Washington, DC—December 02, 2015—Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in protecting marine biodiversity, asks climate negotiators at COP21 in Paris to remember that our planet is mostly ocean and that life on Earth depends on maintaining a healthy ocean. While there will be much discussion of keeping carbon emissions low enough to cap the rise of global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, negotiators would do well to consider the ongoing rise in ocean temperature and acidity which greatly affect life in the ocean.
Researchers generally agree that since the Industrial Revolution began, the oceans have absorbed about one third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and about 90% of the extra heat since 1950[i]. The rise in ocean temperatures and increased acidity have begun to impact every bit of the ocean: shallow water reefs hosting one quarter of all marine species, invertebrates like oysters, plankton which are at the base of marine food webs and the fisheries that depend on them, and even life in the deep sea. Marine wildlife is generally moving towards the poles in search of colder and more productive water and away from the equator, a change which has many implications beyond the geographic distribution of fish. This movement will affect food security for humans –the poorest people will suffer first–, biodiversity, and the economic health of some countries. To give ocean ecosystems the best chance of surviving the rapid climatic changes that are upon us, we need to conserve and restore healthy, resilient oceans by reducing pressure from extraction, pollution and habitat destruction.
Dr. Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute, said, “The countries, especially developed nations, at COP21 need to quickly ramp up efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions and establish strongly protected ocean refuges, like the parks we have on land, to increase the resilience of marine life to climate change before fish and other species go extinct from the impacts of rapid ocean warming and acidification.”
Ironically, the fate of oceans will not be the subject of direct negotiations at COP21 because, as the United Nation’s top official on climate change puts it, “The Climate Change Convention is structured based on emissions of greenhouse gasses within national territories. Despite the fact that oceans are being directly affected by rising temperatures, they are not included in the Convention or in the negotiations due to their transboundary nature.”[ii] In addition, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris closed down a number of side events to the negotiation that would have covered the threat to oceans from climate change.
Dr. Morgan continued, “The ocean is, in many ways, the heart and lungs of the Earth, even more so than tropical rain forests. Our weather, one of every two breaths we take, and much of the protein that one billion people eat every day, comes from the ocean. Humans can’t live on this planet without healthy oceans. So, when climate negotiators talk to one another in Paris, we hope they remember the blue heart of our planet.”
About Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental-policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s overarching goal is to help the world create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure future diversity and abundance of marine life. For more information, please go to: http://www.marine-conservation.org
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For more information, media and bloggers only, please contact:
Michael Gravitz, Director of Policy and Legislation, Marine Conservation Institute
Lance Morgan, President, Marine Conservation Institute
office: 707 531 7643
mobile: 707 2178242
[i] http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/oceans/ocean-heat.html. References these two sources:
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2013. Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1.
Levitus, S., J.I. Antonov, T.P. Boyer, O.K. Baranova, H.E. Garcia, R.A. Locarnini, A.V. Mishonov, J.R. Reagan, D. Seidov, E.S. Yarosh, and M.M. Zweng. 2012. World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39:L10603.