New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 2: Environmental change and governance challenges in the Southern Ocean
The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) has evolved from the 1960s following the entry into force of the Antarctic Treaty and the development of instruments, institutions and processes that supplement and complement it. ATS governance has progressed in response to the desires and in anticipation of the needs of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs). For example, the ATCPs responded to a desire to protect seal stocks from further depletion should commercial harvesting resume (hence the establishment of CCAS) and anticipated the need to have regulations in place in advance of contemporary and future challenges, as were the cases for both minerals activities (through CRAMRA) and conservation and fishing (through CCAMLR). The flexibility of the ATS to mature alongside, and in response to, changing circumstances is a key characteristic contributing to its robustness. The continent of Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean are experiencing a range of physical and biological changes as a result of conditions induced by, among other things, large volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere being drawn down into the oceans - from which there is no immediate prospect of a slow-down or reversal. In summary, '[c]limate models suggest that the Southern Ocean will continue to evolve in response to greenhouse warming, resulting in further ocean warming and freshening, higher sea level, less sea ice and changes in ocean currents'. This chapter explores the scientific research on environmental change in the Antarctic and associated questions of Southern Ocean governance.
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