Beginning with its development in the 1980s, through the 2015 Paris Agreement and beyond, international climate change law, with the UN climate regime at its core, is complex. This research guide includes resources and tips to begin your research into international climate change law and to stay up to date on developments in this important field. This guide does not cover the domestic law of the United States or other countries. Please refer to the “Beginning Your Foreign Legal Research” guide to get started with foreign law research.
Written by Mariana Newman.
When researching international climate change law, it may be helpful to begin by using a secondary source. The following books, available at the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, provide a good overview of the field of international climate change law. Keep in mind that this is an ever-evolving area of the law, so consider the publication date of the book when evaluating the currency of the information it contains.
Pegasus is the Diamond Law Library catalog. You can search by various fields including subject, title, author, and keyword. You can conduct a combined search of multiple fields by using the advanced search function.
The Library of Congress has created specific “subject headings” that can help you efficiently locate materials on particular topics. This includes headings related to climate change.
Here are some suggested subject searches on Pegasus. Copy and paste the suggested subject searches into the search bar on Pegasus to see results that have been assigned that subject heading. There is another useful way to use subject headings: once you’ve found a book on point, scroll through the record to find and click on its subject(s). This will lead you to other books in the law library collection with the same assigned subject. You can click "Options” at the top of the page and then “Sort by: Year" to sort by date of publication, seeing the newest books first.
Copy and paste the following into the search bar on Pegasus.
In addition to the law library collection, you may find books about international climate change, both in print and e-book format, by using CLIO , the Columbia University Online Catalog. A search on CLIO will return results from the law library collection as well as other Columbia University libraries and the holdings of the Columbia, NYPL, and Princeton University off-site storage collection at ReCAP. CLIO has many helpful filters, including a subject filter, on the left side of the results page to help you limit your results.
Suggested subject searches on CLIO:
If a desired book is unavailable from Columbia University Libraries and the Law Library, there are options to receive books owned by other libraries.
One option is Borrow Direct, which Columbia Law School students can search and use themselves.
For books from a wider selection of libraries, there is InterLibrary Loan (ILL). To search for these books, you can use WorldCat. To borrow books through ILL, Law students should should consult a reference librarian by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two main ways that you can search for articles. The first method is to use a periodical index to find articles based on subject. The second method, which is more familiar to most students, is to use a full-text database and search among all the articles by keyword. Keep in mind that there is no single database that indexes or includes every journal that exists, so you may need to search in more than one place in order to conduct a thorough search.
ILP indexes over 500 legal periodicals that are published in the U.S. Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
Subjects can also be combined to narrow results. Since ILP is an EBSCO product, you can also simultaneously search the Environment Complete index (which includes international periodicals and monographs) by clicking “Choose Databases” next to the search bar and selecting Environment Complete.
LegalTrac indexes more than 1200 titles, including major law reviews, specialty publications, and international legal journals. This index is user-friendly because it will provide suggested subjects for the terms you enter. There are a number of subject subdivisions under the main subject “climate change” to explore.
N.B.: Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg are limited to current Columbia Law School students, faculty, and staff.
In these databases, you can search through particular journals or through all of the journals that are available. Journals are generally listed under secondary sources in all of these databases, or through the Law Journal Library on Hein Online. This list of environmental law journals may be a useful starting place. These journals may be particularly likely to publish articles relating to international climate change law.
One useful tip for full-text searching in Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg is to use a term frequency operator or the “at least” command. Term frequency and the “at least” operator allow you to ensure that the search term or phrase appears in the results a minimum of x times. By using this, you can ensure that your results are actually about what you are searching for rather than just using the search term or phrase only once or twice.
Many articles published in journals to which the libraries subscribe are searchable full-text through CLIO, the Columbia University Online Catalog. While this is not a particularly precise method of finding relevant articles, it can help you get an idea of what is out there, or find more articles you may have missed. Enter your keywords in the main search bar, click “View and filter all… results” on the Articles portion of the results page, and use the filtering options on the left hand side of the page as necessary.
CLIO is also a quick way to obtain full-text access to articles when you already know the title(s) you need.