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Draft Executive Summary - Okeanos - Foundation for the Sea

Draft Executive Summary - Okeanos - Foundation for the Sea

Valuing

Valuing the OceanDraft Executive SummarySix Threats to the OceanIntroductionThe ocean is the cornerstone of our life-supportsystem. It covers over 70 percent of our planet andgenerates the oxygen in every second breath wetake; it has cushioned the blow of climate changeby absorbing 25–30 percent of all anthropogeniccarbon emissions and 80 percent of the heat addedto the global system; it regulates our weather andprovides food for billions of people. The ocean ispriceless.The ocean has always been thought of as the epitomeof unconquerable, inexhaustible vastness and variety,but this ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ image maybe its worst enemy. The immense scale of the ocean,and its remoteness from most of our daily lives, hascontributed to its chronic neglect. For rather thanbeing ‘too big to fail’, even the ocean is not immuneto the destructive capacity of anthropogenic climatechange and, more broadly, global environmentalchange. Its capacities are being stretched and someof the vital services it provides to humankind areseriously degraded. Unlike the ocean itself, many ofthese services – from food security, to storm protection,to carbon absorption – can and should be assignedmonetary values and incorporated in broaderglobal and national economic policies, so that theybecome visible when we plan for the future.As financial and institutional resources are stretchedin the face of economic recession and a multitude ofpressing global challenges, the ocean is not risingfast enough up political agendas, despite mountingresearch pointing to the multiple threats being facedand growing evidence of the causes behind them.Rather than benefiting from economies of scale, theocean is the victim of a global market failure, as wecontinue to largely ignore the true worth of its ecosystems,services and functions, and externalise thetrue costs of pollution. A radical shift in the way weview and value the ocean is needed.Some threats to the ocean, such as overfishing andcoral bleaching, are widely researched and increasinglywell known to the public. Other less visiblethreats, such as acidification and hypoxia (deoxygenation)of the ocean, are only just beginning tobe understood and remain beyond the awareness ofmost people. Even less well grasped are the ways inwhich the many complex changes occurring in theocean overlap and interact, and the extent of theirimpact on different communities and economies. It isclear that we require new ways of understanding theocean and the threats it faces, and a greater appreciationof the value of the services it bestows.This forthcoming collaborative book seeks to bridgethese gaps. The opening chapters provide thoroughoverviews of the current status of the six most importantmarine challenges, namely ocean acidification,ocean warning, hypoxia, sea level rise, pollution andthe overuse of marine resources. There is a substantialliterature on each of these issues, but thusfar they have largely been researched and reportedseparately. In this book, concise reviews of the stateof the science in these areas will now be found all inone place. The book then breaks new ground by fittingthe pieces together in a chapter examining thesignificance of multiple stressors and their policy implications,and by making a first attempt to actuallyput a price on the avoidable portion of future globalenvironmental change in the marine domain, i.e. themonetary value of not causing further damage to theocean.By pricing the difference between low- and highemissionscenarios, characterised as the distancebetween our hopes and our fears, the book intendsto crystallise our understanding of the value of oceanservices to humankind and allow policy-makers tomore effectively account for these services when assessingthe economic implications of global environmentalchange and what to do about it. In the finalchapters, a discussion of different ways to plan for afuture fraught with risk and uncertainty is presented,followed by a case study of the Pacific Ocean, whichshows how the global analyses presented can be appliedin a regional context.Some things that cannot be assigned meaningfulprices are nonetheless critical to the functioning ofthe Earth System. Nutrient cycling, oxygen productionand genetic resources are examples of propertiesof the oceans that are vital to maintaining ourlife-support system, but which cannot be measuredin monetary terms. These kinds of Earth System Valuesare also highlighted in the book through the useof an ‘expert survey’ approach to complement themore traditional scenario-based planning. In theseways, the authors intend to expand the researchfrontier in marine sciences and improve on methodologiesfor holistic, cross-scale analysis. Decisionsin the marine domain will need to be made despitehaving a number of significant ‘known’ and ‘unknown’unknowns. It is hoped that this book will helpto identify some of these potential surprises and putbounds on their significance and impact.This book is a link in a chain rather than an end initself. The conclusions and monetary figures it presentsare not definitive – too much is yet unknownand uncertain for that – but are intended to contributetowards a new approach to ocean governance,one that is fully integrated and prioritised withinthe broader picture of social, environmental andeconomic policy. We critically need to go beyondthe current approach of addressing (or ignoring!) oneproblem at a time. We must create managementstrategies that are aimed at optimising the sustain-2 3able benefits we can obtain from marine resourcesacross scales from local to global, and in the face ofseveral interacting and escalating threats.The very chemical, thermodynamic and biologicalfoundations of the ocean are being jeopardised byhuman activity, putting at risk marine ecosystems andservices on which humankind so essentially depends.We need to be made aware of what we stand tolose if we continue to neglect the ocean and fail toadequately address global environmental change.This book hopes to guide policy-makers, acceleratethe implementation of new management tools andsystems, and – most importantly – encourage peopleto ask themselves what the oceans are really worthto them and to the future of our planet.CO 2Ocean AcidificationThe atmosphere and the ocean exchange gasesacross the sea surface to such an extent that overthe last 200 years the oceans have absorbed 25-30percent of the global accumulated emissions of CO 2.While this process partially buffers climate change,the resulting perturbations to the ocean’s carbonatesystem – known as ocean acidification – have worryingconsequences for the chemistry of the ocean,for the organisms that inhabit it, and for humanity.Ocean acidification is a direct consequence ofincreased CO 2emissions. Mean surface ocean acidityhas increased by 30 percent since the industrial revolutionand if we continue to emit CO 2at the samerate, the acidity could increase by 150-200 percentby 2100. This rate of change is around 10 timesfaster than that caused by any other event experiencedby the ocean in the last 65 million years.This is highly certain as it is based on known chemistry.In some regions, such as the northwest coastof North America, acidification is already impactingon important commercial shellfish. In the Arctic Seaan additional 800 square kilometres of sea floor arebeing exposed every year to seawater chemical conditionsthat are corrosive to unprotected shells.Ocean acidification is also predicted to slow downthe absorbing capacity of the ocean’s great carbonsink, meaning that as we move into the future morecarbon will remain in the atmosphere and add toclimate change. We simply cannot afford these rapidchanges to ocean chemistry and their direct consequenceson future human security. If global emissionsof CO 2are not rapidly curbed it will take tensof thousands of years for oceanic pH to return tocurrent levels.R.DIRSCHERL/FLPA

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