Encyclopedia of Environmental Law: Climate Change Law 567-578 (Edward Elgar 2016)
12 Pages Posted: 2 May 2015 Last revised: 29 Dec 2016
Date Written: April 11, 2016
The world’s oceans are both one of the primary mediators of climate change and one of the most important sources of climate change mitigation, constituting the world’s largest carbon sink. However, the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere are increasing ocean water temperatures, altering normal marine current patterns, and lowering the pH of seawater, a phenomenon known popularly as ocean acidification. These primary impacts, in turn, are causing a number of additional changes of growing importance to humans — sea level rise; shifting marine food webs and ocean fisheries; the increasing destruction of important marine ecosystems such as coral reefs; changing maritime transportation patterns and needs; and the opening of the Arctic Ocean. While the laws governing oceans are both complex and fragmented, ocean law and policy are not yet effectively coping with climate change at any scale, and a number of important reforms are required.
Keywords: ocean, climate change, adaptation, sea level rise, marine fisheries, UNCLOS
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