THE OCEAN IS A CRITICAL SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE, GROUPS TELL BIDEN
June 23, 2022
A coalition of 93 environmental groups, aquariums and outdoor recreation brands is urging the Biden administration to harness the power of the ocean to fight climate change, according to details shared exclusively with The Climate 202.
The groups on Thursday will unveil a detailed blueprint of recommendations to inform the first-ever ocean climate action plan, which President Biden announced on World Oceans Day this month.
“The ocean offers powerful solutions to address the climate crisis,” the blueprint says. “A successful ocean climate action plan will leverage both the mitigation and adaptation power of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes and provide important opportunities for the administration to reach its climate and justice goals.”
The groups that drafted the document include the Center for American Progress, League of Conservation Voters, Mystic Aquarium, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.
Spanning about 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat that greenhouse gas emissions have trapped in the atmosphere, threatening marine species and ecosystems.
Yet the ocean has the power to provide one-fifth of the emissions reductions needed to meet the more ambitious goal of the Paris agreement: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.
The blueprint offers recommendations across 12 key policy areas, including:
Expand responsibly sited offshore wind to meet Biden's goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Promote green shipping and ports as part of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which the United States announced plans to join at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland last fall.
Protect “blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes, sea grasses, coral reefs and kelp forests, which can store more carbon per unit than forests on land.
End illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Reduce plastic pollution, cracking down on the 14 million tons of plastic that wind up in the ocean every year.
Address ocean acidification that is harming many ocean species and contributing to mass coral bleaching.
Enhance coastal resilience to protect communities from severe storms and rising seas.
Evaluate the potential of ocean-based carbon dioxide removal.
“A lot of times what people hear about the ocean is only bad news, like coral reefs and whales are in big trouble,” Miriam Goldstein, senior director for conservation policy at the Center for American Progress, told The Climate 202.
“That is true,” she said. “But we want this blueprint to be a message of hope and action: We know what we need to do to make a better future for the ocean and humanity. And here are some actions that can get us there.”
House Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) praised the blueprint in a statement, saying the document “outlines the bold, meaningful steps we need to take now to ensure a sustainable future for our oceans and planet.”
On World Oceans Day, Biden also announced that he would designate the Hudson Canyon about 100 miles from New York City a new national marine sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will solicit public comment on the contours of the sanctuary from conservationists, the fishing industry and offshore energy developers, among others.
Meanwhile, Biden tasked the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality with crafting the ocean climate action plan as co-chairs of the Ocean Policy Committee.
“In developing America’s first-ever Ocean Climate Action Plan, we will - based on ideas and input from across the country and the best available science - develop a blueprint for protecting America’s ocean resources from the impacts of climate change, and take advantage of the many climate solutions the ocean offers,” the office and council said in a joint statement. “This new report is welcome input and mirrors the clear scientific findings about the importance of the ocean as a solution to climate change.”
(The above article first appeared in the washingtonpost.com on16 June 2022. By Maxine Joselow a reporter focussing on climate change and environment.) (Photograph:Corals in the North Atlantic. (NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research/AP))