Climate Change Loss and Damage, and the Responsibility of Settler States

Whyte, Kyle, Indigenous Peoples, Climate Change Loss and Damage, and the Responsibility of Settler States (April 25, 2016). Available at SSRN: or
Year Published: 

Indigenous peoples must adapt to a number of losses and damages from climate change impacts that threaten to harm their cultural and political self-determination. Industrial settler states, such as the U.S. or Canada, have responsibilities to indigenous peoples to address loss and damage that flow from how their industrial activities have factored into anthropogenic climate change. This essay describes two kinds of responsibility, impending and pending. Impending responsibility requires settler states to live up to the ramifications of developmental paths that they continue to pursue and that are at odds with indigenous cultural and political self- determination. Yet concepts of impending responsibility can tend to propose solutions that remain silent on the underlying political relations between indigenous peoples and settler states that threaten the viability of such solutions. Pending responsibility demands that settler states acknowledge that today’s political relations with indigenous peoples descend from structures of settler colonialism designed to limit indigenous adaptation to environmental change.

Climate Change, Sovereignty, Colonial States, Responsibility, Philosophy