Climate Change Brings an Ocean of Change to Our Seas

Today on Sea Change Radio, we cover Oceans Day, a side event at the recent Copenhagen Climate Conference (COP15) looking at the impact of climate change on oceans.  Sea Change Radio Climate Correspondent Cimbria Badenhausen, who covered all two weeks of COP15 from Copenhagen in December 2009, attended Oceans Day, recorded the proceedings, and hand-picked the highlights, including presentations by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Director and President Susan Avery, and European Commission Deputy Director-general of Environment Karl Falkenberg. But first, Tania Haldar Hart brings us the Sea Change NewsAnalysis on TIAA-CREF divesting from companies alleged to be complicit in genocide in response to an Investors Against Genocide campaign.    

Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water.  Despite this prevalence, oceans were under-represented in the negotiations at COP15, according to Badenhausen.  While deforestation and carbon capture and storage dominated the sessions, negotiators paid scant attention to the impacts of ocean acidification and the effects of future lost fisheries, Badenhausen said.  Oceans Day sought to address this oversight by gathering fishery and aquaculture scientists from all over the world on December 14 at the European Environment Agency, which helped organize the event.  The event was also organized by the Government of Indonesia, which hosted the World Ocean Conference in May 2009 in Manando.  That meeting produced the Manado Oceans Declaration, signed by 76 governments, which stresses the importance of having oceans on the climate change agenda at COP15 and beyond.

Early in the day, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Director Tony Haymet provided an overview of the impacts of climate change on oceans, coasts, and small island developing states (or SIDS).  The panel he introduced covered ocean warming, sea level rise, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, polar changes, impacts on fisheries and aquaculture and impacts on marine biodiversity.

Next Susan Avery, Director and President of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, provided an overview of ocean science.  She introduced the notion of an ecosystem approach, a recurring theme throughout the day.

For the Impacts on Fisheries and Aquaculture panel, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fisheries Officer Cassandra De Young presented research from this UN organization’s recent report, Climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture.

Next on this panel, WorldFish Center Policy Director Edward Allison analyzed the economic implications of climate change impacts on oceans.

The Day’s second panel addressed Ocean Acidification, The “Other CO2 Problem.” Scott Doney from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution presented its research on the consequences of ocean acidification on US fisheries valuation, focusing particularly on mollusk aquaculture.

Oceans Day ended with Perspectives from World Leaders – including NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.  She announced the publication of the Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning.

Juxtaposing this rosy view on US action to address climate change was European Commission Deputy Director-general of Environment, Karl Falkenberg, who advanced a different angle of US obstructionism in climate negotiations.  Regular listeners will recognize the voice of Falkenberg, as Badenhausen interviewed him in our COP15 wrap-up show.  Here, he presents his view on the significance of oceans in climate negotiations.

Thanks to our COP15 Series Sponsor The Cloud Institute, as well as financial support from The ManKind Project and the Institute for Nature and Leadership, as well as other individuals.