FROM her peaceful Deua River home, Keely Boom is watching the global legal war on climate change heat up.
One case in particular has caught the eye of the young lawyer, whose specialty is the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on the world’s most vulnerable communities.
She is watching the efforts of young US litigants to argue their government has a legal responsibility to take action on climate change for future generations.
“It is called Atmospheric Trust Litigation and the rationale behind it is that governments hold the atmosphere in trust for future generations and that climate change is a violation of the government’s duty to protect and care for that trust,” Ms Boom said.
That kind of case is now the daily fare for Ms Boom, who topped the shire for Moruya High School in 2000 with an ATAR of 99.55 and now holds degrees in law and commerce and a PhD in international law and its relation to climate change.
Ms Boom, 31, has recently moved back to the shire with her husband, massage therapist and sports coach Matty Woods, and their toddler Mirra, but her work continues.
She said the forced relocation in the past two years of indigenous people from the Carteret Islands, in the Pacific, was considered the first directly attributable to rising sea levels.
“Their lands are being inundated by sea water and they are losing crops and drinking water,” she said.
“Small islands are very vulnerable. A small amount of rise can make entire areas uninhabitable.”
As a legal researcher and the executive officer of the international group, the Climate Justice Program, she brings plaintiffs, lawyers and scientists together.
“We provide legal expertise and strategic legal thinking on climate change,” she said.
“We get litigation up and running, but also address law reform, particularly at the international level.
“Climate change started in the sciences and became an economic issue, then a social issue.
“It is only recently that it has become a legal issue and a justice issue.
“The law is in many ways not designed to respond to that question of justice, but that does not mean lawyers need to turn away.”
Ms Boom likened the current push to the early days of the legal battle to win compensation for asbestos-related injuries.
“It is similar to the issues of asbestos and tobacco, where litigation for many years was unsuccessful, but did drive change,” she said.
“Eventually plaintiffs were successful.”
Ms Boom has recently looked at the impact of heat waves on Australian low-income communities.
“They have very little ability to adapt to changes,” she said.
“In the Eurobodalla we need to be looking at who is most vulnerable to climate change impacts, whether heat waves, bushfires or sea-level rise, and then look at what we can do to assist them in obtaining justice and being given greater ability to adapt.
“We also need to look at what can we do to minimise our contribution to climate change.”
She said the current debate on the effect of sea-level rise zoning on land values was understandable.
“It is a difficult issue,” she said.
“Whether or not there are things that council might be doing that might devalue land, the process of climate change is what is driving that devaluation,” she said.
“We need insurance mechanisms and other mechanisms to provide the most just way of adapting to climate change.”
Ms Boom hopes to play a role in the Eurobodalla.
“I have moved down to this area because I love the Eurobodalla and it is home to me, but I would like to contribute to bringing together a plan that is going to take us forward and will protect the rights of future generations,” she said.
“I want to see my children and grandchildren live in this land with abundance, and have a sense that we are looking out for each other and everyone in the rest of the world.”
She said Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) was an inspiring example of a community trying to ensure food security.
“It is about supporting those initiatives and helping the transition into a low-carbon and resilient economy,” she said.