The legal implications of ocean acidification: beyond the climate change regime

This chapter explicates the important relations between the oceans, biodiversity and climate regimes, in the process especially highlighting the legal connections. Due to emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, changes in ocean chemistry are occurring at an accelerating rate. In particular, as the oceans absorb that carbon, they become acidic; today they are almost one-third more acidic than they were 200 years ago. Impacts on marine organisms and ecosystems are increasingly apparent, ranging from adverse effects on plankton to reductions in shellfish harvests. This chapter argues that ocean acidification is creating specific new challenges for international law. While extant multilateral environmental agreements can serve as the basis for marine governance in this context, it is still unclear which should take the lead and what kind of new rules will need to be agreed upon to do so effectively. An obvious issue is that the cause of this problem – carbon emissions governed by the climate change regime – and the impacts – acidification of oceans and seas – are the subjects of different regimes. Drawing on the experience of the Convention on Biological Diversity, this chapter points to avenues for strengthening the oceans and climate regimes so that they can effectively respond to acidification.

Gordon J., 2022. The legal implications of ocean acidification: beyond the climate change regime. In: Harris P. G. (Ed.), Routledge handbook of marine governance and global environmental change, 12 p. Milton Park: Taylor & Francis. Chapter (restricted access).

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