Lying in plain sight and lapping against our shores is what scientists describe as an unsung hero that has been quietly absorbing heat and keeping the world’s temperatures under control. And over the approaching days, a gaggle of Canadian researchers hopes to steer the world that the ocean has a vital role to play in fighting climate change.
Prof. Anya Waite is leading a delegation from Dalhousie University’s Ocean Frontier Institute to attend the twenty seventh annual Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — higher generally known as COP27 — in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, starting Sunday. They plan to share ways the deep blue carbon sink acts as a buffer and impacts climate forecasts.
Waite said most individuals know that rainforests are the lungs of the planet, keeping temperatures down and filtering the air.
“But oceans hold more carbon than all of the rainforests on Earth,” she said in an interview. “And deep blue carbon is carbon that’s held by the deep blue sea. So the open ocean, the high seas, which go all the way down to 4000 meters in depth ? they hold many of the carbon on Earth. And that’s something people really aren’t aware of.”
Scientists must understand the role oceans have played to this point in mitigating climate change, she said, noting it’s also essential for coastal communities to understand how they need to adapt to shifting conditions.
Oceans have absorbed 90 per cent of the earth’s heat emissions to date, Waite said. She credits oceans for the very fact the world has not yet blown through the goals set out within the Paris Agreement, the international climate pact that pledged to limit warming to below two degrees Celsius and curb it to 1.5 if possible.
But there’s a danger that these carbon sinks will turn to emitters because the waters warm, melting caps of frozen methane and other greenhouse gases that lie scattered on the ocean floor, she said.
“The capability of the ocean to soak up carbon is gently declining,” Waite said. “But then on top of that we’re seeing that there’s these ? extreme events or rare events that may potentially release carbon briefly notice. And we don’t really understand those.”
Scientists and communities are starting to grasp the importance of common shoreline features reminiscent of marshes, kelp forests and sea grass meadows that keep blue carbon rooted within the soil, she said.
Waite said such “blue carbon ecosystems” help retain emissions, along with enhancing biodiversity. But it surely is further offshore that the most important carbon stores are to be found, she said.
Changes in ocean temperatures also change water currents, she noted, adding melting glaciers from the Arctic put fresh water into the ocean and force marine animals to either relocate or adapt to their modified environments.
The endangered North Atlantic right whale, as an illustration, has moved from the Gulf of Maine it used to call home into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“There’s a complete lot more shipping within the St. Lawrence, and people animals at the moment are coming involved with ships far more often, bringing an already endangered species to the brink of collapse,” Waite said.
Shifts in ocean circulation and temperatures also change animal behaviour, sometimes causing them to maneuver in the hunt for more comfortable environs that ultimately put them at greater risk.
Canada is uniquely positioned to tap into the ocean’s potential advantages, Waite said, noting the country is surrounded by wide open spaces of water on three sides. But though Canada has the posh of using the deep blue to balance its carbon output, she said the problem has received limited attention and financial resources to date.
“Climate change is basically a multi-billion dollar problem. And yet to watch and look after the oceans costs, way lower than that,” she said. “So a small investment can bring an infinite profit for humankind. The issue we’ve got is that the ocean is form of out of sight, out of mind.”
The issue we’ve got is that the ocean is form of out of sight, out of mind.”
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