Spotlight on oceans: UCSD students make case for ocean science at climate conference

The ocean is getting hot, sour and breathless, a group of UC San Diego science students warned officials at an international climate conference last month.

She was one of ten UC San Diego graduate students who travelled to Poland for the 19th session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw.

“We went as a group to present science and why it matters and why there’s scientific evidence that humans are creating global ocean change,” said Lauren Linsmayer, a PhD candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Along with drought, extreme weather, ice melt and sea level rise, changes in ocean temperature and chemistry are some of the expected effects of climate change.

Each year the ocean absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and 93 percent of the excess heat, she said.

“That’s a very shocking and profound number, because without the ocean playing that role as a carbon dioxide and heat sink, climate change would be much worse for humans,” she said.

While warming water, rising acidity and declines in oxygen levels could devastate fisheries and wipe out coral reefs, they receive lesser billing at international policy events, Linsmayer said.

To counter that, Linsmayer and fellow students formed Ocean Scientists for Informed Policy. They travelled to the conference with a UCSD filmmaker, who documented their experience through daily videos with a tongue-in-cheek slant on the conference. You can watch those and learn about their trip on their website.

In addition to joining her colleagues from UCSD, Linsmayer served as a delegate of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. She gave a talk at a UN sponsored event about ocean acidification – the drop in pH that happens when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide.

Her colleague Natalya Gallo spoke about the even lesser known phenomena of ocean deoxygenation, “which is a mouthful, and that’s part of the reason it hasn’t been more talked about,” Linsmayer said. That’s the breathless part, in which ocean organisms are waiting to inhale.

Besides their own role publicizing the ocean’s role in climate, the students got to observe international policy in action. The conference aimed to identify funding for future binding agreements on carbon reduction, but concluded with vague promises, Linsmayer said.

“I am disappointed that developed countries didn’t do much to commit money to climate mitigation and adaptation,” she said. “The objectives were met. In my opinion, they just weren’t ambitious enough.”

Deborah Sullivan Brennan, U-T San Diego, 6 December 2013. Article.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: