All life on Earth comes from the oceans… and they’re still looking after us today.
The oceans have protected us from the worst impacts of global warming. Our oceans have trapped 90% of the extra heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions over the last sixty years.
20,000 years ago the world was just over 4°C colder on average than today, and a large part of North America was buried kilometres-deep in ice. Without the oceans absorbing the man-made heat of the past half century, we would have seen the Earth warm by an average of 36°C. Even disaster movies haven’t considered anything this devastating.
So, while we’ve been looking after the ocean for the past decades, the ocean has been looking out for us, for much longer.
Our oceans are home to many species that enable life to exist on Earth. And like all nature, oceans are finite, vulnerable — and struggling to recover from companies’ crude industrial fishing practices that are stripping seas of life, and the poisons and pollutants dumped by humans.
We’re pushing ocean ecosystems to their limits and we don’t know how long they can withstand it. Our oceans give us every other breath and every other mouthful of food. They regulate our climate. We have to start protecting our oceans, or they will be unable to continue protecting us.
The solution is actually very simple. Healthier oceans with plenty of marine life, means a healthier atmosphere, more food, and greater safety from extreme weather. Achieving healthier oceans means rebuilding marine species populations and their diversity.
Right now, I’m at the United Nations discussing a new global treaty to protect biodiversity in the ‘open oceans’ (the two thirds of the world’s oceans that don’t belong to any nation or state). This treaty will include rules to create and properly manage ocean sanctuaries.
For years scientists have been telling us that protecting large marine areas in a network of ocean sanctuaries is the most effective way to reverse the current ocean crises, rebuild threatened marine populations and increase their capacity to respond to environmental changes. But at the moment, for most of the ocean, there is no way to create these areas.
We need ocean sanctuaries while cutting our emissions as much as possible, as quickly as possible. These are probably the most important things we can do to protect the future of humankind.
In a world where everything is interconnected, there is no such thing as a dying ocean and a thriving, living planet.
Please post photos of your favourite ocean locations on #HighSeas — on Twitter or Instagram — to support efforts to secure a new international network of protection.
Frida Bengtsson is a Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.