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The Effect of Climate Change on Maritime Zones

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The Fourth IPCC Assessment Report shows high confidence that the world is warming. Small island countries, developing countries and Least Developed countries remain most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For countries like the Marshall Island, with atoll islands situated just a few meters high from sea level, any uncontrolled sea-level rise has the potential to submerge land areas. Furthermore, climate change impacts could include increased tropical cyclone activities and coastal erosion. Coral bleaching and ocean acidification due to warming also have the potential to affect tourism, fisheries and agriculture, and the ability of the corals to regenerate. Sovereignty claims over natural resources and territory could increase, as maritime zones shrink due to the ambulatory nature of baselines.

The problem of climate change refugees and resettlement also pose challenges. Competition for scarce marine and natural resources could intensify, leaving countries like RMI - in dire straits. Loss of maritime zones, domestic, regional and international security, population migration and resettlement are issues closely tied to the impacts from a changing climate.

Ambulatory nature of baselines/ Loss of Maritime Zones

Though not indicated in UNCLOS, scholars such as Rayfuse, Caron and Soon have concluded that baselines are ambulatory. Thus, when baselines move, the outer boundary of the maritime zones (territorial sea, contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone) also move. Applying this theory, all coastlines and conversely maritime zones of states affected by sea level rise would move. That change would be most acute for low-lying states facing inundation.

Complete submergence of base points from which the Marshall Isl...

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... Climate Dangers and Atoll Countries, pg. 325 (2003), http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/people/adgerwn/ClimChange2003Barnett.pdf. They note that without coral bleaching, reefs would possibly be able to grow apace with rising sea-levels, but they are not expected to be able to sustain themselves with the combined impact of projected sea level rise, projected increases in bleaching episodes, and with the additional stressors such as increased land-based sources of pollution and increased atmospheric concentration of CO2.

These rights are limited in some zones and clearly defined.

ACP Fisheries II, Description of the Marshall islands Fisheries Sector, http://acpfish2-eu.org/index.php?page=marshall-islands&hl=en.

Id. Data suggests that total catch of Tuna in 2007 was around 68,000 tons.

Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, http://www.ffa.int/node/567. See also, Anouk
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