Climate Change and the Oceans

Climate Change and the Oceans

Gauging the Legal and Policy Currents in the Asia Pacific and Beyond

Edited by Robin Warner and Clive Schofield

Climate Change and the Oceans investigates the effects of climate change on the ocean environment and its implications for maritime activities, both globally and within the Asia Pacific region.

Chapter 1: Climate change and the oceans: legal and policy portents for the Asia Pacific region and beyond

Robin Warner and Clive Schofield

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, environmental sociology, law - academic, environmental law, maritime law


The oceans dominate the globe spatially, covering approximately 72 per cent of its surface area. These extensive marine spaces are critical to the global environment and human survival in numerous ways–they are vital to the global nutrient cycling, represent a key repository and supporter of biological diversity on a world scale, and play a fundamental role in driving the global atmospheric system. Moreover, the oceans continue to provide a critical source of food through fisheries and aquaculture, are an increasingly significant source of energy resources, and underpin the global economy through sea-borne trade. The oceans are, however, under increasing threat. In addition to well recognized threats such as pollution and dumping, as well as urgent concerns over over-fishing, the destruction of valuable habitats and the preservation of marine biodiversity, the oceans have had a longstanding role as the primary sink for excess heat and carbon present in the global climate system. Consequently, the oceans have and are continuing to experience profound impacts as a result of climate change. In particular, substantial impacts on marine environments will result from increasing water temperatures, changes to the chemistry of seawater, including ocean acidification, changes in ocean circulation systems leading to shifts in the strength and direction of ocean currents and increases in the geographical range, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Potentially substantial and abrupt sea-level rise is also likely to have dramatic consequences.