Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 21: International Legal Efforts to Address Human-Induced Global Climate Change

David M. Ong


* David M. Ong Introduction Almost unarguably, the most fundamental environmental challenge facing the world today is how we respond to the implications of global climate change. Broad consensus now exists amongst the world’s foremost climate scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human activities are having a discernible effect on the climate (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007).1 Certain gases, naturally present in the atmosphere, keep the earth at a temperature suitable for life by trapping outgoing terrestrial radiation from the earth’s surface. Levels of some of these so called ‘greenhouse gases’ are increasing as a result of human activity and this, scientists believe, is leading to a gradual increase in the temperature of the atmosphere. Climate models predict that the global temperature will rise by between 1.5°C and 3.5°C by 2100. This will exceed any climate change experienced since the last Ice Age 10 000 years ago. These predictions have been reiterated in successive IPCC reports at recent conferences of parties to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) (see Grimeaud, 2001).2 While it is still too early to predict accurately the size and timing of climate change in specific regions, the impact on the global environment is likely to be significant. Sea levels are expected to rise, causing flooding to low-lying areas. Storms and other extreme weather events could become more severe and frequent. Climatic zones could shift towards the poles. Many natural habitats could decline or fragment and individual species...

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