By Kristen Weiss
At COP21 last December, negotiators from 195 countries signed a momentous deal to address climate change, one that is considered by many to be a historic turning point in the world’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. What’s more, thanks to the concerted efforts of many organizations and individuals, the Paris Agreement includes recognition of the ocean both in the preamble and in the Agreement itself within the context of ‘Ecosystem Integrity’.
During the build-up to COP21, scientists, conservationists, NGOs and other groups sought to bring greater attention to the links between climate change and ocean ecosystems. They pressed for strong policy action to address climate impacts on the ocean. Sylvia Earle’s organization Mission Blue, for example, rallied ocean-minded citizens with the hashtag #oceansforclimate, and several op-eds from scientists and policymakers stressed the need to address the climate-ocean link (e.g. this one written by Maria Damanake of The Nature Conservancy and a COS Advisory Council member).
Small island nations such as Palau, made great strides at COP21. Photo: Lux Tennore 2008, CC-BY-2.0.
Ocean experts from the Center for Ocean Solutions and our partner organizations (the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Hopkins Marine Station, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) helped galvanize the climate-ocean dialogue by collaborating on a two-part video series to present the latest scientific knowledge about climate change impacts on the ocean, and offer solutions to protect valuable ocean ecosystems.
The first video, released on the opening day of COP21, stresses the importance of ocean ecosystems to humankind, and how climate change threatens to topple the fisheries, reefs, and other resources that societies worldwide rely on.
The second video, released shortly after COP21, delves deeper into some of the science-based solutions that communities can start using now to reduce climate change impacts on ocean and coastal habitats. The COS partner experts highlighted in the film emphasize that actions - like strengthening fisheries management and improving water quality by reducing urban and agricultural runoff - can boost the resilience of ocean ecosystems, making them better able to withstand the impacts of climate change.
Both videos feature representatives of our partner organizations, including Jim Barry (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), Larry Crowder (Center for Ocean Solutions), Rob Dunbar (Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment), Stephen Palumbi (Hopkins Marine Station), and Margaret Spring (Monterey Bay Aquarium), who together paint a picture both of concern and hope for the future of our ocean.
While the Paris Agreement was an encouraging step toward climate change mitigation, the real work is just beginning. The Center for Ocean Solutions hopes to produce a video series on “Solutions for the Ocean” in the coming months, describing how ocean scientists and managers are actively working to understand and protect the ocean in a changing world.