News & Events

Professor Mark Nevitt Discusses Climate-Related Disasters & Managed Retreat

As Climate-Related Disasters Intensify, Retreat Emerges as Adaptation Strategy

(Kleinman Center Podcast | Sept. 15, 2020) When policymakers talk about adapting to climate change, they often focus on measures to reinforce towns and cities against natural disasters, such as the wildfires and flooding that have become more severe across the United States in recent years. Yet what is often more difficult to contemplate is the idea that some places may inevitably need to be abandoned. This idea of abandonment, or retreat from areas that are at great risk due to climate change, is understandably very difficult to think about. Retreat means leaving behind homes, and the possible disruption of communities and livelihoods.

Mark Nevitt, associate professor of law at Syracuse University and a former legal counsel with the Department of Defense Regional Environmental Counsel in Norfolk, Virginia, explores how managed retreat ahead of likely disaster is itself a key climate adaptation strategy, and one which may ease, though not eliminate, the burden on impacted communities. Mark discusses his recent Kleinman Center-funded research into legal issues associated with climate adaptation, and how existing laws may present barriers to efforts to manage retreat from high risk areas.

Listen to the podcast.

 

Professor Corri Zoli Speaks to Vox About China and Iran Meddling in US Elections

Are China and Iran meddling in US elections? It’s complicated.

(Vox | Sept. 15, 2020) This spring, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua posted a roughly two-minute video titled “Once Upon a Virus” on social media, including on official Chinese government accounts.

The video is in English and features Lego-like figures. One of the Statue of Liberty, representing America, and a warrior Lego representing China, with what looks like medical workers decked out in PPE, behind it…

… “There’s no question China’s the most technologically sophisticated for influence campaigns that reach beyond just elections,” Corri Zoli, associate teaching professor and director of research for the Institute for Security Policy and Law at Syracuse University, told me …

… And Iran definitely has cyber capabilities. But Zoli said, overall, they’re not sophisticated enough to have a truly enormous impact. “They don’t have the capabilities and they haven’t thought through a really multi-pronged strategy. They’re not going after, you know, these ancillary institutional sites to try to have a big impact on political decision-making” …

… Zoli told me she sees the ODNI document as educational, not so much for what it tells us about what our adversaries are up to, but as a way to “raise the public’s awareness that these election interferences are common and consistent. And you need to be kind of on guard about them. And you need to harden your approach to them” …

Read the full article.

 

Professor Mark Nevitt: Climate Change—A Threat to International Peace & Security?

Climate Change: A Threat to International Peace & Security?

By Professor Mark P. Nevitt

(Opinio Juris | Aug. 29, 2020) Is the climate-security century upon us?  If so, what are the implications for international legal governance and institutions?  In his recent Opinio Juris essay, based on his provocative and meticulously researched article, Atmospheric InterventionProfessor Martin argues that the climate change crisis may well exert pressure for change on the governing jus ad bellum regime.  

“In a forthcoming law review article, I argue that climate change will force us to look at international institutions and governance structures with fresh eyes as we struggle to prevent climate-exacerbated conflict.”

Climate Change: A Destabilizing Physical and Legal Force

I am persuaded by Prof. Martin’s argument that the climate change crisis is likely to impact the international collective security system.  While his focus was on the jus ad bellum regime, he briefly discusses the role of the UN Security Council and other institutional structures.   My own work has focused on how the crisis will implicate the international institutions and governance structures that oversee the entire collective security system, particularly the UN Security Council.

In a forthcoming law review article, I argue that climate change will force us to look at international institutions and governance structures with fresh eyes as we struggle to prevent climate-exacerbated conflict and save island nations from possible climate-driven extinction.  In turn, the UN Security Council can and should play a substantive role in addressing the multi-faceted challenges that we face in our “climate security century.” 

Climate change demands both innovative governance solutions and a legal entrepreneurship mindset—using existing tools in new ways.   After all, climate change is an aptly named “super-wicked” problem—no one technological innovation or legal agreement is likely to solve it by itself.  As climate change’s risks are felt—not to mention the risk of “green swan” climate events that transcend any one risk model—we must proactively expand the climate governance aperture.  Call it the “all hands-on deck” approach to international climate governance.  In what follows, I acknowledge both the challenges to UN Security Council action on climate, while arguing that the Council should take three concrete steps to meet the climate security challenges …

Read the full article.

 

Professor Mark Nevitt: Climate Adaptation—How Do We “Manage” Managed Retreat?

Climate change will increasingly require both homeowners and policymakers to accept the sobering reality that we must move away from our most vulnerable communities.

“But rather than seeing retreat as a failure, we must reconceptualize climate change—driven managed retreat for what it presents: a sensible, albeit difficult option that offers fresh opportunities.”

Introduction

During my 20 years in the U.S. military, any mention of the word “retreat” would initially be met with furrowed brows, heavy sighs, and consternation. After all, retreat conjures negative images of defeat and loss to the enemy. Similarly, climate change is an overpowering “enemy” force that threatens coastal communities.

Climate change will increasingly require both homeowners and policymakers to accept the sobering reality that we must move away from our most vulnerable communities. This will require difficult, heart-wrenching, climate adaptation decisions.

Retreat is an emotionally fraught choice, but often the best option. By one estimate, building sea walls for coastal communities will cost U.S. taxpayers in excess of $400 billion—we simply cannot “accommodate our way” out of climate change.

But rather than seeing retreat as a failure, we must reconceptualize climate change—driven managed retreat for what it presents: a sensible, albeit difficult option that offers fresh opportunities. It represents a mature evolution and acknowledgement of climate change’s true costs, risks, and threats (Siders 2019). But how do we “manage” managed retreat? And what are the legal barriers in doing so?

We are entering the climate–security century as climate change massively destabilizes the physical environment (Nevitt 2015). To meet this physical destabilization, existing laws, regulations, and policies—all designed for a more stable environment—are similarly ripe for destabilization. As we better understand climate change’s “super-wicked” effects, federal, state, and local governments must look with fresh eyes at the full menu of climate adaptation policies and regulatory tools at our disposal (Lazarus 2009) …

Read the full report.

 

Professor William C. Banks to Participate in “Law and Logics of Attribution” Conference

Professor Emeritus William C. Banks will be among the presenters at the University of Georgia School of Law conference on “The Law and Logics of Attribution: Constructing the Identity and Responsibility of States and Firms.” The conference will be held online via Zoom on Sept. 11 and 18, 2020, from 1 to 5 p.m. both days.

Also sponsored by The American Society of International Law International Legal Theory Interest Group and the Dean Rusk International Law Center, the conference will ask, “When private companies perform governmental functions and governments own companies, which acts should be attributed to the state? Which should be attributed to the corporation? And whose religious beliefs, speech rights, and moral standing can those entities claim?”

In international law, scholars and practitioners struggle to attribute rights and responsibilities between state and private entities in areas as diverse as military contracting, environmental accountability, human rights, international investment, cyberespionage, and warfare. In the corporate governance realm, attributing responsibility to entities is increasingly challenging in the context of globally dispersed corporate families with intricate parent-subsidiary structures.

This conference will draw together corporate and international legal scholars, as well as thinkers outside the law, in order to consider theoretical and doctrinal approaches to attribution, potential consequences of these approaches, and whether they may reconcile the ambiguities and deficiencies that drive current debates.

 

Professor Corri Zoli: US Intelligence Warns of Foreign Election Interference

With less than 100 days to go before the US election, US intelligence officials are warning of attempted election interference by Russia, China and Iran, according to an update from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Professor Corri Zoli’s research focuses on contemporary problems of warfare from an interdisciplinary social science, public policy, and law perspective, and one track of her research investigates the changing nature of the US military force structure and the challenges of asymmetric warfare for military personnel.

“Director Evanina’s message is also designed to educate Americans and all private and government entities to adopt an aware and ‘hardened’ posture.”

“Election interference from foreign actors is a common and persistent concern in the United States (as well as in other democracies),” says Zoli. “Open systems with free markets, free speech, and robust public spheres are always subject to influence operations by actors, state and non-state, with their own agendas. These influence agendas may be motivated by political and economic interests, an opportunity for peer competitors to gain an advantage or edge over the US, or they may be efforts to simply test the strength and resilience of US public democratic institutions and processes, to see how far they can exercise power and influence on an unsuspecting American public.

“The recent statement by William Evanina, at the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence Director of National Counterintelligence and Security Center, should be read as a positive, proactive posture on the part of the federal government. It indicates that US Intelligence professionals are ready and aware of these multifaceted election threats. Part of the purpose of Evanina’s message is to publicize the issue—to make ordinary Americans aware that bad actors will try to influence them through information campaigns, including on social media platforms.  

“The reach of those influence campaigns also includes cyber acts targeting election systems and infrastructure. The US is somewhat distinctive in the diversity of our election systems among municipalities and states, with multiple redundancies and post-election auditing procedures, all of which makes voter fraud less likely. There are recent cases of US based election interference by vote tampering, evident in recent prosecutions of individuals, including over 900 criminal convictions across the US of individuals attempting to change or remove votes (false registration, buying votes, misuse of absentee ballots, etc.)—but still the scope of that problem is relatively small.

“Director Evanina’s message is also designed to educate Americans and all private and government entities to adopt an aware and ‘hardened’ posture about foreign influence campaigns in social and traditional media designed to shape US voters’ perspectives and preferences by manipulating fears—about COVID-19 and the pandemic response, recent protests and riots across the nation, political division, etc.”

Professor Corri Zoli Helps Empower Veterans at Virtual Academic Boot Camp

Professor Corri Zoli was among University faculty who, for the sixth year in a row, helped teach in the esteemed Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP), a no-cost academic boot camp for first-year student veterans. Normally held on campus to allow for a comprehensive campus experience, the program was moved online this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted at 18 select institutions nationwide, WSP empowers enlisted military veterans by providing them with a skill bridge to enable a successful transition from the battlefield to the classroom, maximizes their education opportunities by making them informed consumers of education, and increases the confidence they will need to successfully complete a rigorous four-year undergraduate program.

This year’s cohort of nine included four active duty incoming students, four veterans and a reservist, all members of the US Army, US Navy or the US Marine Corps. Participants attended virtually from Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Washington DC, Nevada, Ohio and Iowa.

The project at Syracuse University is a collaborative effort of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences. Syracuse faculty who taught during this year’s program include, among others:

  • Corri Zoli, Associate Teaching Professor, College of Law and Maxwell School
  • Tessa Murphy, Assistant Professor, Maxwell School
  • David Bennett, Professor Emeritus, Maxwell School
  • Eileen Schell, Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Genevieve García de Müeller, Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Read the full story.

 

Hon. James E. Baker in the NYT: Invoke the DPA During the Coronavirus Surge

Virus Surge Brings Calls for Trump to Invoke Defense Production Act

(The New York Times | July 22, 2020) Experts, medical workers and elected officials are reviving their call for the Trump administration to ramp up its use of the Defense Production Act to secure critical medical supplies.

In March, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States and pressure from cities and states grew, President Trump used the act to press General Motors to begin production of ventilators. But four months later, frustrated by what they describe as a lack of federal leadership in the face of continued shortages, critics say the Trump administration is not wielding the act to the extent that it can and should.

“What the federal government—the president or secretaries possessing delegated authority—have not done yet is use the D.P.A. to create a permanent, sustainable, redundant, domestic supply chain for all things pandemic: testing, swabs, N95 masks, etc.,” said Jamie Baker, a former legal adviser to the National Security Council and a professor of national security law at Syracuse University …

Mr. Baker, the national security law professor, said he worried that the federal government’s struggle to supply swabs and protective gear might portend difficulties in widely distributing a vaccine.

“Whatever vaccine is produced, it’s going to involve a vial and a needle,” he said. “If we cannot figure out how to produce enough swabs or tests, will we figure out how to produce enough vaccine or treatments?”

Read the full article:

Chinese Hacking Indictments: Professor Corri Zoli Speaks to SCMP

US indicts Chinese hackers on charges of targeting coronavirus vaccine data and defence secrets

(South China Morning Post | July 22, 2020) The US government has indicted two Chinese nationals in connection with long-running cyber espionage operations that aimed to net information on Covid-19 vaccines, military weapons and human rights activists, in what is the second Justice Department indictment against individuals from China in recent days.

“You’re seeing more inter-agency cooperation to manage this threat.”

Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, were charged with 11 counts of conspiracy, identity theft and fraud related to operations carried out from China since 2009, some in conjunction with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), according to an indictment filed on July 7 with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and unsealed on Tuesday …

…“This is information warfare so there’s a lot of evasion and distraction going on here,” said Corrinne Zoli, director of research at the Institute for Security Policy & Law at Syracuse University in New York. “I think the issue is not that the Chinese need more clinical data to sort out their own vaccine programmes.”

China is more likely to be “trying to probe the US response to what really is an economic and security threat that is the pandemic”, she added. “They’re trying to figure out if the response is leading to the US to be more stable or unstable, if their response is indicative of a government that resilient or a government that’s in crisis” …

… “What you’re seeing now is just an administration that’s got a more of a forward posture … you’re seeing more inter-governmental operability, you’re seeing more inter-agency cooperation to manage this threat,” said Zoli. “Any nation state that has capacity, and usually that’s any nation state with a developed military, is going to have some information warfare capacity,” including the US.

The difference, she added, is that while the US government limits cyber espionage to the countering of national security threats, China is more inclined to hack for economic and commercial secrets as well.
“That’s where I think they are in a league of their own,” she said …

Read the full story.