Don’t forget the ocean!

Around here, we’re always thinking about the ocean. But sometimes the ocean isn’t always top-of-mind for world leaders, who must balance many pressing concerns. Nevertheless, dozens of world political, scientific, and environmental leaders made time to attend the second “Our Ocean” conference in Valparaiso, Chile last week.

Continuing the momentum developed at the first “Our Ocean” meeting in June 2014, speakers reviewed the critical importance of caring for the ocean that sustains human life. Ocean acidification was one of the main conference topics, and speakers underscored our best option for curbing it: cutting atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso, from the National Center for Scientific Research in France, presented conclusions from a recent synthesis study, which showed:

  • Climate and the ocean are inseparable. The ocean decreases climate change by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide.
  • As the ocean absorbs carbon and ice melt-water, its physics and chemistry are changing profoundly. Warmer water, rising sea levels and increased acidity impacts sea life all the way up the food chain to us.
  • The more atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the fewer options we have to heal the ocean and maintain their important life-sustaining role.
  • International leaders must take action to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Following the ocean acidification session, international leaders announced several commitments that will further our understanding of ocean acidification and the best actions to address it at scales from local to global. Here at home, the United States will continue to support the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC) in Monaco through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Peaceful Uses Initiative. Now in its third year, this group is critical for coordinating, promoting, facilitating, and communicating ocean acidification research worldwide. In addition, the U.S. is creating a public-private partnership between the U.S. and several private foundations to provide resources for African nations to monitor and study ocean acidification. This fundamental research being conducted around the world is crucial for fishermen and shellfish growers to earn a living. In the United States, fishermen and growers involved in such partnerships have become vocal advocates for increased public funding of ocean acidification research by writing news articles, and directly talking to Congress and government officials.

Last week’s conference and international commitments are clear proof that world leaders have NOT forgotten the ocean. This is an inspiring testament to the work we do, and the work you, our members do, to urge leaders to keep our ocean in mind. We look forward to continued progress in considering ocean issues during future international gatherings, like this winter’s 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris.

Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy, 14 October 2015. Article.

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