Climate Change and the Oceans
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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.
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Chapter 3: Uncertain seas ahead: legal and policy approaches to conserving marine biodiversity in the face of changing climate

Richard Kenchington and Robin Warner


Climate is a major factor in the habitat, food chains, competition, success and survival of species. Contemporary distributions and abundance of marine species and communities reflect adaptation to geologically recent climatic conditions and the impacts of human activities. Warming of the atmosphere and seawater has occurred in association with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the twentieth century. Despite continuing scientific research and wider discussion of the relative roles of anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases and other influences on climate, climate change is occurring. The policy and legal issues have two core components: response to the effects of climate change, and addressing the human activities for which there is reasonable evidence of causation or exacerbation of climate change. For the purpose of this chapter, the focus will be on the response to the effects of climate change, rather than on the issue of anthropogenic causation and exacerbation. The effects of climate change on marine biodiversity flow from increasing water temperature and absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with consequential changes in the chemistry of seawater; the strength and direction of ocean currents; and the intensity, frequency and geographic range of extreme weather events. The expected consequences of recent and projected anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases on climate change are now considered inevitable, with temperatures set to continue to increase. This is because the period over which any stabilization or return to historic levels would occur is expected to be long.

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