This month, in the midst of the 18th UN Climate Change Conference (COP-18) in Qatar, the World Bank released a report titled â€śTurn Down the Heat: Why a 4Â°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided.â€ť The report, already causing a buzz in the global community, paints a grim picture of what the world might look like if global temperatures reach 4Â°C above preindustrial levels.
The report states that without intensive mitigation and global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, we will reach the 4Â° threshold by the end of the century, leading to the inundation of low-lying and island communities, extreme weather including drought and flooding, severe losses to biodiversity, and global instability due to displacement and famine.
But the report also details the dangers of ocean acidification, often referred to as climate changeâ€™s (equally evil) twin. Carbon dioxide emissions, the root cause of both climate change and ocean acidification, fundamentally change the chemistry of the ocean. Increased carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean increases the acidity of seawater, which threatens corals, plankton, oysters, cuttlefish, and other marine organisms that build shells. Ocean acidification is dangerous for many marine species and it is happening right now.
In the projected â€ś4Â°C world,â€ť the oceans will be 150 percent more acidic than preindustrial levels. This type of rapid, anthropogenic change in ocean chemistry is likely unparalleled in Earthâ€™s history and could eliminate entire ecosystems, including coral reefs. If CO2 levels reach 450 ppm (corresponding to a global warming of about 1.4Â°C), coral growth could stop altogether.
The loss of coral reefs would be catastrophic for the ocean and the millions of people who depend on reefs for food, income, and protection against coastal floods and rising sea levels. The bottom line: marine life and those that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods will suffer as global temperatures rise.
In the foreword, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim writes, â€śA 4Â°C world can, and must, be avoided.â€ť Oceana is working hard to make sure solutions like shifting from dirty energy to clean, offshore wind power and regulating carbon dioxide emissions are part of the international movement to prevent ocean acidification from further impacting our oceans.
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Caroline Wood is the Clean Ocean Energy Intern on Oceana's Climate and Energy Campaign
Today the World Bank announced a new international alliance called the Global Partnerships for the Oceans and we are excited to announce our involvement!
Itâ€™s a collaborative partnership in every sense with many of the worldâ€™s top conservation organizations, private interests and the World Bank pooling their resources and energies to help tackle the toughest issues facing our oceans like overfishing, marine degradation and habitat loss.
Oceana understands the need to protect our oceans for their beauty and splendor, but we also recognize that thereâ€™s more at stake here. Itâ€™s not just about the environment. Itâ€™s also about the millions of people who rely on the oceans to keep them healthy and well fedâ€”and the millions more who will rely on them in the future.
Oceanaâ€™s CEO Andy Sharpless said it best: â€śThis global partnership couldnâ€™t come at a better time. At this moment weâ€™re looking at two diverging lines: world population, on a steady ascent, and global fish catch, on a steady decline. If we reverse this latter trend with better fisheries management, we could have enough wild seafood to feed the 9 billion people projected to live on our planet in 2050. No longer is this issue solely about ocean conservation - itâ€™s also about humanity and saving the oceans in order to feed the world.â€ť
Weâ€™re advocating for better ocean management to meet this challenge. By ensuring our oceans are productive enough to feed a growing population weâ€™ll improve biodiversity and strengthen key habitats in the process, which will make the oceans healthier, too.
Oceanaâ€™s model for saving the oceans is just one of many. But thatâ€™s what makes this partnership so great. Weâ€™re uniting conservationists from all corners, public and private. Itâ€™s the complementary collaboration that makes this alliance so strong and well rounded.
The news of the alliance was first announced today at the World Oceans Summit in Singapore, which brought together many of the worldâ€™s leaders in ocean conservation including our very own CEO Andy Sharpless.