Arctic Dreams and Geoengineering Wishes: The Collateral Damage of Climate Change


Moving forward into a post-Kyoto world, policymakers struggle to find effective and equitable solutions, not only for the most basic challenges climate change presents, but also for the secondary problems to which climate change gives rise.  After more than twenty years of deliberations, policymakers continue to struggle with the fundamental question of how to use law as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Yet, even as these deliberations proceed, more complex derivative questions are identified on a daily basis.

These spin-off questions range from well-established concerns about the impact of climate change on biodiversity, human health and human rights, to newer questions about the intersections between climate change law and other areas of law, to critical questions about how climate change is revealing new governance gaps.  Many of these collateral questions raise pressing legal and political issues that cannot be resolved through ongoing climate negotiations.  This Article examines two particularly important areas in which climate change is exposing fundamental gaps in existing systems of global governance.  The first of these is governance of the Arctic Ocean at the edges of the existing regulatory reach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The second of these is the complete absence, for all practical purposes, of a governance regime applicable to geoengineering research and experimentation.  These seemingly distinct issues are examined together for two reasons. First, they raise two of the most pressing global governance challenges today.  Second, global efforts to address Arctic and geoengineering governance gaps pose discreet opportunities for the global community to debate, refine and advance the normative framework and institutional structures for management of the global commons.  In both contexts, the questions asked and the answers offered will offer insight into larger questions of global environmental governance.