The Oceans – the Significance, the Challenges, the Opportunities

 This article is part of the 4sea Project

What thoughts and images run through your head when you hear the word ocean? What do you see?

You probably see pictures of these vast, mysterious and sometimes even scary, huge bodies of water with an incredible diversity of different plant and animal species living in harmony in this place we know so little about.

The oceans affect all of us in ways we have probably not even thought about; they affect the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and most products we use on an everyday basis. You don’t need to live close to the shore to have an impact on the oceans, and for the oceans to have an impact on you, since land and ocean are linked through the global climate system as well as through the global economy. The importance of the oceans can therefore not be dismissed and it is clear that we all need to be aware of the current state of the oceans.

“We can not live on this planet with dead oceans. If our oceans die, we die” – Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd

Why are the oceans important?

These huge world oceans cover up to almost three-quarters of the earth’s surface and hold up to 97 percent of all the water on the planet1. They provide our planet with a numerous amount of marine and coastal ecosystem services that often are vital for life on earth. Not only do they act as a carbon and heat sinks that slow down climate change, but they also produce over half of all the oxygen in the atmosphere that most life on earth depend on in order to survive. Furthermore the oceans play a crucial role in the climate system, regulating temperatures and modifying precipitation patterns around the globe, therefore representing an integral part of the water cycle. This role in the climate system interlinks all land areas to the ocean no matter how far away from the shore the area might be.

Besides the essential production of oxygen and the oceans’ important role as climate regulators (which will be further discussed in an upcoming article), they also provide other kinds of goods and services for the health and well-being of humans and other living beings, as well as for the global economy.

Around 3 billion people rely on the marine fisheries for their primary source of nutrition, whereas the shipping routes enable efficient transportation and international trade between countries around the world.

Furthermore, the oceans provide us with many different medicinal products important for human health, and the coastal areas provide for different kinds of cultural services, such as tourism and recreational services important for both the economy as well as for individuals. There is therefore no doubt that the oceans play an important role for both human life and for ecosystems around the world.

 

The challenges and the opportunities

Almost half of the human population now live close to the coast, and the blue economy2 generates large amounts of revenue around the world. The oceans seem to be more important than ever, and now that their health is degrading the whole human society and the numerous ecosystems on earth are under great danger.

Acidification, sea level rise, rise in sea temperatures, changes in weather patterns and ocean currents, over-exploitation as well as human induced pollution through plastic waste and other chemical substances put marine life and whole ecosystems, coastal areas and ultimately all human societies under threat. This is why it is incredibly important to highlight the significance of the oceans and raise awareness on this issue.

Many great initiatives are being taken around the world to clean up the oceans, generate changes in waste management, educate civil society, influence decision makers as well as integrate the question on the state of the oceans in the public discussion and in the climate change negotiations around the world. In 2015 the United Nations launched 17 new sustainable development goals to be reached by 2030, of which the 14th goal aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”3. The very first UN Ocean Conference is being held in New York (5-9 June 2017) to address this issue, to encourage the implementation of the 14th goal and to ultimately reverse the decline of the oceans4.

Consequently, there is hope and numerous possibilities to save the oceans from the worst case scenario through awareness, recognition and real life action on all levels. This is why CliMates, in celebration of World Oceans Day5, have come together with Youth for Ocean and Vitamin Sea to create a project called 4sea, whose objective is to raise awareness and educate the public on the interlink between the oceans and climate change through publications on Clim’Blog, our Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as through our soon-to-be published website with interactive maps, articles, videos and interviews. We hope you feel inspired to join the movement and to take action on saving our beautiful oceans. Stay tuned for more!

 

 

A joint project by:

 

About the author: Venni Arra is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in physical geography at Stockholm University and is doing her internship at CliMates in Paris for the Ocean and Climate change project 4sea.”

This article has been written in the context of 4sea. 4sea, a project about the importance of the world oceans, addresses the interdependence between the oceans and climate change, entraining everyone to become ocean lovers – for now through articles and videos on this blog and in August on our own platform. 4sea is a joint project between the youth organisations CliMates, Youth for Ocean and Vitamin Sea. Love it? Stay tuned for our platform!

 

References:
  1. Hawai’i Pacific University Oceanic Institute, Aqua Facts, [website], https://www.oceanicinstitute.org/aboutoceans/aquafacts.html (accessed 1 June 2017)
  2. WWF Global, What a ‘blue economy’ really is?, [website], 2015, http://wwf.panda.org/homepage.cfm?249111/What-a-blue-economy-really-is (accessed 1 June 2017)
  3. United Nations, Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, [website], 2015, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/ (accessed 5 June 2017)
  4. United Nations, The Ocean Conference, [website], 2017, https://oceanconference.un.org (accessed 6 June 2017)
  5. World Oceans Day [website], 2017, http://www.worldoceansday.org (accessed 7 June 2017)
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