Maritime Jurisdiction in a Changing Climate

American Bar Association
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The Law of Adaptation to Climate Change, 2012, pp. 729 - 770
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Rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and long- and short-term saltwater intrusion are among the conditions associated with a changing climate that are predicted to increasingly affect coastal states. Changes to coastal geography, predominantly the loss of land due to accelerated and more extensive erosion and inundation, as well as loss of habitability, are anticipated. 1 Low-lying island nations, particularly those composed of or including atolls2 in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and states with deltaic coasts,3 are most vulnerable to these effects.4 Yet even geographically resilient coastal states with a strong adaptive capacity are expected to experience some change where land meets higher and wilder seas.5 Many coastal states extend their rights to maritime space by claiming the full complement of maritime zones for both the mainland and islands-a territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf (see figure 1 ).6 A low-tide elevation can generate its own territorial sea up to a maximum breadth of 12 nautical miles if situated within the territorial sea of the mainland or an island .7 The maritime baseline from which the outer limits of all four maritime zones are measuredN may trace the low-water line along the coast,9 a fringing reef, 111 or an atoll. 11 Straight baselines can be used to connect the outermost points of a deeply indented coast or island fringe. "Where lighthouses or similar installations which are permanently above sea level have been built on them or ... the drawing of baselines to and from such elevations has received general international recognition," low-tide elevations may also be used as basepoints. 12 An archipelagic stateu is entitled to draw straight archipelagic baselines between "the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago, provided that within such baselines are included the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1 to 1 and 9 to l." 14 By locating the baseline at the outermost reaches of their land territory, coastal states maximize their jurisdiction over maritime space. 15 The maritime zones generated by islands, including rocks, and low-tide elevations represent even greater gains.
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