UC Law Environmental Journal


Holly Locke


Since the late 20th century, nations increasingly task their militaries with managing and responding to the influx of migration and refugees into sovereign nations. As a result, the U.S. military identified climate change to be a major security concern as the Department of Defense dedicates more resources to responding to this new class of refugee, among other climate related concerns. This paper explores the current scope of mass climate refugee migration and the role the U.S. military plays in responding to that migration. Specifically, this paper will explore the various legal frameworks, or lack thereof, of both domestic and international law that dictate how and when the military responds to climate refugees attempting to resettle on U.S. soil. Significantly, the U.S. Constitution vests the mobilization of the U.S. military in the U.S. Congress and the President, with great deference to any political agendas driving their decision making. Since, short of a constitutional amendment, there is no way to use hard law to change the structure of U.S. military mobilization, I advocate for the evolution of international and domestic soft law, and of public normative values to address aspects of mass climate refugee migration. This will encourage humanitarian responses focusing on climate refugees, rather than a security crisis.