Weaving a Tapestry of Hope for Ocean and Earth

Dr. Sylvia Earle joined the Ocean and Climate Platform aboard the Tara Expédition vessel. Image courtesy Jon Slayer.

Negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris are culminating as ministers from nearly 200 countries work tirelessly to finalize an agreement that will influence the future of life on Earth. These high-level meetings on strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and enable poor countries to adapt to the impacts of global warming are occurring amid a profusion of public events that has sprung up throughout Paris aimed at inspiring decision makers to act urgently and comprehensively to craft an agreement strict enough to drastically limit the harmful effects of climate change and ratchet up those commitments over time. Among the world-renowned environmental advocates in attendance is Mission Blue founder and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle, who visited Paris this week as an ocean ambassador. “I’m here to speak for the ocean,” she said:

If we fail to take care of the natural systems that keep us alive, what else matters? The economy? Health? Security? Life itself is on the line. We see it here [at COP21] focusing on climate, but curiously, the ocean is basically not on the balance sheet among the deliberations that we are here to witness. That must change. We have to look at the whole Earth, including the dominant feature—the ocean—that drives climate and weather and is home for most of life on Earth.

Despite the fact that the ocean covers 71 percent of Earth’s surface and has absorbed nearly half of all human-produced carbon dioxide (CO2) since the Industrial Revolution, the ocean was not officially included on the agenda for the COP21 summit.

Paradoxically, climate researchers warn that the ocean’s ability to serve as such a massive carbon sink may soon hit a tipping point once it becomes saturated and thus unable to keep CO2 from rapidly accumulating in —> Read More