Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Make Waves Ahead of Climate Summit

Photo: ClearSeas.org

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

As countries around the world attempt to make their economy more green, they’re turning to the ocean for climate solutions. On Tuesday, Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, participated in a virtual event to demonstrate the advantages of “blue” climate initiatives.  Leaders from around the globe attended the event — the UK’s Environment Minister, Chile’s Foreign Minister, and the Prime Minister of Fiji.  Kerry announced the U.S. will spearhead several ocean-based initiatives combatting climate change, including decarbonizing the global shipping sector by 2050, creating three massive marine reserves near Antarctica, and helping small island nations adapt to sea-level rise and other climate impacts.

Why this Matters:  Ocean-based climate strategies tend to take a back seat to emissions cuts in the transportation and fossil fuel sectors. But the ocean could be pivotal to lowering the global temperature — a 2019 study found that ocean-based projects could reduce as much as 21% of carbon emissions. These solutions include offshore carbon sequestration, floating solar panels, and tidal energy. President Biden has already begun to push for offshore wind, recently green-lighting a massive project near Massachusetts.  Kerry pledged to make ocean solutions a major “leg” of the climate meeting later this year.

A Source of Solutions

Policymakers also want to consider the way that climate change adversely affects the ocean before diving headfirst into ocean-based climate initiatives. A new U.N. report suggests that the ocean absorbs 23% of annual emissions of human-caused carbon dioxide, which causes the water’s pH levels to lower and makes it too acidic for marine life to thrive. Moreover, some want to use deep seabed mining to find metals like copper, cobalt, and nickel for clean energy technology, even though it could harm the ocean’s many ecosystems

As we have reported, one of the most ambitious ocean conservation projects ever, called the Blue Nature Alliance, launched yesterday.   More than a half-dozen organizations agreed to work together to create fully protected marine reserves of parks covering an ocean area (7 million square miles), which is twice the size of the continental U.S. and larger than South America.  This effort will also provide benefits for combatting climate change by strengthening ocean health generally from other “stressors” like pollution and overfishing and illegal fishing.

Jane Lubchenco, the top White House climate scientist, told Axios: “There’s no doubt that the ocean has been a victim of climate change. What the new science is telling us, and these leaders are now incorporating into their actions, is that the ocean can also be a powerful source of solutions.”

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