We need every tool at our disposal in the fight for climate justice. Increasingly civil society, from Norway to Brazil are turning to courts and human rights mechanisms to demand climate action. Though unlike most human rights violations, the cascading effects of environmental damage that pose thorny representational challenges and complicates causation have yet to be extensively researched. The CLIMATE RIGHTS (CR) project will investigate the space of evidence in climate cases through a transdisciplinary program that combines architecture, environmental design, geospatial science, artistic research, and international law. Using scale as a bounding narrative tool – to to seamlessly move between media, places, and perspectives – and combined with participatory methods, it will explore evidentiary gaps in climate cases within and beyond Norway. The climate emergency poses continuously evolving risks, creating a pressing need for new imaginaries. Questions of responsibility, causality, and legibility – that are key to advancing our knowledge for Norway’s transition to a zero emissions society – are largely unanswered. CLIMATE RIGHTS’ primary objective will be to develop evidentiary techniques needed to create forensic presentations of environmental damage and climate harm within and beyond the courtroom. In the process CR will document how evidence is represented and used in rights-based climate cases; better understand and develop visualizations of climate attribution science; and undertake a series of high-profile investigations to assist rights-based climate cases and in emerging projects such as ecocide law. As CR will develop research tools for exploring the role of images, image-making, and digital technology for climate rights documentation, it will open new pathways for research in humanities disciplines like visual culture, media studies, and environmental humanities, but also social sciences research in political ecology, and critical legal studies.
To achieve climate neutrality, reducing emissions is essential for Norway and the rest of the world. Keeping oil in the ground and forests intact are key parts of that equation, as well as mitigation and adaptation efforts. Recently, a new wave of climate cases brought by civil society from both the global North and the South are seeking climate policy changes from the bottom up by claiming in national and international courts and tribunals that government policy and corporate activities, such as the sanctioning and extraction of fossil fuels and deforestation violates their fundamental human rights to a healthy environment and the rights of future generations. However, despite advances in legal theory and scientific research around attribution, the success of climate litigation cases is still rather low impeding climate action.
The CLIMATE RIGHTS project draws upon architecture, environmental design, geospatial science, artistic research and international law to critically investigate the spaces of probative visibility in rights-based climate litigation, not only in technoscientific terms but also in their material and social dimensions. Using geospatial visualizations and modelling combined with participatory methods, this research will enable us to close the evidentiary gaps in climate cases by addressing critical questions around responsibility, causality and legibility of climate harm.
Through case studies on rights-based climate litigation challenging extraterritorial emissions and deforestation in the frontlines of climate change, the project will demonstrate how visual-spatial research can transform the way environmental damage and climate harm is presented in legal processes and will propose ways of opening new imaginaries for climate rights in Norway and beyond.