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

Edited by Rosemary Rayfuse

This authoritative Handbook examines the current state and the future needs of international law in addressing the key activities that pose threats to the marine environment. Its chapters explore the legal framework for protection of the marine environment, pollution of the marine environment, seabed activities and the marine environment, protection of marine biodiversity, regional approaches to the protection of the marine environment and climate change and the marine environment. Each chapter goes beyond a survey of existing law to identify the shortcomings in the legal regime and areas of critical research needed to address these shortcomings. This book provides significant insights into contemporary issues surrounding the efficacy of the regime created by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and details the further work needed to ensure the design and implementation of effective regulation and management of human activities that affect the marine environment.
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Chapter 20: Ocean acidification

Tim Stephens


The oceans are vitally important to the regulation of the Earth’s climate. The oceans have put a brake on global warming by being a store of ‘blue carbon’, taking up around a third of all carbon released from human activities. But while this has been beneficial for the climate, one side-effect has been ocean acidification. This is the progressive change in the chemistry of the world’s oceans as they draw down carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. It is widely recognized that ocean acidification is changing ocean productivity, with major implications for ocean ecosystems and the societies and economies dependent upon them. This chapter examines how ocean acidification is addressed in international law. It is seen that the phenomenon is currently not directly controlled by any treaty regime, and is indirectly regulated by an uncoordinated assortment of environmental treaties and soft law instruments. The precautionary principle, and the desirability of sustainability goals for the oceans, suggests the need for the international community to set a single upper limit for the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to match both climate change and ocean acidification mitigation goals.

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