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 11: Arctic climate governance: can the canary in the coal mine lift Canada's head out of the sand(s)?

Meinhard Doelle

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


With every passing year, the global human imprint on the climate is increasing. This trend is likely to continue, as global efforts to curb emissions show few signs of coming into line with what the science says is necessary to avoid dangerous warming. As global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resulting concentrations in the atmosphere continue to increase, polar regions are feeling the effects first. This means that if the impacts of climate change can be expected to be a motivator for effective policies, polar regions should be a good place to look for climate policy innovation. The former National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), a multi-stakeholder advisory body created by the federal government to advise it on sustainable development issues in Canada, described the situation in Canada's North as follows: Climate change is a reality, and the global frontline runs directly through Canada's North. Warming temperatures, changing precipitation and land ice conditions, melting glaciers and sea ice, earlier springs, increasingly volatile weather, and shifts in the distribution of animals and plants are all occurring. … Canada's North is particularly affected, with warming taking place at faster rates than throughout Canada as a whole, and more quickly than projected by climate models, even under the most pessimistic scenarios. Evidence from communities in Canada's North indicates that rapid changes in climate conditions have resulted in permafrost melting at unprecedented rates, affecting nearly every type of built structure in the region.

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