World Oceans Day 2016

Each year on the 8th of June, the International community celebrates World Oceans Day. In 2016, the Ocean and Climate Platform organized a big event at UNESCO headquarters to raise awareness among the public, and especially the youth. YO! was invited to participate.


Solutions the youth can bring

By Louise Ras and Cédric Courson

“As young people, we don’t see the future of our blue planet as bright. It could even worsen. The study of ocean circulation shows that feedback loops could be initiated: greenhouse gases lead to ice melt, and in return, ice melt potentially leads to CO2 release. Most of existing models and scientific forecasts provide evidence to say: we must act now! However, we refuse any catastrophist approach. That is why we want to contribute to solutions that seek to protect the ocean as a climate regulator, a biodiversity reservoir, an interface between cultures and between societies. Today, we come to you with two solutions: marine protected areas and participatory science.

Marine Protected Areas. Marine Protected Areas aimed first to preserve marine biodiversity. Yet, they form biological hot spots, and as such play a major role in atmospheric CO2 uptake and absorption in the ocean. MPAs are also potential adaptation tools, notably for coasts protection. Marine areas are already on the political agenda, they nevertheless need to grow. The fight against climate change should integrate the development of a global and coherent MPAs network.

Participatory science. Participatory science arises from the collaboration of scientists and citizens. In the field of astronomy, such collaboration has started 100 years ago. Today, more than one million people are involved each year in field data collection. On oceans the potential is huge: 20 million recreational boats on Earth could take part in it, filling in the gaps in knowledge and available data. We think that a ‘participatory science international committee’ could enhance civic science on the ocean, in developing an international network.”

© Kirk sato

Thoughts of a Scripps student, member of YO!

By Kirk Sato

“As a young scientist and student studying climate change and marine biology at the SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA, I recognize this opportunity as a pivotal moment in my life to share a simple message, which is that the youth needs to be more involved in the multilateral policy process.

Not long ago, the world’s oceans were seen as vast areas of abundant resources, free for us to dispose of our trash and take all the fish we could catch. Today, worldwide fisheries collapse on a regular basis and we continue to fish endangered species. Meanwhile, bays and coastlines continue to be polluted with harmful chemicals and plastic garbage.

© Kirk sato

Now, we are starting to recognize that the health of our oceans and people are intimately linked. Our increasing awareness of the ecological and economic benefits of functioning marine ecosystems has led to ocean advocacy and even government action. Last year, the world protected a larger area of ocean than ever before, including the largest contiguous Marine Reserve in the south Pacific around The Pitcairn Islands. Sadly, some Marine Reserves are not as effective as we thought they were. Many of the climate change problems we study — warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and sea level rise — are complex and require understanding of the whole, inter-connected earth system.

Morocco, our host for COP22 this November, provides a perfect example of why scientists from many disciplines need to come together to fully understand the impacts of climate change. Off their coast, Morocco’s ocean is an area of locally high productivity that supports many important fishery species such as sardines and tuna. This high productivity results from strong seasonal wind that induces upwelling, which is a process that brings cold, nutrient-rich water up from deeper depths, which in turn fuels the base of the food web. However, this deep water is also relatively acidic and depleted in oxygen. As you may know, shellfish such as oysters and mussels, are particularly vulnerable to acidified waters, and nearly all animals are vulnerable to oxygen-depleted water.

These phenomena are occurring on top of sea level rise, which is accelerated by melting polar ice sheets. As these ice sheets melt, they add water to the ocean, but this water is NOT distributed evenly across the globe and depends on a variety of factors, including at the most basic level whether the additional water is from Greenland or Antarctica.

The processes I mentioned are just a small subset of those we need to consider when assessing local climate change impacts. These are complex issues, intertwined with human activity. The solutions will require our generation, the students of today, to continue the innovative, impactful, and inspiring science that our supervisors and mentors work on.

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© Kirk sato

Scripps Institution of Oceanography has a rich history of climate change research, beginning with Roger Revelle, who encouraged the scientific community to devote part of its research effort to the long-ranging problems of society. In keeping with this legacy, Scripps has sent graduate students to the international climate negotiations since 2009. In 2013, students from Scripps formed the group, Ocean Scientists for Informed Policy  to raise awareness of the ocean’s role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. I was one of the fortunate attendees at COP21 this past December, and like many of you, I was thrilled to witness all of the recognition the ocean received. I too celebrated when I saw that the word, “Oceans”, was included in the adopted Paris Agreement text.

We need to build on this #OceanMomentum and advocate that ocean impacts and adaptation strategies should be a requirement during the revision of NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). The need to scale-up efforts to include and engage with the youth is more important than ever. Young scientists like us are excited to share the knowledge we learn about our oceans.

I am profoundly hopeful that the work we do each day will result in further conservation actions. It is vital to protect and preserve the long list of INVALUABLE services and functions our marine ecosystems provide to combat climate change and sustain human health. Whether directly or indirectly, every one of the world’s 7.4 Billion people all depend on a healthy functioning ocean system.”