Sea Level Rise and Maritime Boundaries: The Effect of Rising Sea Level on International Boundaries

by David Freestone, Univ of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom,
John Pethick, Univ of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


This paper, jointly written by a lawyer and a coastal geomorphologist, will examine the possible responses at a legal level to the implications of global warming induced sea level rise on existing maritime boundaries. It will use projections of sea level rise over the next 60 years developed by the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group I. The paper will begin by identifying the main implications for coastal areas of such a rise in sea level, namely the inundation of low lying areas; the changes in the position of high and low water mark under a number of scenarios, and the possibility of variation in the tidal range itself. It will also assess likely changes in erosion and sedimentary deposition patterns brought about by different current and wind pattern which may result in changes in the orientation of coastlines. The effect of tidal changes on the delimitation of coastal and maritime zones resulting from changes in high tide line (for coastal zone jurisdiction) and low tide line (for maritime zone baselines) will be considered and various active and passive strategies compares in light of case studies of coastal zone legislation and the law of the sea regime. The implications of inundation of coastal areas, including protected areas, and various consequential interpretations of coastal zone jurisdiction will also be examined.

Subject Headings: Sea level | Domain boundary | Tides | Floods | Jurisdiction | Case studies | Global warming | Geomorphology

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