Framing ocean acidification to mobilise action under multilateral environmental agreements

Highlights

• Ocean acidification is commonly framed as a problem of carbon dioxide emissions concurrent to climate change.

• This framing has been effective at mobilising action at the domestic level in the United States.

• This framing has resulted in misaligning the problem of ocean acidification with regime mandates at the international level.

• To mobilise action at the international level a reframing of ocean acidification is warranted.

Abstract

Ocean acidification has long been framed by its epistemic community as a problem of carbon dioxide emissions that is concurrent to climate change. Framing ocean acidification in this way has been effective at garnering policy action at the domestic level in the United States. It is argued, however, in this paper that this framing has been counterproductive at the international level, resulting in two main impediments to the international governance of this issue. Firstly, defining ocean acidification as a concurrent problem to climate change, rather than as an impact of it, has resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change being interpreted as containing no obligation to address ocean acidification. Secondly, focussing almost solely on the reduction of global emissions of carbon dioxide as the only global solution to ocean acidification has resulted in ocean and biodiversity-related regimes that do not have the mandate to regulate CO2 emissions as being viewed as without the recourse to respond. Through an examination of the causes and consequences of ocean acidification and the general objectives of existing multilateral environmental agreements, a set of alternative problem frames are developed in this paper that could be deployed to mobilize action under existing environmental regimes.

Harrould-Kolieb E. R., 2020. Framing ocean acidification to mobilise action under multilateral environmental agreements. Environmental Science & Policy
104: 129-135. Article (subscription required).

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