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A new paper released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with seven other environmental organizations outlines the ways that the ocean, often thought of as a victim of climate change, can be utilized to best combat global rising temperatures. Researchers identified four main sectors with high potential for the mitigation of carbon emissions as well as other economic and environmental benefits: marine conservation, oceanic and coastal fisheries, marine transport, and ocean-based renewable energy.
Why This Matters: We’ve written a lot about how the sea level is rising, and the ocean is warming, fueling stronger storm systems, and declines in biodiversity. WRI’s comprehensive guidance on how the ocean can still be a major player against climate change offers a breath of fresh air.
More than 600 million people – about 37% of the world’s population – live in coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level and are at increased risk of flooding as sea levels continue to rise.
The paper offers a revolutionary roadmap for coastal countries to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement while also stimulation economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four Big Things
First, the paper found that ocean ecosystems like mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses, which can sequester more than double the carbon of terrestrial forests, are globally under-protected.
151 countries contain “blue carbon” ecosystems, and protecting these ocean habitats will not only sequester atmospheric carbon but also protect fish and wildlife relied on for food and trade.
Second, oceanic and coastal fisheries have great potential for improved efficiency standards but fuel emissions from the global fishing industry have been left out of global greenhouse gas assessments.
Improving the measurement of these emissions, incentivizing energy-efficient fishing vessel and gear improvements, and limiting catches to sustainable levels can decrease the carbon footprint of the fishing industry, while also ensuring its long-term health.
Third, increasing ocean-based renewable energy to meet 2030 and 2050 goals could remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to total Russia’s emissions. Investing in developing technology like tidal, current, and geothermal energy can help nations not only meet climate goals but also become less reliant on the importation of liquid fuel from other countries.
Fourth, the marine transport sector also shows great potential for improved efficiency. Countries can kick-start their green transportation efforts by creating cross-sectoral decarbonization plans, setting explicit efficiency goals, and investing in battery and wind-operated transport.
This roadmap, while demanding, has the potential to benefit developing nations the most, and empower them to significantly upgrade their climate goals. The paper also emphasized the need to coordinate marine efforts with land efforts. Eliza Northrop, Policy Lead for WRI’s Sustainable Ocean Initiative, and Mario Finch, a Climate Action & Data researcher at WRI, wrote in a blog post accompanying the paper, “the solutions offered by the ocean cannot continue to be overlooked in climate policy,” but specified that, “limiting temperature rises and preventing the worst impacts of climate change requires using every available solution in tandem.
Ten years after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the Japanese government announced that it will release treated radioactive water from the destroyed plant into the ocean beginning in 2023. The decision to dump more than 1 million metric tons of contaminated water into the Pacific ocean has upset local fishers and surrounding countries.
Why This Matters: A decade after a 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the decision to release water into the ocean is just one part of the prolonged decommissioning of the plant.
Hundreds of citizens will fan out across the nation’s capital next week to meet with lawmakers in what’s projected to be the largest ocean lobby effort in US history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will meet with Biden administration officials, federal agencies, and members of Congress for a nonpartisan Ocean Climate Action Hill Day.
Why It Matters: As the Biden administration and the Congress begin to debate what’s infrastructure and therefore within the American Jobs Plan, the blue economy needs to be front and center in it.
The Evergiven is no longer stuck in the Suez Canal, but world shipping is hardly back to normal. In just six days, the massive container ship held up almost $60 billion in global trade. Supply chains across the world are delayed and off schedule, and the incident has economists and maritime experts across the globe reevaluating the efficacy of the current shipping economy.
Why this Matters: The pandemic has rocketed demand for goods (and vaccines) to all-time highs, but bottlenecks at many major ports and slow shipping speed could slow the global economy just as it begins to recover from COVID-19.
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