Julie Packard: It’s time for courageous climate action

It’s not easy to find good news  when talking about climate change. The latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spells out in no uncertain terms the magnitude of the challenges we face—and the urgency of action.

Executive Director Julie Packard welcomed delegates to the ocean plenary at the Global Climate Action Summit.

It’s true that global scale climate trends continue to be daunting. But the pace of solutions is accelerating. So, in that way I’m among the optimists (along with the newest Nobel laureate in economics). As a global society, we know we must do to get on a sustainable course. We’re making progress faster than ever, and we have more tools to do the job. Many of these tools were created in Silicon Valley, and in other hubs of innovation around the world, from Redmond, Washington to Mumbai, India.

Last month, I left the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco feeling energized. Monterey Bay Aquarium played a key role in putting the ocean on the Summit agenda, and it was clear people finally recognize that a healthy ocean is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change. The question now is: Do we have the will to make it happen?

California and the West Coast are leading the way to a clean-energy future. Photo by BLM / Tom Brewster Photography

Judging by the progress being made on the U.S. West Coast, and the business and government commitments announced at the Summit, I think the answer is yes. That’s especially apparent here on California’s central coast. Our region has become the global nexus for ocean education, innovation and impact. Continue reading Julie Packard: It’s time for courageous climate action

We Are Still In for the ocean

The week of September 10, people from around the world are gathering in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brings together leaders—representing nations, states, cities, companies, investors and citizens—to celebrate climate action, and step up their ambitions to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement. As part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s climate commitment, we’re moving to green our own business operations. Here’s how:

Monterey Bay Aquarium has announced a new set of climate commitments: By 2025, we will achieve net-zero carbon emissions and will transition 100 percent of our vehicle fleet to renewable power.

The Aquarium has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

“We know that climate change is the single greatest threat to ocean health, and to all humankind,” said Margaret Spring, chief conservation officer and vice president of conservation & science for the Aquarium.

Margaret made the announcement on the stage of the “We Mean Business Action” platform hosted by We Are Still In in San Francisco during the Global Climate Action Summit.

We Are Still In is a coalition of more than 3,500 U.S. businesses, cities, universities, cultural institutions, health care organizations, faith groups, states and tribes that committed to climate action in keeping with the 2015 Paris Agreement, after the federal government announced plans to withdraw from the historic global climate accord.

Continue reading We Are Still In for the ocean

On climate: ‘We stand with the State of California and the global community ’

Executive Director Julie Packard. Photo © Corey Arnold

Statement of Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, on the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on global climate change:

“Monterey Bay Aquarium cheered when, less than two years ago, 195 of the world’s 197 nations agreed: Climate change poses an existential threat to human society, and the people of the world must act together to limit its primary driver, the burning of fossil fuels. This unprecedented global consensus was reinforced by strong commitments from business leaders in the United States and around the world to invest in innovative clean energy technologies that will create jobs and build a sustainable future.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown, Under Brown, California has developed some of the most ambitious clean energy goals in the country, (Photo courtesy KQED)

“We are so proud of the State of California’s global leadership in accelerating climate solutions and growing a clean-energy economy.  This is essential in order to preserve the health of the ocean – our life support system on Earth. It’s the source of half the oxygen we breathe and the primary source of protein for more than one billion people.

“The ocean absorbs much of the carbon dioxide we produce when we burn fossil fuels, buffering us from the full impact of global climate change. But it’s paying a price in ways that will limit its ability to produce the oxygen and food we need to survive. As sea level rises in a warming ocean, we’ll face other significant threats to our national security, as people worldwide are displaced from their homes along the coast.

The ocean is paying a price as greenhouse gases increase, in ways that will limit its ability to produce the oxygen and food we need to survive.

We stand with leaders in California, and other states and nations, to advance global climate action grounded in science.

”We will carry this message to the United Nations next week when we participate in the first U.N. Ocean Conference, and will redouble our efforts to support policies that safeguard the ocean—the heart of Earth’s life support system. We must speed up, not reverse, the progress we’ve made.”

Learn more about what we’re doing to advance Climate Action for the Ocean.

A step backward on U.S. climate leadership

Today, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to begin dismantling the Clean Power Plan and other critical federal policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions that drive global climate change.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard expressed dismay over the executive order, which undermines U.S. leadership in fighting climate change—the greatest environmental challenge of our time.

Scientists are studying the impacts of climate change across the global ocean, including in the kelp forests of Monterey Bay.

“The executive order rolls back existing federal policies that are critical to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, promoting clean-energy solutions and protecting our ocean, the heart of the planet’s climate system,” she says. “Now is the time to speed up, not reverse, the progress we’ve made in these areas.”

The issue is a priority for Monterey Bay Aquarium because climate change and ocean acidification affect ocean health—and our own survival—in profound ways.

Carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels causes Earth’s atmosphere to thicken, trapping more heat on our planet. The ocean absorbs at least 80 percent of this extra heat, warming the sea’s surface and setting off a cascade of impacts including sea-level rise, stronger storms, shrinking sea ice, coral bleaching and shifting ranges in which marine life can survive.

Carbon emissions also trigger a chemical reaction in the ocean, lowering its pH. More acidic seawater makes survival more challenging for marine life with calcium carbonate shells. The impacts ripple through ocean ecosystems, which produce oxygen and food that sustain life on Earth.

The Aquarium supports urgent, science-based action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, promote clean-energy solutions and protect ocean health.

Shelled zooplankton like this pteropod are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, a result of rising carbon emissions.

“Monterey Bay Aquarium will continue to advocate for science-based public policies to reduce the emission of heat-trapping gases and promote U.S. leadership in addressing the grave threats to society posed by climate change. We urge the U.S. to honor its commitments under the Paris Agreement,” Julie says.

“We are proud of the significant steps the state of California is taking to accelerate climate solutions and grow a clean-energy economy. We will continue to work with leaders in California, and other states and nations, to advance global climate action that is grounded in science.”

You can join us in the movement toward cleaner fuels and a healthier ocean. Urge your elected officials to defend America’s climate progress and remain a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Learn more about the links between carbon emissions and ocean health—and how you can make a difference—on our Climate Action for the Ocean webpage.

Featured photo: “Energy” by Rich is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 and was cropped for this use.

A year of hope for the global ocean

Say what you will about 2016—the world made some big waves to protect the ocean. As the sun sets on this year, let’s reflect on its brightest marine moments:

The Aquarium and our partners campaigned across the state for Prop 67.

California votes to ban single-use plastic bags

November brought a big ballot win for ocean health. Thanks to voters, California now has the nation’s first law banning single-use plastic carryout bags statewide.

Working with our partners, the Aquarium campaigned in support of Proposition 67, the California ballot measure to uphold the statewide bag ban. We also urged a NO vote on the deceptive Proposition 65, which could have further delayed the ban’s implementation.

Voters agreed, approving Proposition 67 and rejecting Proposition 65. And just like that, single-use plastic carryout bags are now a thing of California’s past. The new law could prevent billions of plastic bags from polluting our ocean each year—which means a cleaner future for marine wildlife and coastal communities.

Continue reading A year of hope for the global ocean

Rolling up our sleeves in Marrakech

Kyle Van Houtan presents at the COP22 conference in Marrakech on Nov. 11, 2016. Photo by Beautifell Photography / Christine Ellman

The Paris Agreement— the strongest global commitment to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases—became international law on November 4. Ratifying nations from both the developed and developing world have gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, for the 2016 U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP22. Nations are now focusing on detailed steps to meet reduction targets designed to keep Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, the Aquarium’s director of science, is part of a panel addressing the ocean impacts of climate change. Here’s what he told the world.

At the turn of the century, I spent over a decade researching tropical forests. Most of this time was in Earth’s largest and most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem: the Amazon rainforest.

“Amazon rainforest near Puerto Maldonado” by Ivan Mlinaric is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Tropical rainforests attract the attention of scientists, including me, because of two colliding facts: the astounding biodiversity they hold; and the alarming pace of their deforestation. Heaving with the breath of millions of unique plants and animals, the Amazon’s dense vegetation produces massive amounts of oxygen—an attribute that’s earned it a reputation as the lungs of our planet.

If we think of the Amazon’s trees as the lungs of the planet, then surely the ocean is its heart.

Continue reading Rolling up our sleeves in Marrakech

COP22 in Marrakech: World climate talks get down to the nitty-gritty

Last December in Paris, more than 180 nations came together for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, also known as COP21. The resulting Paris Agreement is the strongest-ever international commitment to reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.

The Paris Agreement enters into force today, just before the November 7 start of the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco.

COP21 signaled that the world’s nations agree: Climate change is real and having a serious impact on our planet. COP22 takes the next step—it marks the point at which the global community begins to act.

Continue reading COP22 in Marrakech: World climate talks get down to the nitty-gritty

Dispatch from the Woodstock of ocean acidification

At Monterey Bay Aquarium, we’re paying close attention to the impacts of rising carbon dioxide emissions on the health of the global ocean. Our award-winning Climate Interpreter, Sarah-Mae Nelson, attended the 4th International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World earlier this month on the Australian island state of Tasmania. Here’s her report from Down Under.

SMN at High CO2 symposium
Sarah-Mae Nelson, conservation interpreter for Monterey Bay Aquarium, gets jazzed for the symposium.

The acid jokes were inevitable. Like this one:

“Three hundred scientists fly into Australia. Australia says, ‘How you goin’?’ The scientists say, ‘We’re on acid.’  Australia sends them to Tasmania.”

Of course, the subject that brought more than 300 scientists, students and science communicators together for four days in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart is serious. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are affecting ocean health and wildlife, and our own survival, in profound ways.

The delegates came from all over the world—including China, Brazil, France, the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, Canada and Costa Rica—to share and discuss the latest research on the ocean’s response to rising CO2 levels.

Continue reading Dispatch from the Woodstock of ocean acidification