Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
The ocean is our lifeblood on Earth. It covers 71% of the planet, provides us oxygen, regulates our climate and increasingly severe weather events by determining the strength of storms, droughts and floods. It shapes even the very size of our continents. And, most importantly for us now, over the last two hundred years, the ocean has absorbed at least one-quarter of all the carbon released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. As a result, the global scientific consensus is that the ocean is warming, sea levels are rising, ocean acidity is increasing, glaciers are shrinking across the globe, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting fast, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere (our built-in air conditioner) is decreasing, and the frozen ground on which most of the Arctic is built is also melting. In other words, the very essence of our existence is fundamentally changing – and as a result, so will every living thing on the planet, especially us.
No matter what we do now, the changes in the ocean are irreversible on any time scale that matters – they are literally baked in. Our only choice – is to do what life on Earth has always done. In order to survive, we must adapt to the changes in the ocean as if our lives depend on it – because they do.
To succeed, and indeed just to survive to reach the twenty-second century, the twenty-first century must be the century of the ocean. The twentieth century was the one in which we conquered space – air space, outer space beyond our atmosphere, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, we have left the largest part of the Earth – more than 80% of the ocean — unexplored and unknown – and now it controls our fate. In the twenty-first century, it is imperative that we close the ocean information gap and fast. Fortunately, due to new technologies, it is possible to map the entire seafloor, survey the depths of the ocean from pole to pole, and to learn what lives at every level below its surface.
Second, we must improve global ocean governance so we can sustainably use the ocean resources we will need. Thanks to the advances of the twentieth century, now it is possible to monitor and manage ocean spaces and resources in ways we could never before. What we lack is real law and regulation for the parts of the ocean beyond national jurisdictions – roughly 200 miles out. This will be particularly important as ocean resources shift due to climate impacts like ocean warming and acidification that do not respect traditional legal boundaries.
So the challenges ahead of us are clear. We must fully explore the ocean, get out of its way as it rises, set up better legal regimes to ensure the sustainable use of ocean resources, and conserve a third or more of it to ensure we can sustain humanity and all life on Earth for the foreseeable future. Whether we like it or not, this will be the ocean century. The choice is ours whether we meet the challenges the ocean presents, or succumb to them. As is often said, water finds a way. And so must we.
Yesterday at a virtual press conference, House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) unveiled his Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act along with co-lead, House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chair Kathy Castor. In Grijalva’s own words, the bill aims to provide a roadmap for ocean and coastal climate resilience, and responsibly uses them […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.