Global Warming and the Crime of Aggression

Today’s N.Y. Times has a disturbing article on how the developed world, although responsible for the lion’s share of global warming, will probably avoid most of its harmful effects. Instead, these effects will be visited upon the developing world, which has contributed much less to the problem and is much more poorly equipped to adapt.

Ugandan President Museveni has spoken to the issue. The article notes:

“We have a message here to tell these countries, that you are causing aggression to us by causing global warming,” President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February. “Alaska will probably become good for agriculture, Siberia will probably become good for agriculture, but where does that leave Africa?”

Scientists say it has become increasingly clear that worldwide precipitation is shifting away from the equator and toward the poles. That will nourish crops in warming regions like Canada and Siberia while parching countries — like Malawi in sub-Saharan Africa — which are already prone to drought.

 Assuredly, Museveni is no paragon of human rights. Despite referring the situation in northern Uganda to the ICC, he has since balked and waffled on the prospect of ICC adjudication. Moreover, in litigation at the ICJ, the government of Uganda was found to have engaged in unlawful use of force, as well as incurred state responsibility for a variety of serious breaches, in its military intercessions in the DRC.

 Still, Museveni’s point is an interesting one. I don’t know whether he means the term aggression in a political sense; or metaphorically; or in the sense of an infringement of the jus ad bellum. However, it is apparent that the impact of global warming presents – and will increasingly present – a major security issue, potentially triggering massive refugee movements, famine, flooding, unpredictable environmental catastrophe, and forced displacement.  We’ve thought a lot about the status of terrorism as an international crime lately. Perhaps we should think about global warming. Can a refusal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or do something to mitigate the effects thereof, constitute a violation of international criminal law? Should it? Might this be something the ICC 2009 Review Conference, which is considering the crime of aggression, thinks about?