time magazine: Why this year is our last, best chance for saving the ocean

July 28, 2020

In The Media
Aryn Baker’s long-read article in Time magazine (9 July) deals with the myriad threats facing the world’s oceans and the consequences for coastal nations, biodiversity and humanity as a whole. There is, she says, a narrow window of opportunity to change the trajectory. The article notes the call by NGOs to set aside 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030,  creating protected areas where no ocean industry can take place. This would require an unprecedented level of global cooperation; which history suggests would not be achieved easily. The creation of protected areas is only one tool and will have no impact on pollution, plastic debris, oceans temperatures, or greenhouse-gas emissions. Speaking with a number of marine biologists, conservationists, ecologists and other experts, Baker says the ocean can form part of the solution to tackling climate change. Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist who served as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under Barack Obama says, "It’s time to stop thinking of the ocean as a victim of climate change and start thinking of it as a powerful part of the solution".  The ocean could provide as much as one-fifth of the carbon-emission reductions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century, through the decarbonisation of the shipping industry, the harnessing of offshore wind power, and the protection and restoration of carbon sinks such as wetlands, mangroves and seagrass meadows. Deep-sea mining in the Pacific Ocean could yield massive increases in the supply of cobalt, nickel, copper and other materials essential to meet the demand for clean-energy technologies. The International Seabed Authority is expected to codify environmental-protection codes before allocating permits for the extraction of metal-rich nodules from the seafloor. Kris Van Nijen, managing director of Global Sea Mineral Resources explains that  “there is a single deposit on the seafloor that can provide the minerals we need for a clean-energy transition, which will slow ocean acidification—the biggest negative contribution to ocean health.” Baker concludes by emphasising the importance of taking action soon to protect ocean health, explaining that if it is to be used as a tool to combat climate change, the view of the ocean as a source of infinite resources must be challenged. You can read the full piece here.