How law can help protect our oceans

Professor Tim Stephens on World Ocean Day 2021Share 

For World Ocean Day 2021, Professor Tim Stephens speaks about the key role of law in environmental protection.

Today is World Ocean Day — a day to encourage people everywhere to celebrate and take action for our shared ocean.

The 2021 World Ocean conservation action focus is to support and grow the “30×30” global movement to protect at least 30% of our blue planet by 2030.

We had a chat to Sydney Law School’s Professor Tim Stephens about his research into ocean acidification and the role of national and international law in regulating human impact on marine ecosystems.

Professor Tim Stephens, Sydney Law School

Professor Tim Stephens, Sydney Law School

Why is ocean acidification a concern and how can the law help?

The oceans are undergoing major transformations as a result of climate change. They are warming up as they absorb excess heat in the system. Their chemistry is changing as they draw down huge volumes of carbon dioxied (CO2) from the atmosphere.

Cover of Global Environmental Change and Innovation in International Law

The oceans are the world’s most important carbon sink — without them we’d already be experiencing extreme temperatures. However, when the oceans absorb CO2 it causes the oceans to become acidic.This is affecting ecosystems and organisms globally, especially those that form structures from calcium carbonate, such as corals.

The first and best option to curb ocean acidification is to reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. That means we need to turn to the UN climate treaties to solve the acidification problem. Professor Tim Stephens, Sydney Law School.

You’ve written about ocean acidification at the Poles. Have you ever travelled to the Poles?

I have not travelled to the Poles, but I have had an opportunity to see polar law being made at an Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting!

The University of Sidney, 8 June 2021. Article.

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