Climate Change, Cultural Heritage & the Oceans: Rethinking Regulatory Approaches to Climate Change

25 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2010

See all articles by Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne

Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: 2010


Climate change poses unprecedented threats to global well-being. In the face of such threats, policy-makers struggle to navigate complex questions of science, technology, economics, and culture to craft effective regulatory responses. Conflicts over the causes and consequences of global climate change complicate these efforts. Exacerbating these already daunting complexities is the recognition that long-term regulatory strategies to address climate change must be more responsive to fundamental links between the climate and other areas of law (e.g., the law of the seas and world heritage protection). Climate change both highlights fundamental disconnects within existing systems of law and provides a vehicle for identifying and addressing institutional gaps and linkages that have hitherto impeded attempts to develop synergistic systems of environmental law and policy. As environmental law and policy-makers, it is at once our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.

Crossing the abyss that separates ocean management and world heritage protection from domestic and international efforts to mitigate and adapt to global climate change is essential to developing effective ocean, heritage and climate regulatory regimes. Bridging the gaps between the spheres requires in-depth examination of the systems of domestic and international regulation that define the parameters of existing legal regimes in these areas. The bodies of law - including primary laws, administrative regulations, customary law, general principles of law and international conventions - regulating the seas, world heritage and the atmosphere are vast, congested, and fragmented; they lack coherence, comprehensiveness - and often - effectiveness. Yet, as Professor Rodgers reminds us in the pages to follow, we must not be daunted.

To begin to conceive of better ways to manage our oceans and to protect sites of cultural and natural methods for managing our climate, and vice versa. Recognizing this challenge, the articles in this special issue explore the physical, legal, and socio-cultural ties between measures to protect the oceans, cultural heritage and the atmosphere. In so doing, the authors of these articles seek to initiate interdisciplinary dialogue on the best ways to structure domestic and international regulation regimes that promote a healthy human environment, healthy seas, and continuing protection of sites that the international community has designated as a gift from the past to the future

Put simply, developing effective, sustainable, and equitable systems of ocean, world heritage and climate governance are interrelated challenges. The challenges are daunting and require us to break free both from pessimism and from business as usual approaches; as Professor Rodgers advises, put ourselves in “the right frame of mind to tackle all these 'worsts' that are headed our way.” The articles included in this issue represent first steps toward finding ways to formally and informally bridge communication and regulatory gaps, first between scientists and policy-makers and second among oceans, heritage and climate policy-makers at the domestic and international levels.

It is beyond the scope of this publication to explore the plethora of issues plaguing the effective development, evolution, and implementation of overarching systems of domestic and international environmental governance. Rather, the articles presented here examine intellectual barriers, physical relationships, issue linkages and institutional weaknesses in ocean, heritage and climate regimes to highlight the pressing need to improve on existing intra- and inter-institutional approaches to addressing climate change.

Professor William Rodgers’ article, “The Worst Case and the Worst Example: An Agenda for Any Young Lawyer Who Wants to Save the World From Climate Chaos” provides an invaluable guide for lawyers to follow as they approach the frequently dismal and always daunting task of formulating legal regimes to address the causes and consequences of climate change. Professor Rodgers’ approach is based on a four-part strategy of (1) Honoring Knowledge and Learning, (2) Protecting Your Institutions and Loving Your Country, (3) Planning and Conducting Your Personal War on Bad Law, and (4) Rejecting Defeatism and Impossibility Theorems. In summing up his advice to young lawyers on how to keep plugging away at climate change despite numerous intellectual, social, physical and economic challenges, Professor Rodgers stresses the need to remain optimistic, reminding us that “[d]espite [the] talk of futility, impossibility, and resignation, the entire legal scene is a frenzy of hope, effort, creative initiative, and change.”

Following on from Professor Rodgers’ introductory advice on how to best approach legal work in the climate arena, we then move on to consider the specific political challenges involved in responding to climate induced changes in marine ecosystems. In their article, “Getting Into Hot Water: Ecological Effects of Climate Change in Marine Environments,” Dr. Felicia Coleman and Dr. Laura E. Petes analyze physiological and behavioral trade-offs that organisms make in changing environments to ensure their reproductive success, focusing on the new types of threats posed by climate change. The article concludes by examining the impacts of large-scale climatic events on fisheries and discussing the implications of climate change for marine policy, management, and conservation.

Finally, bringing us back to the intra- and inter-institutional challenges climate change poses for international law, Dr. William C.G. Burns’ article, “Belt and Suspenders?: The World Heritage Convention’s Role in Confronting Climate Change,” assesses the threats climate change poses to World Heritage Sites, as designated under the World Heritage Convention. Dr. Burns examines the World Heritage Committee‘s response to multiple petitions to list designated World Heritage Sites as in ‘danger’ due to climate-related threats.22 In concluding that the World Heritage Committee has failed to respond adequately to threats climate change poses to World Heritage Sites, Dr. Burns argues that the World Heritage Committee must reassess its relationship with the UNFCCC and take on a more active role in responding to linkages between climate change and world heritage protection. Dr. Burns‘ analysis provides key insights into the challenges facing existing international institutions in evolving to address new climate-related threats.

Together, these three articles make a vital contribution towards identifying distinct interdisciplinary legal challenges and suggesting possible steps toward improving the regulatory responses. As a preface to the questions examined in these articles, let us briefly consider two key issues that reflect the complexities involved in responding effectively to climate change: (1) ocean management-climate linkages and (2) heritage protection-climate linkages. This introduction focuses primarily on examining the first issue, as Dr. Burns’ article provides a detailed analysis of the second issue.

Keywords: Climate Change

Suggested Citation

Carlarne, Cinnamon Piñon, Climate Change, Cultural Heritage & the Oceans: Rethinking Regulatory Approaches to Climate Change (2010). Southeastern Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 272, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Cinnamon Piñon Carlarne (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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