Sean Murphy


When “diving” into consideration of sea-level rise issues, one finds various “pools” of international law that are perfectly suited for answering some of the issues we are addressing. For example, Professor Galvão Teles spoke about the protection of persons in the event of sea-level rise. There are, of course, various aspects of human rights law and international law relating to disasters that can be employed to resolve some of the concerns in that regard. It is just a question of applying that law to a new, factual phenomenon.

Having said that, there are some areas where existing international law is not adequate, or is not obviously adequate, to resolve the issues that we are confronting. Certainly, the issue that Professor Juan José Ruda Santolaria was addressing, specifically the potential loss of statehood, presents a unique scenario where existing international law is unclear. Yet it is also difficult to know how best to propose new international law on that issue, given that there are so many different factual scenarios that might play out in the years to come.

So, in addressing whether contemporary international law is adequate or not for addressing sea-level rise, much depends on the issue at hand. With that broad point in mind, I will address the issue of baselines (and consequential maritime entitlements) in relation to sea-level rise, as was foreshadowed by Judge Maria Teresa Infante. She set me up as though I was going to solve this problem, which of course I will not be able to do! That said, I will echo some of her very thoughtful comments and try to move the conversation along a bit. This discussion, of course, relates as well to that of yesterday’s session.