The ocean is the first victim and the last resort of climate change

The ocean is the first victim and the last resort of climate change

Rainforests may be known as the lungs of the planet, but it’s when we stand before the seas, with their crashing waves and relentless tides, that we feel the earth breathe. The ocean, say scientists, is the source of all life on earth. It is also, say the philosophers, the embodiment of life’s greatest terror: the unknown and the uncontrollable.

This duality has become increasingly apparent in the climate discourse of recent years, as the ice melts, the seas rise and the coasts everywhere face storms of a ferocity unprecedented in memory. man. But even as the ocean has become the focus of concern over what we have wrought, it has also become a keystone of hope that we can limit the damage if we act now.

Read more: A climate solution lies deep under the ocean, but accessing it could have huge environmental costs

First, the bad news. As the front lines of climate change emerge around the world, the first major wounds of global warming have occurred in low-lying island nations of the South Pacific, where communities have always lived and died by the sea and its shores. riches. For years, there have been many more deaths, as they have been ravaged by storms and floods linked to climate change. When these countries implored bigger and richer – and more culpable – countries to do something, they were mostly met with silence. Indeed, at a recent summit in Bonn, Germany, delegates from wealthy countries refused to support an effort to ensure that the discussion on compensating poorer countries for the damage caused by climate change would be on the agenda of COP27, the United Nations climate conference to be held this November in Egypt. But it won’t be long before these mighty nations also face the wrath of the sea. The US, UK, Germany, Brazil, China, India, Japan and the Indonesia are all among the countries with large populations living on land likely to be below sea level by 2100.

Other growing tragedies are at hand under the waters that make up more than 70% of the earth’s surface, from coral bleaching events to the destruction of marine biodiversity. there is no turning back. But to keep the damage to these already appalling levels – and even to dream of reaching the target theoretically agreed by the world in Paris in 2015 – we will have to find a way to work with, not against, the sea. Like Jane Lubchenco , marine ecologist and former director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Obama, told my colleague Aryn Baker a few years ago: “It’s time to stop viewing the ocean as a victim of change. climate change and start thinking about it as a powerful part of the solution.

We can start basically. The Pacific floor is littered with the rare metals we need to build the batteries needed to power carbon-free travel. Moving upstream, harnessing the force of the tides, we could connect another source of renewable energy to our struggling grids; offshore wind farms are also set to grow exponentially as an essential energy source. And while we may think road vehicles are at the center of electric mobility efforts, decarbonizing shipping may be what really ushers the global economy into a green future.

Meanwhile, the oceans are the central banks of Earth’s carbon stocks. Researchers are hard at work finding an affordable way to capture CO2 from fossil fuel power plants and inject the gas into rock beneath the ocean floor. And efforts are already underway to protect and rebuild ocean ecosystems like mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, which not only sequester more CO2 than their terrestrial counterparts, but also act as natural breakwaters to protect people. coastal.

In a published interview In 2002, Werner Herzog, the fearless filmmaker and philosopher of humanity’s relationship with the natural world, raised the idea that “civilization is like a thin layer of ice on a deep ocean of chaos and darkness” . Right now, with record summer heat and record low sea ice, Herzog’s metaphor could be taken literally. Life as we know it, after all, only exists as long as the ice does not melt and the potential chaos of the oceans is not completely unleashed.
But it’s also worth considering something Herzog said nearly a decade and a half later. Speaking about his documentary Into the Inferno, he noted that we face the climate problems we face “not because nature is angry” but rather because “we are stupid”. He continued: “We are not doing the right thing with our planet.” However, if we did the right thing with our oceans, perhaps their terrifying powers could save us.

Read more about The Oceans Issue

The story behind the cover of TIME’s Oceans issue

We’re gonna need a greener boat

Ocean movement could be the next big source of green energy

The Miraculous Trees That Could Save Pakistan’s Biggest City From Climate Catastrophe

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