Editor’s Note: As in previous years, EJIL’s Book Review Editor, Isabel Feichtner, invited our Board members to reflect on the books that have had a significant impact on them this year. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They include books, not necessarily published in 2016, but read or reread this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. These editors’ choices are not intended to be a prize in disguise, but rather are personalized accounts of the reading experiences of our Board members. Today we have André Nollkaempe’s selection.
The five titles on my 2016 list of books relate to international law in very different ways. What they have in common is that they are not so much concerned with the substance of international law, but rather with questions relating to its emergence and the practical implications of international law. Sometimes books that hardly use the language of international law can be most illuminating for international lawyers.
Peter Wadhams, A Farewell to Ice. A Report from the Arctic (Allen Lane, 2016)
Peter Wadhams’ A Farewell to Ice masterfully shows how the liberties of international law impact on climate change and result in a thinning and retreating of polar ice with scary speed and consequences. Wadhams, a polar researcher in Cambridge, notes that ‘we have created an ocean where there was once an ice sheet’ and that this is ‘[m]an’s first major achievement in reshaping the face of his planet’. Wadhams pictures a particularly glooming scenario for 2035, when the Arctic seabeds – permafrost from the last ice age – will melt and release massive methane plumes that are over 20 times more effective in raising global temperature than all the CO2 we have focused on. The book sketches powerful images of floods, fires, droughts, storms, and inundation of low-lying areas –with dramatic consequences for human habitation and lives. While international law has facilitated and legitimized the policies leading to these consequences, Wadhams vests some hope in international law; he sees the Paris Agreement as a sign of common will to act. Yet, much more is needed to avert the gloomy consequences of climate change – mainly research and investment in new technologies (wind, wave, solar, tidal and nuclear energy) need to be incentivized. Post-US elections this is not a happy reading, but one that is needed to compel us to action.
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