Many of the elements that have traditionally supported state level normative self-organization, most notably territory, are being actively undermined by rising sea levels, flooding, desertification, amongst other climate change effects. As more and more states come to be redefined as “disappearing”, that is, states losing their territories to the natural environment through no specific fault of their own, a question arises as to how displaced communities will be assisted in their desire (and right) to continue to practice principles of self-determination and self-government? What is clear is that the international community can no longer continue with the fiction of a unified or unchanging model of the liberal democratic state. Instead, alternative ontological models of sovereign community are required, as is a re-imagining of how statehood might be re-constituted in the future in response to deepening ecological problems. The international community must now begin to address the immanent nature of threats posed to disappearing states and consider how a model of statehood that does not privilege territory as a fixed component of state identity could be operationalized. This paper considers how a democratic reform of statehood might proceed and resettlement agreements for displaced communities determined. The transition to an era of peaceful sovereign relations under deteriorating global climate conditions and growing natural resource scarcity, it argues, will require a significant extension of established traditions of democratic compromise, human rights solidarity and cosmopolitan justice.
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