15, no. 3 (2006): 397–413.


Matthew Motta, Robert Ralston, and Jennifer Spindel, “A Call to Arms for Climate Change? How Military Service Member Concern about Climate Change Can Inform Effective Climate Communication,” Environmental Communication 15, no. 1 (2020): 85–98. After I concluded this essay, a book was published by former Commander of the Netherlands Armed Forces, General Tom Middendorp, in which he demonstrates how climate change endangers world peace. His solutions are partly military, but do not quite require nationalism. See Tom Middendorp, Klimaatgeneraal: Bouwen aan weerbaarheid (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Podium, 2022).


As mentioned in the introduction, the assumption here is that nationalism is an attitude that may be selected and deselected (more or less) voluntarily.


With more precision, the question is whether civic nationalist attitudes are negatively correlated with the rate at which future costs and benefits are discounted (the ‘discount rate’). See Marc D. Davidson, “A Social Discount Rate for Climate Damage to Future Generations Based on Regulatory Law,” Climatic Change 76, nos. 1–2 (2006): 55–72.


Conversi, “Ultimate Challenge.”


For nationalism in the negotiations during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, 2009, see Peter Christoff, “Cold Climate in Copenhagen: China and the United States at cop15,” Environmental Politics 19, no. 4 (2010): 637–656, at 647 (“the rigidity of China’s negotiating stance can be seen as a forceful and nationalistic assertion of its sovereign rights”).


See Paul A. Haslam and Pablo Heidrich, The Political Economy of Natural Resources and Development: From Neoliberalism to Resource Nationalism (London: Routledge, 2016), and Haydn Washington and John Cook, Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand (London: Earthscan, 2011).


Rusi Jaspal, Brigitte Nerlich, and Szczepan Lemańcyzk, “Fracking in the Polish Press: Geopolitics and National Identity,” Energy Policy 74 (2014): 253–261.


Paul Stevens, “National Oil Companies and International Oil Companies in the Middle East: Under the Shadow of Government and the Resource Nationalism Cycle,” Journal of World Energy Law & Business 1, no. 1 (2008): 5–30.


Richard Heede, Carbon Majors: Updating Activity Data, Adding Entities, and Calculating Emissions (Snowmass, CO: Climate Accountability Institute, 2019).


“Nicola Sturgeon declares ‘climate emergency’ at snp conference,” April 28, 2019, (accessed January 24, 2022).


Calum Brown, Robert McMorran, and Martin F. Price, “Rewilding: A New Paradigm for Nature Conservation in Scotland?,” Scottish Geographical Journal 127, no. 4 (2011): 288–314.


Conversi, “Ultimate Challenge,” 632.


Daniele Conversi and Xabier Ezeizabarrena, “Autonomous Communities and Environmental Law: The Basque Case,” in Minority Self-government in Europe and the Middle East: From Theory to Practice, ed. Olgun Akbulut and Elçin Aktoprak (Leiden: Brill, 2019).


Robert W. Smurr, “Lahemaa: The Paradox of the ussr’s First National Park,” Nationalities Papers 36, no. 3 (2008): 399–423.


See, e.g., Jane I. Dawson, Eco-nationalism: Anti-nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996); Tove H. Malloy, “Minority Environmentalism and Eco-nationalism in the Baltics: Green Citizenship in the making?,” Journal of Baltic Studies 40, no. 3 (2009): 375–395.


David Blackbourne, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York: Random House, 2011).


Peter S. Alagona, After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).


Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Prencipe (1532), ch. 26, “Esortatione à liberare la Italia da i Barbari.”


John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (London: Parker, Son, and Bourn, 1861), 289.


Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique: Tome 1 (Paris: Pagnerre, 1848), 150 (“il n’y a au monde que le patriotisme, ou la religion, qui puisse faire marcher pendant long-temps vers un même but l’universalité des citoyens”).


Miller, Principles of Social Justice.


Mylonas and Tudor, “Nationalism,” 117.


Arthur Blouin and Sharun W. Mukand, “Erasing Ethnicity? Propaganda, Nation Building, and Identity in Rwanda,” Journal of Political Economy 127, no. 3 (2019): 1008–1062.


Karl Dach‐Gruschow and Ying‐yi Hong, “The Racial Divide in Response to the Aftermath of Katrina: A Boundary Condition for Common Ingroup Identity Model,” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 6, no. 1 (2006): 125–141.


Emilio Depetris-Chauvin, Ruben Durante, and Filipe Campante, “Building Nations through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football,” American Economic Review 110, no. 5 (2020): 1572–1602.


Andrew D. Bertoli, “Nationalism and Conflict: Lessons from International Sports,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (2017): 835–849.


Jamie Gruffydd-Jones, “Dangerous Days: The Impact of Nationalism on Interstate Conflict,” Security Studies 26, no. 4 (2017): 698–728.


Elliott Green, “Ethnicity, National Identity and the State: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa,” British Journal of Political Science 50, no. 2 (2020): 757–779.


Amanda Lea Robinson, “National versus Ethnic Identification in Africa: Modernization, Colonial Legacy, and the Origins of Territorial Nationalism,” World Politics 66, no. 4 (2014): 709–746.


See Mylonas and Tudor, “Nationalism,” 111 (Mahatma Gandhi); Maya Tudor, “India’s Nationalism in Historical Perspective: The Democratic Dangers of Ascendant Nativism,” India Politics and Policy 1, no. 1 (2018): 107–130, at 124 (Narendra Modi, ‘second class citizens’).


Rick Kosterman and Seymour Feshbach, “Toward a Measure of Patriotic and Nationalistic Attitudes,” Political Psychology 10, no. 2 (1989): 257–274.


Qiong Li and Marilynn B. Brewer, “What Does It Mean to Be an American? Patriotism, Nationalism, and American Identity after 9/11,” Political Psychology 25, no. 5 (2004): 727–739.


“Address by President Donald Tusk to the 74th United Nations General Assembly,” September 26, 2019, (accessed January 24, 2022). Tusk is alluding to “Remarks by President [Donald] Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly,” September 25, 2018,, in which Trump said, “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”


Conversi, “Ultimate Challenge,” 626.


Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, UN Doc. A/conf 48/14/Rev.1 (


Article 1(1), Charter of the United Nations (


Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, 1933 (


See, e.g., Article 2(1) Charter of the United Nations (


Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, 30 ilm 1455 (


Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, 610 unts 205 (


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1771 unts 107 (


Lieven, Climate Change, xxii.




See Herbert Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, War and Peace in the Global Village: An Inventory of Some of the Current Spastic Situations That Could be Eliminated by More Feedforward (New York: Bantam Books, 1963). This applies mutatis mutandis to proposals by John Agnew, “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory,” Review of International Political Economy 1, no. 1 (1994): 53–80. It possibly also applies to Catherine Blanchard, “Evolution or Revolution? Evaluating the Territorial State-based Regime of International Law in the Context of the Physical Disappearance of Territory Due to Climate Change and Sea-level Rise,” Canadian Yearbook of International Law / Annuaire canadien de droit international 53 (2016): 66–118.


Surabhi Ranganathan, “Global Commons,” European Journal of International Law 27, no. 3 (2016): 693–717.


Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, UN Doc. A/conf.151/26. Rev. 1 (


For an interpretation of this principle as an instance of ‘world law’ rather than international law, see Marcel Brus, “Het klimaatakkoord van Parijs: Bouwen aan wereldrecht of bewijs van falende internationale samenwerking?,” Ars Aequi (September 2016): 615–623, at 617.


Lassa Oppenheim, International Law: A Treatise, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1905–1906), 1:217.


Drif, “La survie de l’État,” 11 (describing climate change as “une bombe à retardement menaçant la survie même de l’État,”).


It is unlikely that the Dutch would count as civic nationalists. The Netherlands were (and perhaps still are) held together not so much by a shared identity, as advocates of civic nationalism claim, but rather through a modus vivendi of ‘pillarization’ that divided a religiously and ideologically highly heterogeneous society into groups (e.g., Protestants, Catholics, socialists, liberals) with their own schools, media, clubs, unions, professional organizations, political parties, etc. Moreover, for small and relatively powerless states such as the Netherlands, blowing the nationalist trumpet of sovereignty is often felt to directly contravene national interests, which explains inter alia why the Dutch have included the duty to promote the development of the international legal order in their constitution (Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Article 90). See Wim Voermans, “Onze oude, onbeminde grondwet,” Nederlands Juristenblad 89, no. 12 (2014). Lieven’s is, then, a bit of a big-state argument. See also Lieven, “Response,” 223 (“Much of my argument is however directed towards the USA”).


Koivurova, “Arctic Council,” 139.


Lieven, Climate Change, 24.


Davor Vidas, “The Anthropocene and the International Law of the Sea,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (2011): 909–925, at 919.


Immanuel Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden: Ein philosophischer Entwurf (Königsberg: Friedrich Nicolovius, 1795), 40–41.


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1833 unts 396 (


Vidas, “Anthropocene,” 922.


The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environmental Programme are relatively powerless in this regard. For the lack of integration and coordination of environmental and climate law, see André Nollkaemper, Kern van het internationaal publiekrecht, 8th ed. (The Hague: Boom Juridisch, 2019), 403–409. This is largely unaffected by the fact that international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization risk being skewed to the interests of larger nations.


Tess Riley, “Just 100 Companies Responsible for 71% of Global Emissions, Study Says,” July 10, 2017, (accessed January 24, 2022).


McLuhan and Fiore, War and Peace.


Blanchard, “Evolution or Revolution?”


Lieven, Climate Change.




Gunther Teubner, “Globale Zivilverfassungen: Alternativen zur staatszentrierten Verfassungstheorie,” Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 63 (2003): 1–28. We should in particular consider the possibility of affording international legal subjectivity to multinational corporations, because currently the place of incorporation or the place of their main business activities determines jurisdiction, with the consequence that international business often escapes legal scrutiny. See Nollkaemper, Kern van het internationaal publiekrecht.


Lieven, “Response,” 223.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, The European Green Deal, com/2019/640 final (, 21. For further evidence of the EU’s role as global standard setter, see Anu Bradford, The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).


Louis Henkin, How Nations Behave: Law and Foreign Policy (London: Pall Mall, 1968), 42.

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