International Law Studies


The most variable climate conditions on the planet are observable in the Arctic. These conditions affect all forms of life, including the human interactions and social processes that generate law. Among the critical activities affected by climate is navigation, which is subject to national regulations, general maritime laws, and the international law of the sea. As a result of anthropogenic climate change, Arctic climate variability is already moving the system into states that humans in the Industrial Era have not experienced. Most critically, while the end point of unfettered climate change as manifest in the Arctic – an ice-free ocean – is apparent, the trajectory is not. This article employs climate and sea ice models to explore projections of future navigation in the Arctic, considers plausible termination scenarios of current Arctic Ocean prescriptions, and appraises possible revisions of international legal prescriptions currently at the foundation of the public order of the Arctic. A recalibration of the law of the sea is looming.