Dealing with Ocean Acidification: The Problem, the Clean Water Act, and State and Regional Approaches

75 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2015 Last revised: 22 Sep 2016

Date Written: February 3, 2016


Ocean acidification is often referred to as climate change’s “evil twin.” As the global ocean continually absorbs much of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide produced through the burning of fossil fuels, its pH is dropping, causing a plethora of chemical, biological, and ecological impacts. These impacts immediately threaten local and regional fisheries and marine aquaculture and pose a longer-term risk of a global mass extinction event. As with climate change itself, the ultimate solution to ocean acidification is a world-wide reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. In the interim, however, the Center for Biological Diversity has worked long and hard to apply the federal Clean Water Act to ocean acidification, while states and coastal regions are increasingly pursuing more broadly focused responses to its local and regional impacts. This Article provides a first assessment of these relatively nascent legal efforts to address ocean acidification, concluding that ocean acidification should prompt renewed Clean Water Act attention to stormwater runoff and nutrient pollution but also that more comprehensive adaptation law and policy will become and increasingly necessary part of coastal state and regional responses to ocean acidification.

Keywords: ocean acidification, Clean Water Act, pH, marine, shellfish, aquaculture, climate change, adaptation

Suggested Citation

Craig, Robin Kundis, Dealing with Ocean Acidification: The Problem, the Clean Water Act, and State and Regional Approaches (February 3, 2016). 90 Washington Law Review 1583-1657 (Winter 2015) (in print February 2016), University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 127, Available at SSRN:

Robin Kundis Craig (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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