Gabby Lout
Gabby Lout

Oct 30. 3 mins

THE OCEAN TELLS THE STORY OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The ocean, like a mother, gave us life. She selflessly absorbed the suns rays and calmed the winds to make us a home on this planet, providing us with oxygen, sustenance, and beauty. We assumed her bounty was unlimited and that our careless actions would go unnoticed. Like any good mother, she took on our burden, keeping us safe from the poison we were putting into the atmosphere, warming our planet and flooding our coastlines. On the surface, she remains strong, unphased. She puts on a resilient face, but with each degree, she can’t keep it up. Her waters become warmer and more acidic.

She stares upon the ghostly white remains of what used to be vibrant reefs. Invertebrate shells become porous, and fish are displaced, as they search for a place to feed and reproduce. The ice melts and the shores flood. Corals, seagrasses, and mangroves suffocate and struggle to stay within the sunlight’s reach. We have built walls and protected ourselves from the ocean’s changes, but in doing so, we left so many creatures with nowhere to go, nowhere to seek refuge. How did we get here? We were given it all, without ever being asked for anything in return. Each storm and devastation are a cry for help…a warning, rather. Another degree is just a page away. She is depending on us, and all that life that is within her. The story is somber, but with the ocean, there is always hope. It is our time to write the next chapter…

We have taken our privilege to exist on this planet for granted, and now we find ourselves at a crossroads…a tipping point. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shook the world. Through the fear and anger it brought about, it ignited new change. A new change that will require us to rethink our solutions. It called for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented” action, immediately limiting gas emissions that cause the greenhouse effect and climate change. This report was a reiteration of the dark consequences that will continue to occur if we continue business as usual. It will take strategic and proactive policy, and that policy and action must start in the ocean. Historically, we have kept climate and ocean issues separate, treating them as if they existed apart. The climate system cannot exist without the ocean and therefore we should be persuading our policymakers to focus on ocean-based solutions.

The ocean ecosystems already absorb and store so much of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide in our system, but we are damaging the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and heating it to levels never reached before. In doing so, we are overloading the system, altering the very nature of the ocean, currents, and ecosystems. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems will be essential for adapting to climate change while bringing more resilience to coastal communities and economies. So much of our focus has been on land-based solutions and strategies when we should be attempting to harness the oceans power and her innate climate regulating abilities. The ocean provides us with huge opportunities and vast potential to reduce climate change globally.

Earlier this month, a report published in the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Marine Science, announced a 13-point plan focused on ocean-based solutions to combat the climate crisis. It is the first major, collaborative action plan created by 17 impressive scientists, as a group known as the Ocean Solutions Initiative (OSI). The bright minds of OSI are rethinking how we should approach the shocking new climate change reports. The report is centered around four goals: reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, increasing the amount of solar radiation that is reflected to space, protecting valuable marine ecosystems, and manipulating ecological adaptation to climate change impacts. Looking at the feasibility of numerous ocean-based strategies, ocean-based
renewable energy was the most promising. A switch to ocean-based renewable energy technologies like offshore wind farms, wave energy, and tidal generators, have the highest potential for immediately addressing the causes of climate change.

In addition, the report suggests “no-regret measures” like the widespread implementation of local marine protection and restoration projects. The plan also includes more “radical” strategies, like the use of genetic engineering to assist with species adaptation or using alkaline materials to combat ocean acidification. While some of the measures are understudied and even thought to be unfeasible, it is these innovating, not yet thought of strategies that give us a glimmer of hope. With a relatively new field of work and new direction, there is still so much to be discovered and understood. The report concludes with a call for more effort and research put into examining and comparing solutions risks and benefits. OSI hopes that their report becomes a topic of ongoing conversation among scientists, policymakers, and the public. The group created a simple breakdown of the report in this video.

Climate change and its devastating impacts are a crisis that none of us are immune to. Impacts are felt in every corner of the globe, as we are directly linked to life and each other through the ocean. Therefore, this fight belongs to all of us. We have the responsibility to act NOW. Ocean and climate systems must be preserved, and one cannot be saved without the other. It is time to show up for the ocean…each and every single one of us. We must demand a proactive policy that focuses on ocean-based action. Global policy and action are imperative, but it will take local initiatives and effort at the individual level to ensure action occurs. We have so much power and such a loud voice. Vote. Choose to protect mangroves, marshes, and seagrasses. Support renewable energy, land-based and ocean-based. As a consumer, vote for the companies and organizations that are committed to reducing pollution and exploitation, taking unnecessary stress off the ocean. Support marine protected areas. Make the switch to a plant-based diet. Invest in the ocean. We are positioned at a critical moment where we can play a defining and decisive role in the fight against climate change. Every degree matters. Every action matters. We have the power to rewrite the story. The time is now.

Read the full report from here and pass it on!

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