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 5: Climate change: Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, science, law and policy

Marcus Haward


Human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases are considered to contribute to climate change through global warming (IPCC 2009). This warming contributes to rises in ocean temperature, and is considered a primary factor in increased climate variability, including the likelihood of more frequent ‘extreme events’ such as cyclones and storms that directly impact on coastal areas. Concomitant changes in the ocean’s chemistry have longerterm and likely irreversible impacts. Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, including the atmosphere above, are key components of the global climate system. The Southern Ocean connects the world’s great ocean basins, and is a source of physical and chemical processes arising from the interaction of wind, ice and ocean. This chapter focuses first on the critical role of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica in global and regional climates through the interaction of elements of the cryosphere (those parts of the world that are covered by ice and snow). These elements of the cryosphere provide the impetus for the thermohaline circulation (the movement of water due to differences in temperature and salinity), which plays a major role in global ocean circulation; although it is important to note that similar processes occur in the Arctic and the North Atlantic. The second part of the chapter examines the regimes and instruments that govern the Southern Ocean, focusing on the impact of climate change on the operation on these regimes. The role of science and the question of regime intersection are key areas of concern and are thus addressed in a short examination of issues surrounding ocean fertilization. The paper concludes with some observations on the influence of the intersection between science, law and policy in addressing climate change.

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