The ocean is about to take center stage at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference in Bonn, Germany. November 11 is officially Oceans Action Day at COP23, when leaders of government, businesses and organizations around the world turn their attention to the sea that covers more than 70% of our planet.
Speakers at the international gathering will discuss how carbon emissions from human activities are changing the world’s ocean (and not for the good)—including impacts on marine wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, and coastal communities. They’ll also explore science-based solutions, such as ramped-up development of renewable energy and ecosystem-based adaptation to the changes already underway.
Ocean Action Day includes a program at the U.S. Climate Action Center—the largest pavilion at the climate talks. Michael Bloomberg (the former mayor of New York City and a U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change) and California Gov. Jerry Brown will release a new “America’s Pledge” report detailing what U.S. states, cities, and businesses are doing to keep the U.S. on track to meet its Paris Agreement carbon reduction goals. They will be joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Laura Phillips, Senior VP of Sustainability for Walmart, to discuss specific actions to meet the emission targets established under the Paris Agreement.
The day will conclude with a signing ceremony for the “Because the Ocean Declaration,” an effort led by Chile, urging nations of the world to protect the ocean as they map paths toward implementing the breakthrough Paris Agreement—the commitment, adopted two years ago by nearly every nation in the world, to reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases. The island nation of Fiji is also leading a collaborative effort, called the Ocean Pathway Partnership, to give the ocean the prominent place it deserves in the U.N.’s ongoing climate conversations.
Dr. Brendan Kelly is more than our chief scientist and director of conservation research. He’s also an internationally respected authority on polar science. Before coming to the Aquarium, he was assistant director for Polar Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, deputy director of the Arctic division of the National Science Foundation, and a research scientist at NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory. He has held leadership and faculty positions with the University of Alaska, and speaks widely on climate change issues.
Because of his background, he’s often sought out as an expert speaker. That’s why he’s in Washington, DC this week. It’s a timely appearance, coming as new NOAA research points to the rapid acceleration of ocean acidification in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, threatening the ability of marine animals to build and maintain the shells they need to survive.
Here’s Brendan’s brief report. He’ll have more to share when he returns.
“I’m in Washington, DC this week to help celebrate National Ocean Month by drawing attention to the impact of global change on our planet’s polar regions.
“On Monday I was part of a program hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and moderated by its executive editor (and former Congressman) Rush Holt. We saw a new film on the impacts of climate change in Antarctica, Antarctica 3D: On the Edge. It was filmed when director Jon Bowermaster and his team explored the Antarctic by sailboat, sea kayak, foot and small plane – observing first-hand the rapid evolution of the continent. Then Robin Bell of Columbia University discussed science in Antarctica, and I presented on Arctic science. Russ moderated a subsequent discussion among the filmmaker, Robin and me.
“Today, we’ll continue talking polar science in a Congressional briefing hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a program that also will include Sens. Harry Reid and Bill Nelson, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Dr. Marcia McNutt (past director of MBARI and USGS Science) and Chris McEntee (the executive director of the American Geophysical Union).
“I’m hopeful that Congress will appreciate from these events that the polar regions are changing rapidly with the impacts reverberating through the oceans and atmosphere across the globe.”
Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, causing excessive global warming and rising sea levels. Accumulation in the ocean is causing acidification that threatens marine life – and much of the oxygen and food that we depend upon for our survival. Our actions hold the key to solving the climate crisis.
In addition to recognizing the urgent need to reduce harmful emissions, Governor Brown offers bold direction for California to effectively adapt to the unavoidable effects of climate change. This comprehensive approach is moving the nation and the world toward a more sustainable future.