Document Type



Environmental Law


Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to human health and well-being. It also poses enormous challenges to the rule of law. As climate change progresses and climate impacts intensify, it becomes increasingly urgent to consider whether and how we are drawing upon the law as a tool to advance human adaptation to climate change. Equally, we must consider whether and how the evolving rule of law around climate change responds to existing patterns of social, political, and economic inequality. These are the questions this article engages.

As a starting point, this Article centers human vulnerability as a necessary focal point for analyzing adaptation law. Humans are vulnerable to climate change. However, levels of vulnerability vary widely depending on who we are and where we live. The spaces we live and the places we call home are characterized by inequalities and precarities that shape how resilient communities are in the face of climate change. Climate change will exacerbate these inequalities absent intentional efforts to surface and disrupt dominance in climate adaptation strategies.

Disrupting Dominance advances the project of disrupting patterns of dominance and enabling more effective and equitable climate adaptation law. To achieve these goals, the Article contextualizes the extensive but disparate threats climate change poses to humans before examining the evolving but underdeveloped legal architecture for adaptation planning. Disrupting Dominance then engages the questions of what vulnerability is and why vulnerability matters in the context of climate change adaptation. Here we make our case for moving towards a model of adaptation planning that is responsive to the needs, priorities, and capacities of all members of society. Finally, this Article explores climate adaptation in context to show how different local governments vary in their commitment to disrupting dominance and centering equity in climate adaptation planning.

Disrupting Dominance offers a critical intervention in climate adaptation law. It demonstrates how dominance limits the ability of communities to flourish in the face of climate adversity and offers a more equitable and sustainable model for climate adaptation law.