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Wars and Climate Breakdown: assessing the legal consequences of the mutually causal relationship between environmental harm, climate change and armed conflicts

  • School: Nottingham Law School
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2024 / 2025
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


Project ID: NLS2

The relationship between wars and climate breakdown is intricate and symbiotic. On one hand, the destructive emissions and environmental devastation unleashed by wars significantly exacerbate the ongoing trends toward climate catastrophe. These conflicts not only release substantial greenhouse gases into the atmosphere but also disrupt ecosystems, leading to massive and long-term ecological damage. On the other hand, climate breakdown acts as a pivotal driver of instability, insecurity, and conflicts across the globe. The impending scarcity of resources, economic hardships, and the resulting refugee crises are direct consequences of the current trends.

As climate-induced challenges escalate, they create fertile ground for conflicts to emerge, as nations and communities grapple for dwindling resources and struggle to adapt to new environmental realities. Thus, the intricate interplay between war and climate breakdown forms a self-reinforcing vicious cycle, where each phenomenon both fuels and is fuelled by the other, posing arguably the most significant long-term threat to our global security and well-being.

This projects aims to analyse the interplay between neighbouring public international law frameworks (included, but not limited to, jus ad bellum, jus in bello, international criminal law, and international environmental law) in terms of (again included, but not limited to) accountability for severe and widespread environmental harm, lack of compliance with obligations of mitigating carbon emissions, sanctions and reparations. It will also consider the development of risk mitigation within legal instruments revolving around the nexus between war, environmental harm, and climate breakdown. The broad scope of the research will allow candidates to explore the implications of e.g. the growth of military spending by states, the emissions of armies and of the biggest carbon and fossils-based economic sector (the military sector), as well as the devastating environmental harm all armed conflicts tend to produce. The research will explore the implications of climate breakdown as crucial driving factor of mass displacement and forced migrations, resource scarcity and escalating competition, and thus of global destabilization and increased risks of exacerbating geopolitical contrasts and new wars.

Sample research questions may include how international law can respond to these challenges, whether international law (in its current stage of development) is equipped to tackle these dangers, or rather remains functional to their aggravation, and what bodies of scholarship (e.g. TWAIL, LPE, critical legal studies) can be explored to device transformative knowledge and legal reform proposals to invert the current trends leading to the collapse of the world order of the last decades and to mass extinctive events.

Please provide a by-line of one or two sentences for your project that can be used to advertise on social media:

This project evaluates how effectively public international law frameworks and international environmental law address the harms caused by conflict, environmental harm and climate change. Key themes are likely to include compliance, accountability, sanctions and reparations as well as proposals on the future evolution of international law governing this field.

Supervisory Team

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Application deadline: Friday 12 January 2024, closing at 12 pm.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2024 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

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