Climate Change and the Anthropocene: Implications for the Development of the Law of the Sea

In Elise Johansen, Signe Veierud Busch and Ingvild Ulrikke Jakobsen (eds), The Law of the Sea and Climate Change: Solutions and Constraints. Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp. 22-48.

This chapter relates the two overarching themes of the book – climate change and the ocean – through the lens of the Anthropocene and explores the impact on the development of the law of the sea within a broader framework of international law, including the climate change regime. We first explain the emergence and the content of the Anthropocene concept, in the natural sciences and then in geology, as a proposed epoch in the history of the Earth. We then relate the Anthropocene to climate change and the role of the oceans. Finally, we discuss the development of international law of the sea in the context of the conditions of two different epochs: the Holocene, in which this law emerged; and the Anthropocene, to which it would now need to start responding. We argue that the role – and responsibility – of international law scholarship in contributing to the development of international law will become enhanced as the Earth System leaves the generally stable conditions of the Holocene Epoch and enters the new planetary state of the Anthropocene.