The Ocean-Climate Nexus in the Unfolding Anthropocene: Addressing Environmental Challenges Through International Law and Cooperation
Climate change and dramatic change to ocean ecosystems are two of the leading indicators of the proposed ‘Anthropocene’ epoch. As knowledge of feedbacks between climate change and damage to ocean ecosystems has improved, the case for addressing these interrelated challenges concurrently has strengthened. This chapter begins by reviewing the relationship between climate change and the state of the ocean as explained in recent scientific publications. It proceeds from this to summarise how this ocean-climate nexus is addressed in current and developing international law, before focusing on three particular examples: first, regulation of international shipping emissions; second, management of coastal ecosystems (‘blue carbon’); and third, the current negotiation on a new treaty to protect the high seas. These three examples illustrate the diversity of regulation undertaken within a four-square matrix of processes under the Climate Convention, or under the Law of the Sea Convention, which are based on either mandatory commitments or non-binding facilitative measures. The chapter concludes that there are further opportunities to address ocean-climate feedbacks in a targeted and timely manner, including through additional linkages between UNFCCC- and UNCLOS-based processes.