Oceans are Canada’s first line of defense against climate change

Canada must take advantage of its three coasts and stop marginalizing the oceans and the critical role they can play in addressing the climate crisis, says marine ecologist Julia Baum.

“We need to stop treating the ocean as a niche issue,” said Baum, president of the University of Victoria, whose research examines the impacts of global warming on the oceans and what they can contribute to solutions to climate change.

the the ocean absorbs 23 percent of the world’s man-made carbon emissions, as well as 90 percent of excess heat caused by greenhouse gases, Baum said.

But despite their impressive role in mitigating global warming, the oceans are largely ignored as a potential game changer when it comes to formulating Canada’s climate plans.

“Oceans are our first line of defense against climate change, and they need to start being recognized and funded as such,” Baum said, “because they are the main thing that stands between us and a planet that is too hot for people to. inhabits it. “

Ottawa has committed to protecting 30 percent of its oceans by 2030, but Canada has not fully examined the amount of carbon its oceans sequester or the detailed ways they could mitigate emissions, he said.

“Canada has the longest coastline in the world, but it has not yet incorporated the oceans into its climate action plan,” he said.

Marine ecologist and conservation biologist Julia Baum says Canada needs to scale up ocean-based solutions to meet its climate goals. Photo by Martin Lipman courtesy of NSERC / CRSNG

Ocean-based solutions can potentially manage a fifth of greenhouse gas emission reductions (21 percent) needed to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals for 2050, he said.

But to maintain its oceanic advantages, Canada must protect and restore marine ecosystems, such as seagrass beds, salt marshes and kelp forests, which act as powerful carbon sinks, Baum said.

Despite the ocean’s impressive role in mitigating global warming, ocean-based solutions are largely ignored as a potential game changer when it comes to formulating Canada’s climate plans, says @uvic professor Julia Baum. @baumlab #Oceanos #Climate

The oceans’ ability to continue to provide climate change services and to weather global warming and other anthropogenic impacts, such as pollution, is rapidly declining, he said.

“We take the oceans for granted and many ocean ecosystems are very close to tipping points,” Baum said.

“If we do not limit warming to 1.5 C, we will lose practically all the tropical coral reefs on the planet and, with them, 25% of all life in the oceans.”

“If we cross those lines, the oceans may no longer be able to play the critical role of regulating climate that they did in the past.”

Beyond preserving its “blue carbon” systems, Canada also needs to reform commercial fisheries by reducing the use of fossil fuels and curbing overfishing and destructive practices such as trawling, which generate huge amounts of carbon stored on the seafloor. , said.

Canada and British Columbia also need to increase marine renewables and foster associated technology development to grow the green economy for coastal communities, Baum added.

“Offshore wind, wave or tidal power could offer enormous contributions to climate solutions,” he said. The transformation of the shipping industry through the use of net-zero strategies, such as the electrification of ports, ferries, and land transportation, and / or the employment of green hydrogen technology, would also result in significant drops in emissions while providing sustainable jobs.

But for those things to happen, Canada, like most countries, must address the financial deficit facing the oceans.

The role of forests in mitigating climate change is widely recognized, Baum said, noting that at the recent UN climate conference in Glasgow, important financial commitments were announced to protect them globally.

“The scale of financial commitments to the ocean is small in comparison and that really needs to change,” he said.

Since Canada is in the process of developing its blue economy strategyNow is the time to specify how the oceans can play a role in achieving our climate goals, Baum said.

“We are waiting to see if that blue economy strategy is going to be a net zero strategy,” Baum said, adding that any oil and gas exploration or subsidies for the fossil fuel industry would be contrary to the goal of sustainable development of the oceans.

Reducing emissions as quickly as possible in Canada and around the world is the best means of ensuring that the oceans can continue to regulate the climate, Baum said.

“We cannot be continually pushing our oceans on all fronts, stressing them to the max, and also expect them to remain resilient and capable of tackling climate change.”

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer


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