Table of Contents

Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change

Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag

This timely book provides a cutting-edge assessment of how the dynamic ocean regions at the highest latitudes on Earth are being managed in an era of unprecedented environmental change. The Arctic and Southern Oceans are experiencing transformative environmental change as a result of climate change and ocean acidification. As areas of unparalleled environmental, cultural and scientific value, they are crucibles for testing how integrated, eco-systemic governance frameworks can be developed to meet and address volatile environmental, political and economic challenges.

Chapter 3: Environmental change in the Arctic region

Lorne Kriwoken

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, public international law, politics and public policy, international relations


The influence of human activities on all aspects of the environment is so significant that it represents a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. The expansion of fossil fuel use around 1800 makes it possible to track increased carbon dioxide concentrations as an indicator of this transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene. This new epoch is represented by the growth of human impact on land use, ecosystems, biodiversity, species extinction and atmospheric pollution, to name but a few. Increased human population combined with economic development has given rise to widespread global environmental effects. Certain parts of the world show particularly distinct changes as a result of this transition into the Anthropocene. The Arctic is one such region. The Arctic is extremely vulnerable to predicted climate change and this will have important global and regional ramifications. During the twentieth century air temperatures over Arctic land areas increased by up to 5oC. Arctic Ocean sea ice has both declined in areal extent and thinned. Water flowing north from the Atlantic Ocean has warmed. Spring snow in Eurasia has decreased, as has permafrost. There are a wide range of implications for the Arctic environment and its animals, plants and human inhabitants. These trends have now been widely disseminated to international audiences. For instance, Chapter 15 of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) details impacts of climate change to the Arctic and Antarctic.

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