Why there’s no health without the Ocean.

A healthy Ocean is our greatest ally against climate change.

Our health depends on the Ocean.  

This statement is true, of course, but it’s very easy to become desensitised to this idea when it all seems so abstract. 

In this modern world, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental basis our survival that we often take for granted.

It can be hard to directly link our everyday lives and habits to the Ocean, especially for those of us who don’t live anywhere near the coast, and don’t interact with the sea on a regular basis. 

This can leave many of us feeling disconnected and disengaged from Ocean action. 

A quote saying "Our health depends on the Ocean" in a science article discussing why a healthy Ocean is key to our survival.

But let’s dive deeper into this statement to find out what a healthy Ocean really means to us (humanity), and why we should must care.

A healthy Ocean is key to our survival 

In fact, the Ocean provides all the fundamental resources that we need to survive:

1. Air: The oxygen in every second breath we take comes from the Ocean.

It’s also believed that tiny, single-celled algae called Cyanobacteria provided the atmospheric conditions suitable for our very existence around 2.4 billion years ago.  (That’s referred to as the Great Oxidation Event.)  

2. Water: All water on the planet is connected by a system known as the hydrological cycle.

Water evaporates from the Ocean’s surface to form clouds, which provide us with the fresh water that we use to drink, shower, and cook with.  

It’s all connected via rivers, streams, and groundwater tables.

Even the water that makes up 60% of your own body was part of the Ocean at some point. 

Our Ocean provides air, water, food and shelter for our survival.

3. Food: Seafood provides a primary source of protein for over 3.3 billion people.

That’s over 40% of the global population (8.1 billion in 2023). The Ocean also drives the rain systems and climate patterns which help our crops to grow.

So even if you don’t eat fish, the Ocean still indirectly provides the food that you eat.

4. Shelter: The Ocean has been present during every element of our evolutionary history as human beings and continues to shape the way our society functions. 

River basins, where land meets the sea, represent the earliest relationship between human society and nature. These areas of fertile plain fields, rich soil and abundant water resources allowed for the very first human civilisations to thrive.  

Over time, the development of ports also provided a gateway of connectivity and transportation between societies.  

This relationship continues today.  

As of 2020, almost 1 billion people live within 10km of the coastline, and more than one third of the world’s population (2.75 billion people) live within 100km from the coast. 

What’s more, over 3 billion people depend on the Ocean as a primary source of income, the majority of these from Ocean-based industries such as fisheries and tourism in developing countries. 

Why healthy people need a healthy Ocean: explained by Ocean generation, leaders in Ocean literacy.

Healthy people need a healthy Ocean 

The Ocean contains a vast biodiversity of life, with over 250,000 known species and many more (at least two thirds) yet to be discovered.  

Each life form has a unique method of adaptation against disease and pathogens. We’re constantly learning from this strange and alien world to apply these mechanisms to our own needs.  

We depend on this marine biodiversity to develop modern medicines. In fact, between 1981-2008, around 64% of all drugs used to fight infection, and 63% of anti-cancer drugs were derived from natural sources.  

For example, the Horseshoe Crab is commonly referred to as a “living fossil” and has survived almost unchanged for around 200 million years. Its blue blood contains special cells called “granular amoebocytes” which can detect and clot around even the tiniest presence of toxic bacteria.  

Humans harness the special property of this blood to test whether the drugs and vaccines that we produce are free from contamination.

A healthy Ocean is our greatest ally against climate change.

A healthy Ocean is our greatest ally against climate change. 

A healthy Ocean stabilises our entire planetary system and acts as a buffer against the worsening impacts of climate change.  

It regulates global air temperatures by absorbing 26% of total CO2 emissions and storing over 90% of the excess heat from the atmosphere.  

But the Ocean is not just a victim of climate change, it’s also a source of solutions.

Our Ocean provides all the fundamental resources that we need to survive. Written by Ocean Generation.

Coastal “blue carbon” ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These ecosystems can lock away carbon in their soils at rates up to an order of magnitude faster than terrestrial forests.

Protecting and restoring these vital coastal ecosystems offers us a chance to ensure a sustainable future for people and planet.  

If the Ocean thrives, so do we.  

So, next time you’re having a drink of water, catching your breath after exercising, or waiting at the doctor’s surgery for some medicine, take a moment to stop and thank the Ocean for providing the fundamentals to make all this possible. 

Our Ocean is not just a victim of climate change, it's a source of solutions.

Why is the Ocean so important?

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Why is the Ocean so important?

Ocean wave crashing on a rock. Shared by Ocean Generation in an article about why the Ocean is important.

Introducing the Ocean: Our most precious, life-giving, climateregulating, yet recklessly exploited, undervalued, and underfunded resource.  

Covering over 70% of our blue planet and holding roughly 97% of the world’s water, the Ocean provides the foundation for all living things. From the smallest plankton to the largest animal to have ever lived (the blue whale). And that’s just the beginning of why the Ocean is important.

Energy is cycled across its single, interconnected system; keeping everything in balance. It allows all life to exist together in harmony. 

The Ocean makes up over 90% of all habitable space on Earth.  

Just think about that. All the rainforests, grasslands, mountain ranges and deserts combined with every town, city and village of human civilisation make up less than 10% of the liveable space on our planet.  

Everything else is Ocean.  

The Ocean exists on a scale beyond our understanding. ocean facts shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health.

An Ocean which is home to the world’s largest mountain range (the Mid Ocean Ridge is over seven times longer than the Andes).

And the world’s deepest canyon. (Challenger Deep is six times deeper than the Grand Canyon and could easily swallow Mount Everest.) 

This vast, interconnected body of water exists on a scale so large that it’s almost beyond the realm of our understanding. 

But we need to understand why the Ocean is important.  

The Ocean defines our planet and provides the very foundation of our existence 

If it could talk, the Ocean would be able to tell us all about the dinosaurs, the ice age, and how Stonehenge or Egypt’s pyramids were really built. The Ocean watched as the earliest Homo Sapiens (that’s us) took our first footsteps. It may even hold the secrets to the very beginning of life on Earth.  

Two circle images beside each other: One of the pyramids in Egypt and another of a calm Ocean scene. Ocean Generation is sharing why the Ocean is so important in this article.

To look back at the history of the Ocean is to look back at the history of life itself.  

For millions of years, the Ocean has provided the conditions required for the evolution of all living things. The Ocean burst into life during the Cambrian explosion (the *relatively* sudden radiation and divergence of complex life forms) around 538.8 million years ago and has seen all five mass extinction events since. 

Make that six.  

At this very moment, we are living through the sixth mass extinction event. Research shows that species are now going extinct between 100 and 1,000 times faster than natural, background extinction rates.  

The delicate balance of life which has been slowly ticking along for millions of years has taken decades to unravel.  

According to the IUCN Red List, over 44,000 assessed species are threatened with extinction.  

It’s almost impossible to comprehend that we are hurtling towards destruction on a scale comparable to that caused by a colossal asteroid collision 66 million years ago. (That, the last mass extinction event, wiped out the dinosaurs).   

Except this time, humanity are both the asteroid and the dinosaurs.  

A pod of dolphins swimming in the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation.

 

Is the Ocean too vast to feel our impact?  

People used to think the Ocean existed on such an infinite, untouchable scale that nothing we, people, could do would affect its limitless bounty.  

“Man marks the earth with ruin – his control stops with the shore…”

– Lord Byron, Nineteenth Century.
Sunset image of the Ocean and a pink sky. Shared by Ocean Generation the global charity providing Ocean education to everyone, everywhere.

We now know that this is wrong.  

Throughout the last decades, our Ocean has been heating up. It’s becoming more acidic, choking in plastic, drained of its fish stocks, and pumped with toxic chemicals at a rate far beyond which it can sustain.  

We have borne witness to record breaking temperatures, mass coral-bleaching and glacial melting events. Now, we are hurtling towards a ‘new normal’ in which instability and volatility are centre stage. 

We have been recklessly exploiting our Ocean system.  

We have watched as records are broken time and time again.  

But in 2023, the Ocean temperature record wasn’t just broken, it was absolutely obliterated. 

In fact, the entire upper 2000m of the Ocean experienced shatteringly high temperatures. As this surface layer heats up, it’s less able to mix with deep water below. As a result, surface oxygen content has decreased.  

Image of a glacier in the Ocean with the quote: In 2023, the Ocean temperature record wasn’t just broken, it was absolutely obliterated.

This isn’t only detrimental to marine ecosystems, but it also slows the Ocean’s life-saving ability to sequester (remove and store) atmospheric carbon dioxide.  

The global water cycle has also been amplified by our warming Ocean. For us on land, this means stronger, longer droughts as well as intensified rainfall, storm, and flooding events.  

Restoring the Ocean starts on land – with us.

Just like how people once thought the Ocean was too large to feel our impacts. Now, it may seem like our impacts are too large to solve. But we know this isn’t true.  

We have the technology, the knowledge, and the power to turn the tide and reverse our trajectory. 

We know this because we’re in many parts of the world, it’s already happening.  

Effectively managed Marine Protected Areas, Maximum Sustainable Yields (the maximum catch size that can be removed from a population to maintain a healthy and sustainable fish stock), and the rise in renewable energy technologies are all ways in which humanity has learned to collaborate more fairly with nature.  

Rainbow over a beach and the Ocean with the quote: We have the opportunity to leave our Ocean in a better state than we found it. Shared by Ocean Generation, leaders in environmental education.

Working with the Ocean rather against it can reap limitless benefits for both people and planet. If the Ocean thrives, so do we.

This knowledge is power.  
Power to be part of the solution, to consider the cost of inaction and unite to ensure our Ocean’s health is considered in all decisions – personal, business, and government policies.  

We have a unique opportunity to be the first generation to leave our precious Ocean in a better state than we found it. 

Your actions may feel like a drop in the Ocean, but together we can make waves of change.  

Start by signing up to our newsletter and reading about 15 climate actions you can take to restore our Ocean. Learn more about why the Ocean is important by adding it to your scroll via your favourite social platform:

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The Global Stocktake: Translated

Three diverse woem with the blue sky behind them.

What is the Global Stocktake and what has it told us about the progress we’re making in the face of climate change?

The Global Stocktake is the first comprehensive assessment of global progress made on climate change since the adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015.  

Essentially, it is a global inventory of all-things climate change: What progress has been made? What areas need more focus? Are we on track to meet our climate goals? (Spoiler alert…we are not). 

What is the global stocktake? The Global Stocktake is the 1st comprehensive assessment 
of global progress made on climate change since the adoption 
of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015. Shared by Ocean Generation.

In this critical decade for climate action, assessing collective progress towards climate goals helps us to identify key gaps, holds us accountable to our commitments, and allows us to work together to agree on solutions.  

The Global Stocktake provides an opportunity for leaders to course correct by ramping up global ambition and avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.  

The Global Stocktake consists of three phases  

  1. Data collection phase: 

Culmination of all available information across all thematic areas (including coastal zones, terrestrial and marine ecosystem services, food, water, and energy use).

  1. Technical phase:  

Evaluation of information to produce insights and summary reports, written by a range of stakeholders. The findings were culminated in a synthesis report. 

  1. Political phase: 

Negotiations, policy changes and decisions based on synthesis report findings.

This phase will take place during COP28 and is critical to determine how countries will respond. 

So, what does the Global Stocktake report tell us?

The Global Stocktake synthesis report is a 46-page technical dialogue which serves as a factual resource and provides a comprehensive overview of the outcomes from phases one and two.  

Key finding 1: 

While the Paris Agreement has driven climate action, we are not on track to meet its goals. Ambitions and action must be ramped up to get us there.  

Image of speed boat in the Ocean making a circle in the water. Ahead of COP28, Ocean Generation - a global Ocean charity shares - While the Paris Agreement 
has driven climate action, 
we are not on track 
to meet its goals.

Key finding 2: 

Climate change must be addressed within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tougher, more transparent accounting measures are needed to accurately assess the credibility of climate contributions.  

It is vital that marginalised groups (including women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples) are stakeholders to ensure that everyone can actively participate in these efforts.   

Key finding 3: 

The large-scale systems transformation needed will be disruptive, so they need to be equitable. 

Example transformations include shifting the current ways in which we get around to low-carbon forms of transport. This will involve shifting ownership from petrol and diesel to electric cars, and the entire reconfiguration of public transport networks. 

Systems transformation also applies to the food and agriculture sector. We must find a way to reduce the land-footprint of agriculture, halt and reverse deforestation, and effectively manage fish stocks. All while simultaneously increasing production to provide for the ever-growing number of human mouths to feed.  

These are the systems which underpin how we live our day-to-day lives, and they need to be transformed to better align human society with a climate-positive future. Therefore, it is vital that we focus on inclusion and equity to ensure that no-one is left behind.  

Those most affected by climate impacts should be involved in crafting the solutions. 

Key finding 4: 

Global emissions are not in line with where they need to be, and the window to limit warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels is closing rapidly.  

Global emissions are not in line with where they need to be, and the window to limit warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels is closing rapidly.

According to the IPCC AR6 Report, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak between 2020 and 2025 to limit warming to the Paris Agreement temperature goal. Global emissions have not yet peaked.  

Key finding 5: 

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs – self-determined plans put in place by each nation to achieve its climate goals) must be more ambitious.  

More leadership in reducing emissions is needed, particularly from developed countries.  

Key finding 6: 

Systems change is needed from everyone, everywhere.
No sector can escape the need for transformation.  

Two hands holding up a replica of the planet, symbolising that to take climate action change is needed from everyone, everywhere. No sector can escape the need for transformation. And everyone must look after our planet. The planet is in our hands.

Key finding 7: 

A fair, just transition can be applied to a range of different approaches and contexts, at different stages of the journey.  

Goals should be set in reasonable, manageable chunks to reduce the negative consequences of rapid systems change.  

Key finding 8: 

We must diversify the economy to cope with the changes that are needed.  

This includes contributions to the loss and damage fund agreed at COP27 and may involve restructuring entire supply chains.  

Key finding 9: 

We must secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.  

No-one is safe from climate change, and greater focus (and funding) is needed to reduce, adapt, and respond to these impacts.  

This is particularly vital for communities who are already feeling the effects but are neither prepared nor able to recover from disasters.  

Key finding 10: 

Climate planning must be coherent amongst all sectors and regions, and adaptation measures need to be more streamlined, ambitious, and ubiquitous.   

Word cloud of all 17 of the findings from the global stocktake: our planet's first assessment - country by country - of the progress we're making in the face of climate change; created by Ocean Generation.
Word cloud of the most-used words in the 17 findings from the Global Stocktake Report, 2023.

Key finding 11: 

Lots more support for locally led adaptation methods is needed. This includes improving access to critical resources and information, to empower communities forge their own solutions.  

Key finding 12: 

Despite the 1.5°C benchmark, we need to understand that impacts will worsen with every fraction of a degree of global warming, particularly for vulnerable communities who are already affected.  

It is vital that we do not exceed certain thresholds and ‘tipping points’ which will lead to irreversible changes. Filling knowledge gaps is crucial to identify these tipping points and effectively avoid them.   

Key finding 13: 

Climate finance is inadequate and needs to be urgently improved and scaled-up.  

Key finding 14: 

Access to climate finance in developing countries needs to be enhanced. 

Key finding 15: 

Finance and investment flows need to be directed towards the energy transition and away from greenhouse gases.   

Clean technology (eg. Renewable energy) is crucial to tackle climate change.

Ways of implementing this include:  

  • De-risking investments in clean-energy technologies. 
  • Creating pipelines of investible products for adaptation and mitigation. 
  • Subsidies. 

Key finding 16: 

Clean technology (eg. Renewable energy) is crucial to tackle climate change. A reduction in cost and push towards scalability is needed to rapidly deploy existing technologies and effectively integrate them into grid systems.  

More research is also needed to understand the role of technology and innovation (such as Carbon Capture and Storage) in supporting the transition.   

Key finding 17: 

We need international cooperation to reduce the barriers to climate action.  

This would involve empowering each nation to assess their climate risks and seek ways to improve them.   

breaching wave shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean education

What happens next?

The Global Stocktake is a vital tool to catalyse the urgency we need for robust, decisive action at the scale that is needed.  

It will enter the political phase during COP28, where discussions will take place and a new round of NDCs will be released. These decisions will determine how the world responds to this information at such a critical stage of the climate crisis.  

Read: Everything you ned to know about COP28.     

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What to expect from COP28

Hand reaching out into the Ocean water.

Everything you need to know: COP28.

It’s almost time for the world to come together once more, at COP28, to discuss our climate change commitments. 

Ahead of this year’s summit, the Global Stocktake provided a useful inventory of current progress toward global climate goals. COP28 will therefore represent an important opportunity for course correction and increased ambition towards Ocean-climate action.   

What is COP all about? 

What is COP? The Conference of Parties is the annual conference and decision-making body for global climate change commitments. Definition of COP on an image of a woman with short hair, walking away from a singular yellow chair on a beach. Shared by Ocean generation in an article about COP28 expectations.

The Conference Of Parties (COP) is an annual conference where the main decision-making for global climate change commitments takes place. 

And when is COP28? COP28 will be held between 30th November – 12th December 2023, at Expo City, Dubai, UAE.  

The formal goals of COP28 are:

  1. Energy and emissions: 

Phase-down demand for, and supply of all fossil fuels, leading to an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels by 2050 (which basically means we’d be free of fossil fuels used and produced without interventions to reduce the greenhouse gasses they emit throughout their life cycle).  

This includes tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements across sectors by 2030.  

  1. Finance 

Ensuring that climate finance is affordable, available, and accessible to developing countries, by delivering the annual investment in climate action needed by 2030.  

  1. Putting nature, people, lives, and livelihoods first: 

Investing in people and nature through the loss and damage fund and encouraging all parties to align climate action with biodiversity targets, since one cannot exist without the other.  

  1. Inclusivity:  

Commitments towards strengthened collaboration with marginalised groups such as women, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, youth, people of determination, subnational actors, and faith-based organisations.  

There is no room for phasing-down the use of fossil fuels in a net zero world. We must phase-out fossil fuels to protect our planet. Quote shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health.

Why is COP28 controversial?

COP28 has received a lot of attention from the media, particularly regarding this year’s COP President’s position within the fossil fuel industry. 

Dr Sultan al-Jaber is the minister of industry and advanced technology for UAE, and the managing director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC Group). 

Concerns have been raised about the impartiality of climate talks and the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists, for whom blocking fossil fuel phase-out is within their economic interest. 

For instance, ADNOC announced a five-year, $150 billion investment in fossil fuel expansion in November 2022.

This is predicted to produce 7.5 billion barrels of oil and gas, 90% of which would have to remain in the ground to meet the International Energy Agency’s net zero emissions scenario. 

How can we spot when climate-dialogue is shifted towards the interests of the fossil fuel industry? 

Decoding climate dialogue – it’s all in the wording: 

When navigating climate conferences, it’s important to understand key terms and phrasing which may open loopholes and derail progress. 

Accurately decoding the dialogue helps us to stay diligent, see past greenwashing and spot false solutions. 

This is particularly important during discussions on topics which divide the crowd.

Two little penguins on ice in the Antarctic. The accompanying wording reads: When navigating climate conferences, it’s important to understand key terms and phrasing which may open loopholes and derail progress. Shared by Ocean Generation as part of their series of everything you need to know about COP.

Here are some key phrases to look out for this year: 

  • Unabated fossil fuels:  

Fossil fuels burned without using technologies to capture the resulting CO2 emissions.

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) 

The relative importance of CCS remains contentious in climate discussions. 

What is CCS?

Carbon capture and storage is a process used to capture the carbon dioxide produced by power generation or industrial activity, transporting it, and storing it deep underground.

The science tells us that while CCS has the potential to play a key role in meeting climate change targets (eg. For heavy industry that’s much harder to decarbonise. And once we reach net zero, it can help tip us back the other way), but it’s not the silver-bullet solution to the current problem. 

Focussing on mobilising CCS instead of simply keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a distraction. It delays the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels that needs to happen. 

  • Phase-down emissions 

There is no room for phasing-down in a net-zero world; we must phase-out.  

The use of the word ‘emissions’ also deliberately omits fossil fuels from final decisions. This ambiguous phrasing provides a loophole for their continued growth and development. 

The focus must therefore be on ‘phasing-out fossil fuels.’ 

Ocean spotlight at COP28: 

Motorised boat on a dry stretch of land that should be water. The words read: Our Ocean is increasingly recognised in global climate dialogue and will take the spotlight at COP28 during the ‘Nature, Land use and Oceans’ thematic day (9th December 2023). This dedicated day aims to support climate-aligned and nature positive use of land and Ocean systems.  

This reflects the increasing focus towards ‘blue ambition’ and the growing recognition that when we protect the Ocean, we also protect ourselves.

Our Ocean is increasingly recognised in global climate dialogue and will take the spotlight at COP28 during the ‘Nature, Land use and Oceans’ thematic day (9th December 2023). This dedicated day aims to support climate-aligned and nature positive use of land and Ocean systems. 

This reflects the increasing focus towards ‘blue ambition’ and the growing recognition that when we protect the Ocean, we also protect ourselves. 

Ocean action is climate action and climate action is Ocean action. 

Ignace Beguin Billecocq, Ocean Lead for UN Climate Change High-Level Champions.
Are the conversations at COP going to cut it? We need action, not promises. Implementation, not good intentions. This article runs down Ocean Generation's expectations for COP28.

Ocean Generation’s hopes and expectations for COP28: 

We will always welcome more commitments to safeguard our Ocean, but this year we want to see promises turn to progress, and ideas turn to action.

This includes:  

  • Decarbonisation across every sector.  

New research suggests that we have less than six years before global warming of 1.5°C is inevitable. Rapid, widespread reduction of CO2 emissions is essential to steer us away from this fate. 

Decarbonisation efforts should seek alternative fuels and port infrastructure for Ocean shipping, enabling technologies to connect new and existing marine-renewable energy to the grid, and strengthened net-zero commitments across fisheries and aquaculture supply chains.  

Opportunities to incentivise emissions reductions within the Ocean-tourism sector should also be considered. 

  • Strengthening of mitigation and adaptation commitments.  

Commitments made in the landmark High Seas Treaty agreement earlier in 2023 must be actioned in climate policies, to meet the goal of protecting 30% of the Ocean by 2030. Focus must also be drawn to the remaining 70%, to build progress toward the Ocean we need.  

Further restoration and protection of “blue carbon” ecosystems (such as seagrasses, mangroves, tidal marshes) within exclusive economic zones must be included in national commitments to ensure their sustained benefits (such as carbon sequestration and flood protection).  

  • Mainstreaming Ocean-action.   

Now, more than ever, widespread recognition of our Ocean’s pivotal role in combatting climate change is vital. 

We need increased Ocean-recognition in global climate dialogue, and countries must commit to mainstreaming Ocean-actions into their national commitments.  

These Ocean-climate solutions must be integrated into biodiversity goals since one cannot exist without the other.   

Blue carbon ecosystems reduce impacts of climate change. What are blue carbon ecosystems?   Blue carbon is any carbon stored by the Ocean so blue carbon ecosystems are ecosystems that make that carbon storage in the Ocean possible. Examples include mangrove trees, salt marshes and sea grass meadows.
  • Inclusive and mobilised solutions for all.   

No-one is safe from climate change, so no-one should be left out of forging solutions.

We need full empowerment and collaboration with marginalised groups, especially those that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Community-led marine management should play a central role, and this must be enabled by providing access to critical resources and information.  

Stable and accessible finance flows are needed to provide a healthy Ocean for all.   

  • Filling knowledge gaps in this critical Decade for Ocean Science.  

Strengthening of Ocean-focused research and standardised data sharing is critical to effectively implement and manage Ocean-actions.  

How to stay up to date with all things COP28 

Follow Ocean Generation on your favourite social platform for COP updates, progress, Ocean wins, and actions.  

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7 Ocean wins from COP27

Incredible Ocean photo. Waves of the Ocean are in a spiral formation.

Everything you need to know: COP27 outcomes.

COP27 was the third longest COP in history – but what Ocean and planet wins did the global climate summit deliver?

One things was strikingly clear throughout COP27: Climate change has become mainstream.

Global coverage of the biggest climate summit made headlines through the weeks, providing hope or despair, depending on where you looked.  

Planet Earth from space. Text on the image of our blue planet reads: The time for climate action is now. Together for implementation. In this article, Ocean Generation shares what Ocean wins came from COP27 and climate action we can take to look after our blue planet.

What was the biggest win at COP27? 

The push for stronger climate financing measures resulted in the historic outcome of establishing a ‘loss and damage fund’. Although the finer details hadn’t been drafted at the end of the climate conference, this was still the prominent highlight of COP27.

This fund will only be available for developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related disasters. This is a crucial win for small island nations.

What is loss and damage, in the context of climate conversations?

In a COP27 interview, Dr. Kees van der Geest, Senior Migration Expert, United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), explained what loss and damage means in a nutshell: 

“I’ve been working on it [loss and damage] for 10 years. ‘Loss and damage’ is really about situations; where people live in places where the impacts of climate change are so severe that adaptation is no longer possible or feasible. It is not necessarily a future scenario because that is the lived reality for some people now.” 

Read: Here’s an article about the loss and damage fund established at COP27 for further reading.

6 images in a grid presenting various environments on Earth and how climate change impacts us all. Image 1: Two children look out at the Ocean; a rainbow is over the Ocean. Image 2: A dry planet with rocks/ Image 3: A young woman in a business suit running along the beach. Image 4: A green turtle raising its head to the Ocean's waterline. Image 5: An aerial photo of trees; mist is rolling in. Image 6: Hands of a person reaching into dirty drinking water. Text on the image reads climate changes us all.

What was the biggest disappointment of COP27?  

With global warming at 1.1C, COP27 proved that the scientific consensus of limiting warming to 1.5C was not being taken seriously enough. The final decision made no mention of phasing down fossil fuels, except for coal, with the power of fossil fuel delegates tremoring through this decision.  

The IPCC (a kind of survival guide for humanity) stresses that global emissions must decline 45% by 2030. If we want to keep this limit alive, we need to peak global emissions by 2025.

This does not mean that we should just wait until COP28 in hopes of sweeping action.

In every corner of the world, people are rallying together to implement ambitious initiatives and COP27 has also shed light on many positive developments.

For people and the planet. 

And the Ocean!  

Close up photo of the Ocean. Little ripples in the water show how delicate the movement of the Ocean can be be.
In this article about Ocean wins at COP27, Ocean Generation shares outcomes of the worlds biggest climate sumit.

Seven Ocean wins from COP27: 

1. Young people are part of the decision-making progress.

COP27 hosted a Youth and Children Pavilion, marking the first official space for young people at a COP.

Another milestone came from YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC, being recognised as stakeholders in designing and implementing climate policies.

2. Enthusiasm for the energy transition.

Despite the disappointment with curbing fossil fuels, the enthusiasm for a just energy transition is undeniable. Renewable energies are here to stay.

Some of the renewable energy transition commitments include:

  • Tanzania updated their NDC to achieve 80% adoption of renewable energies by 2025 (from 60% in 2015).
  • The Just Energy Transition Partnership for Indonesia which launched at the G20 summit, in parallel to COP 27, will secure $20 billion from wealthy economies to scale up renewables like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.
3. The Global Methane Pledge gains momentum.

In the first week of COP27, we shared that 130 countries has joined the Global Methane Pledge. By the end of COP27, that number grew to 150 countries.

4. Decarbonising the shipping industry is a serious priority.

There has been massive mobilisation to curb shipping emissions.

Text quote on an image of a shipping boat out at sea. It reads: "If shipping was a standalone economy, it would be the 10th largest emitter." Quote by President Joe Biden.

Some of the measures include:

  • More countries, ports and companies stated their plans to support the Green Shipping Challenge. Here’s a list of the various announcements made.
  • The EU’s “Fit for 55” package proposal includes the first ever carbon market for shipping and adoption of cleaner fuels.
  • Noteworthy policy recommendation: No one country is responsible for a majority of shipping emissions but a study conducted by Transport & Environment showed that a zero-emission mandate in EU, China, and US could decarbonise 84% of global shipping. 
5. The Ocean is part of the final COP27 cover decision.

In 2022, the Ocean had a seat at climate conversations at COP27.

The importance of Ocean-based climate action was highlighted and the COP27 cover decision emphasised this need and encouraged nations to “blue” their NDC’s.

6. Funds will be made available for early-warning systems.

Vulnerable nations need early-warning systems for adaptation and building resilience. UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced a $3.1 billion plan to support the development of these systems to protect people within the next five years.

7. Spotlight on nature-based Ocean solutions.

We cannot address climate change without considering the Ocean.

As more people realise this, we’re seeing great initiatives that support protecting the Ocean and ensuring its health:

  • The Great Blue Wall Initiative aims to protect marine areas to counteract the effects of climate change and global warming. 
  • Hope for Coral Reefs – Egypt announced protection for the entire Great Fringing Reef in the Red Sea, creating a 2000km marine protected area (MPA).  
  • The Mangrove Breakthrough Alliance aims to secure the future of 15 million hectares of mangroves globally, by 2030, through collective action.  
  • The Convex Seascape Survey is a research programme aiming to provide critical data and insights on the connections between carbon and the Ocean.  

“The Ocean and nature are our greatest allies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as conservation efforts have a “triple bottom line” in that they address economies, communities, and nature.” 

Razan Al Mubarak, President, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 
Image split in two; horizontally. In the top half there is a city skyline representing people. In the bottom image is a coral reef; representing the Ocean. Ocean Generation's brand trust circle is in the center of the image. Ocean Generation is a registered Ocean charity teaching the world about the Ocean and how to live sustainably.

Ocean Generation’s comment on COP27: 

Like any other COP, there is always going to be tension between progress and potential setbacks.

While there will always be room for doing more and better, COP is the only summit where world leaders and multiple stakeholders come together to discuss our environmental impacts and implement solutions.
And without it, the conversations would be more diluted, disjointed, and slow to progress.  

The progress made year on year at COP should translate into hope for all.

The decisions we make in this decade will have long-lasting impacts and we hope the Ocean continues to receive exponentially more importance in COP28’s agenda in 2023.

In the midst of increasing climate-related disasters perpetuated by other crises, hope can be instilled through action. We need the Ocean more than it needs us. So, let’s act now – in whatever position, wherever we are. However big, however small.

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12 interesting coral reef facts

Bright yellow fish next o a coral reef. Shared by Ocean Generation in an article about interesting coral reef facts.

Coral reefs are one of the most indispensable ecosystems on Earth.

What makes corals are so brightly coloured? Why do they turn white when they’re unhealthy? We’ve got you covered. Below, we’re sharing 12+ fascinating facts about coral reefs: The most biologically diverse ecosystem on Earth.

Corals reefs are large skeletons (because they’re made up of tiny animals a.k.a. ‘coral polyps’). They’re home to hundreds of plants and organisms, support fisheries and may host the answers needed to develop new cancer medication. 

How many of these coral reef facts do you know?

Close up of dark blue coral reef in the Ocean. Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health since 2009.

1. Coral reefs occur in more than 100 countries and territories whilst covering only 0.2% of the seafloor. They reside in tropical and semi-tropical waters.  

2. The single-celled algae, zooxanthellae, that live in the tissues of the coral polyps can fuel up to 90% of the reef-building coral’s energy requirements for growth and reproduction. Additionally, zooxanthellae are responsible for the vibrant colours of the corals!  

3. In return, the corals provide them with a home to reside in and nutrients to aid photosynthesis. Thus, fulfilling a mutually beneficial (‘symbiotic’) relationship! 

Colourful coral reef, bursting with life. There's a sea turtle and some orange fish swimming in the Ocean around the reef.

4. A healthy coral reef can limit coastal wave energy by up to 97%. That alone makes corals a crucial shoreline protector, like some other coastal ecosystems.

Coral reefs protect around $6 billion worth of built infrastructure from flooding around the world, from an economic perspective.

5. Large scale losses of coral reefs are due to a warming Ocean and climate change.

Land-based pollution of nutrients and sediments from agriculture, marine pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, and outbreaks of coral diseases and crown-of-thorn starfish (see below image) are all causes of local coral losses. 

Large, purple crown of thorn starfish on the seafloor in the Ocean. These starfish threaten the livelihoods of coral reefs. Facts about corals shared by Ocean Generation.

6. Coral reefs support at least a quarter of all marine species. What’s more: Coral reefs are a home to an average of 830,000 species (550,000 – 1,330,000). The range varies widely due to large populations of small cryptic species being difficult to sample.  

7. Astonishingly, scientists estimate that roughly 74% of coral reef species remain undiscovered! 

8. Ocean acidification is a major threat to coral reefs.

The decrease in pH (making water acidic) hinders corals and other organisms from forming their skeletons. This makes them especially vulnerable in juvenile stages.

The weakening of these skeletons also results in habitat loss, low reef biodiversity, coastline erosion etc. 

9. Coral reefs subjected to higher temperature levels increase the likelihood of abrupt and irreversible changes. According to the IPCC, a record-shattering warming world of 1.5°C would mean a 70-90% decline in coral reefs.  

10. Coral reef associated fisheries provide 70% of protein in the diets of Pacific Islanders. These fisheries support around 6 million people and are worth $6.8 billion annually.  

Coral in the Ocean experiencing coral bleaching. Corals turn white when they're bleached.

11. Corals can turn white due to coral bleaching. Climate change is a major driver of coral bleaching, and this process disrupts the symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae.  

As the algae is dispelled by the corals in an attempt to protect themselves, the corals vulnerability increases and they lose a major energy source. If the heat stress persists, corals are likely to die.  

Hands near the shoreline of the Ocean holding an unhealthy piece of coral. The coral is bleached white because of climate change. Image shared by Ocean Generation, experts in Ocean health and understandable environmental science.

Over half of the our coral reefs are already lost.

12. Coral restoration is a relatively new nature-based solution. Nature-based solutions refers to an umbrella of methods for reviving ecosystems in the face of adversity. 

A 2020 review stated that coral restoration projects report a survival rate between 60-70% with a report stating that 1.5C warming would render this solution to be ineffective.

The authors of the review noted that most projects are small-scale and that we’ll still require large-scale climate action to tackle the root of this issue. 

With over half of the world’s coral reefs already lost, it is evident that coral reefs are declining due to a multitude of human pressures.  

Some warm water corals have reached adaptation limits. Nevertheless, scientists and local communities are working extremely hard to continuously build on existing solutions and quickly adopt innovative approaches. 

The existential threat of the rise in global temperatures means that climate change action is urgently needed to establish coral reef resilience.  

Act now.

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7 Interesting travel facts, linked to the environment 

Plane ascending into the sky. Ocean Generation is sharing 7 interesting travel facts linked to the environment in this article.

How much do we need to reduce travel emissions to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement?”

Good question! Perhaps you’ve also wondered how much worse the private jets celebs catch are, compared to commercial planes, or how much more we drive than walk?

Here are 7 interesting travel facts linked to the environmental:

Teal travel van parked against the backdrop of a coastal road. There's a blue sky, a stretch of Ocean, and lush wild grass with a few flowers. Shared by Ocean Generation in an article about interesting travel facts with an environmental lens.

1. Transport-related CO2 emissions would need to be curbed to 2Gt or 3Gt by 2050, or 70-80% lower than 2015 levels to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C limit.  

2. More passengers per vehicle = lower individual emissions.  

The transport sector causes substantial negative impacts on the environment and human health. Image of a close up of a car exhaust with CO2 being released.

3. A double decker bus, a clever form of public transport, can replace up to 50 other motorised vehicles.

4. Making cities walkable, i.e., making it easy to travel around a neighbourhood on your own two feet, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 4 tonnes a year when compared to automobile-dependent areas.

The avoided emissions are equivalent to 2-person round trip flying economy between Paris and New York.  

5. We now drive seven times as much as we walk.  

6. In 2016 most passengers in the UK (72%) were flying for leisure.  

7. Private jets are 5-14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger) and about 50 times more polluting than trains.

The amount of space taken up on a road by 50 pedestrians vs. 50 cyclists vs. 50 people on a bus vs. 50 people in 33 cars. This image is shared by ocean Generation in their article about interesting travel facts through an environmental lens.
The amount of space taken up on a road by 50 pedestrians vs. 50 cyclists vs. 50 people on a bus vs. 50 people in 33 cars. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Our planet doesn’t need a handful of perfect environmentalists. It needs millions of imperfect people doing what they can to make a difference, and always trying to do better.  

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What’s the environmental impact of travel?  

Image split in half horizontally. In the top image an aeroplane, headed towards the camera, is visible. In the lower image are wooden benches at a train or underground station. This article shares the environmental impact of the ways we travel.

Despite our increasingly sedentary and digitally bound lifestyles, we still need to travel from one place to another – for our basic needs, work, school, or leisure – and it all has an environmental impact.

Imagine your typical week, what kinds of transport do you use? Do you rely on your local bus to get to school? Or perhaps a tram or metro to commute to work? Do you drive or take a taxi to visit your friends and family on the weekend? 

Globally, over half of the world’s population live in urbanised areas and we primarily use motorised modes of transport. This makes the sector heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

The transport sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, with oil as the dominant fuel source. Ocean Generation shares what the environmental impact of our travel is in this article.

Even with increased electrification of road vehicles and innovative fuel sources, decarbonising this sector has remained challenging.  

Environmental impact of the transport sector (in numbers): 

The environmental impact of the transport sector: in numbers. 25% of energy is consumed globally by the transport sector. 40% of transport emissions come from end-use sectors  

We’re covering 3 areas of interest when it comes to the environmental impacts of travel:

  • Air Travel 
  • Active Travel (walking and cycling) 
  • Public Transportation  

To fly or not to fly? 

The short answer is no, where possible.  

Air travel, both domestic and international, is higher emitting than is indicated by CO2 emission figures alone.  

This is because there are non-CO2 pollutants like nitrous oxides, sulphates, soot particles, etc that are directly released into the upper atmosphere.  

Localised effects of these pollutants can be more damaging than the effects of CO2 alone. In fact, one study found that non-CO2 emissions are three times more polluting than just CO2 alone. 

Why is flying at night worse for the environment? 

Condensation trails, AKA contrails, are line-shaped clouds that form from the water vapour released when burning fuel. These clouds can have both a cooling and warming effect on our planet.  

They can cool the Earth’s surface by reflecting sunlight but are disproportionately capable of trapping heat. This means that night flights are more polluting since there is no sunlight to be reflected.  

Plane flying through a navy blue sky. Behind the plane are condensation trails, also known as contrails. Ocean Generation is sharing why flying at night is worse for the environment than catching a flight during the day.

Only a small proportion of the world’s population engage in air travel, but those of us who do can point to it being the largest slice of our personal carbon footprints.  

This is especially true for those who fly on private jets. Private jets are 5-14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger) and about 50 times more polluting than trains.  

Many uncertainties remain with our understanding of the full impact of contrails and decarbonising air travel has proved to be difficult despite recent innovative advancements.  

  

Active travel is making a comeback

One of the best and most accessible ways of reducing our transport carbon footprint is by walking and cycling.

These two methods of transportation have low lifecycle CO2 emissions and are environmentally friendly alternatives to using a car or public transport. Electric bikes are also on the rise and can aid slightly longer distances.  

Image split in half horizontally. On the top half of the image is a close up of a bicycle wheel. On the bottom half, a pair of green sneakers on some lush grass. Image shared by Ocean Generation in an article discussing how the ways we travel impacts our planet's health.

Another benefit of walking and cycling is its positive impact on our health; it has been found to improve our physical health and reduce the risk of various diseases.

This could improve our mental health since it promotes social interactions and helps people feel more connected to both their communities and natural surroundings. 

But according to WHO, “More than half of all road traffic deaths and injuries involve vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and their passengers”.  

We need to work on better road infrastructure and safer areas. Active travel needs to be accessible for disadvantaged groups so they too can reap the benefits.   

We need better public transportation networks.  

An effective public transport system can have significant effects on the reduction of transport related CO2 emissions. 

Trains, buses, trams, subways/metros, and more play a vital role decreasing emissions by directly reducing the need for car ownership which in turn minimises road congestion.

Here is a graph representing the carbon footprint of multiple transport modes:

Carbon footprint of travel per kilometer in 2018 from World in Data shared by Ocean generation.
The carbon footprint of travel is measured in grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents per passenger kilometer.
This includes the impact of increased warming from aviation emissions at altitude.

Some of the takeaways from Figure 1 are: 

  • Overall, the emissions discrepancy between air travel and public transport modes is highly evident.  
  • Light rail and trams are over 4 times less emitting than taking a taxi.  
  • Trains are always a better option than flying domestically.  
  • There is great potential in low-carbon international rail journeys, like in the case of Eurostar. 
  • Economy seats are more carbon friendly than business class which could be pointed to capacity difference (fewer and bigger seats in business class) and added amenities.  
Red train coming to a stop in Japan, shared by Ocean Generation in an article that addresses the environmental impact of how we travel.

In wealthy countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany where a lot of investment and development of public transportation has occurred, it is well used by its locals and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are relatively low.  

In comparison, we see the opposite in the US which has invested more in highways resulting in a drop in the use of public transit and transportation emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector of the economy.  

Ultimately, a person’s travel choices are deeply influenced by household income and transport prices. The IPCC suggests that increasing adoption of public transport modes will require making public transport more convenient, reliable, and less expensive than using a car. 

How can I become a responsible traveller?

Travelling with the environment in mind is possible:

  • Reducing the number of flights taken is always the best option.  
  • Avoid flights if alternatives exist (like rail, bus etc.).  
  • Choose direct flights where possible to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions associated with take-offs. 
  • For short to medium distances, consider walking or cycling rather than individual vehicles or public transport.  
  • Trains, metros/subways, trams, and buses should be chosen over personal vehicles where possible. 
  • Voice your interest for better and/or more public transport options in your local area, if it doesn’t already exist. 
  • Write to your local authorities to invest in pedestrian footpaths, cycling lanes, and enhance road safety.  
  • Sharing is caring; carpooling is a neat way of lowering your individual carbon footprint.  

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What we Eat: Is locally sourced food better for the planet? 

Is locally sourced food better for the planet? Ocean Generation weighs in. The top half of this image shows lush lettuce with water droplets and the bottom shows a sea turtle swimming in the Ocean among some seagrass.

Over 10,000 years ago, we planted our first seeds and domesticated animals – marking a major milestone for homo sapiens (humans).

Fast forward to the present and it’s easy to see that we’ve come a long way from founding agricultural practices to the complex globalised food system we’ve built today.  

Hands of a farmer picking fruit off of a plant, on a farm. Ocean Generation is sharing how what we eat impacts the health of our planet and Ocean.

Many of us are now able to purchase foods, in and out of season, throughout the year. Food systems tend to be high-yielding and complex: the low cost of the products could be argued to be offset by the hefty environmental cost.  

Is eating locally sourced food better for the planet? 

We are exploring the public discourse between local and non-local foods, through the lens of carbon emissions

But first, we need to understand the components of the food system.  

What’s the environmental cost of the food on my plate? 

The food on our plates often makes its way to us through a complex food system.  

What is a food system 

A food system refers to the entire process (aka lifecycle) of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food.

A strawberry on a fork along with the words: The food system accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Shared by Ocean Generation.

This system accounts for a third, or 18 GTCO2eq, of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where: 

Agricultural production (farms and animal feed) is responsible for a whopping 39% of the emissions. 

Changes in land use (deforestation and fluctuations in carbon in soil) is responsible for 32% of the emissions and, 

Other supply chain activities (like processing, transport, retail, packaging, and consumption) are responsible for 29% of the emissions.  

Aside from emissions, food systems are also accountable for high water usage and being the primary driver of biodiversity loss.

Evidently, the systems we’ve built need transformative changes that minimise this environmental toll. It also means addressing the undeniable role of the meat and dairy industry in the rise of emissions. 

From a consumer perspective, many argue that buying local produce is the best way to minimise our emissions.

Although this is a popular policy recommendation, academia suggests a slightly different picture. 

Above and below: Half of the image shows a farm with yellow wheat and the bottom half of the image shows a scene of corals and fish; life in the Ocean. A sting ray is swimming with a remora on its back and some yellow fish.

What does “locally sourced” food mean? 

There is no widely accepted definition of ‘local’ food, but it broadly revolves around minimal distances between where the food is produced and where it is consumed.  

‘Local’ food can be interpreted in a few ways:

– Within a community, city, village, or county, 
– Within a State (like in US, India), or, 
– Within a small country (like Jamaica, Estonia, Lebanon) 

In the US, according to the 2008 Farm Act, to be classified as ‘local’, foods would have to come from 400 miles or less.

If we apply this to a person shopping in Slovenia, a small European country, they could, in theory, buy produce from all their neighbouring countries and consider that as ‘local’.

So, the different interpretations to ‘local’ food allows room for varying circumstances.  

Does the type of transport used for foods matter? 

Yes! It is worth noting the emission disparities between different modes of transport.

The most GHG-efficient option for transporting food is via cargo ships. This is followed by rail, cars, vans, and trucks.

Unintuitively, storing foods locally year-round tend to be more GHG intensive than having the same products shipped from another country.   

The transport method used to carry your food from farm to fork makes a huge environmental difference.

In general, air freighted foods are the least GHG-efficient. As a consumer, it can be difficult to assess what is air-freighted and what is not.

A useful guide is to assess whether the product has a limited shelf life (for example, mangoes and berries) and if it is from a country quite far away.  

Now, let’s dive into a common question encountered in the local vs non-local food debate.  

Don’t non-locally sourced foods mean higher travel emissions? 

Not necessarily.

Here are eight foods and their supply chain emissions visualised in two ways: 

Greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain for 8 different types of food. [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Figure 1 GHG Emissions across the supply chain [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain for 8 types of food. [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Figure 2 Relative GHG Emissions across the supply chain [Credit: Our World in Data] 

In figure 1, we are able to see the overall emissions of certain foods, noting that some foods have high emissions (like meat) while some have low or negative emissions (like nuts). Therefore, we can make the biggest impact by swapping out high-emission foods where possible.  

Figure 2 allows for a deeper understanding of emissions from each step of the supply chain. Although there are exceptions, travel emissions for most foods are minimal compared to the emissions associated with land use, farming, and animal feed. 

If you’d like to learn more about this in the context of other foods, click here to use the graphing tool. 

What are the best practices to adopt when sourcing foods? 

From an environmental perspective, making decisions on how to source foods can be unclear.

Some of the best practices guided by growing evidence suggests the following:  

– In terms of emissions reduction, what you eat matters more than whether it is local or not.  

– In general, buy locally grown seasonal foods like vegetables and fruits.  

– Buy local especially if you know where you’re buying from, who you’re buying from and how they grow the food. The transparency of supply chains will enable you to consider wider environmental, economic, and social impacts to make well-informed decisions. 

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Mangroves: Underrated Climate Change Heroes 

Mangrove tree growing out of water. Mangroves are climate change heroes thanks to their ability to sequester 3 - 5 times more carbon than normal forests.

Everything you need to know about mangrove trees:

Mangroves are the only forests situated at the confluence of land and sea in the world’s subtropics and tropics. They have been variously described as “coastal woodland”, “mangal”, “tidal forest” and “mangrove forest.”  

There are roughly 70 species of mangrove trees occupying a total estimated area of 147,000 km2 worldwide. This is equivalent to the size of Bangladesh! Roughly 43% of the world’s mangrove forests are situated in just four countries: Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, and Nigeria.  

These forests are home to an abundance of life, protecting people from floods whilst storing carbon at an impressive capacity. 

Mangrove trees in Indonesia. The mangroves - a coastal ecosystem - are vital climate change heroes. Here, they are near a body of water. Uniquely, mangroves can be found in coastal and fresh water environments.

Biodiversity in mangrove forests 

In the right conditions, mangroves form extensive and productive forests.

These forests support animal populations both within the forest and in offshore areas. Densities of crabs are especially likely to be highest on unvegetated mudbanks adjacent to mangroves, feeding on propagules (buds of plants). 

Juvenile shrimps are important organisms near mangroves too, and a sought-after food for many communities. These shrimps obtain carbon (food) from plankton and algae living amongst the mangroves. 

There are also a few endemic mammal species in mangroves. For example, crab-eating rats in Australia, the leaf monkey in Malaysia, and the proboscis monkey in Borneo. 

Here is a diagram further highlighting the importance of mangroves to so many species for different reasons – 

What species live in mangrove forests? Animals use mangroves as a nursery, foraging and nesting habitat. Some species like tree crabs, spotted mangrove crabs and crocodiles spend their whole lives in mangrove forests.

Figure 1 Conceptual diagram illustrating the critical habitat that mangroves provide for a variety of animals [Credit: Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science] 

Why should we care about mangrove trees? 

– Mangrove forests are widely recognised as providing a wide variety of goods and services to people, including protection from floods, provision of a variety of plant and animal products, sediment trapping, and nutrient uptake and transformation.  

– Annually, mangroves are responsible for over $60 billion in avoided losses from coastal flooding, protecting more than 15 million people.  

– An impressive diversity of plant products is harvested from mangrove trees, including tannins, honey, medicinal products, and thatch. 

Aerial image of mangrove forests.

Mangroves are a blue carbon solution  

– Mangroves have gained a lot of attention in recent years over their ability to sequester carbon, storing between 3-5 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests. 

– They have carbon-rich soil that’s been built-up for over hundreds or thousands of years. 

– 87% of carbon stocks in mangroves are just within the top meter of soil. According to one report, if this were released into the atmosphere, it would be equal to 7.5 years of emissions from the EU or burning 51 billion barrels of oil. 

What are the drivers of degradation and loss of mangroves?  

Up to 60% of mangrove tree losses are due to direct or indirect human impacts. These drivers are –

– Logging (for timber, charcoal) 
– Agriculture (oil palm cultivation)
– Aquaculture (ponds for shrimp and fish farming) 
– Pollution (from oil and gas extraction, and nutrient run-off) 
– Coastal infrastructure development  
– Climate change (sea level rise, hurricanes, drought) 

Mangroves Degradation in Timor-Leste shared by Ocean Generation.

Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Efforts 

Our knowledge of mangrove area dynamics at local to global scales has increased significantly since 2000 due to advances in remote sensing and data access.

Around 42% of remaining mangroves are now located in protected areas. But protected areas may not always provide strong protection. Many mangroves fall prey to erosion and storms, naturally occurring phenomena, while some don’t stand the test of time due to ineffective management.  

The front line of mangrove protection, management and sustainable use involves people—communities, indigenous groups, traditional users, and local governments.  

The Global Mangrove Alliance, is an important and ambitious initiative, seeking to halt loss caused by direct human impact, restore at least half of recent mangrove losses, and increase protection from over 40% to 80% by 2030. 

How coastal communities have helped mangrove forests thrive 

Around the world, there are countless examples of collaborations that have helped coastal communities and mangroves to thrive together.  

For example, in Pakistan, mangroves are concentrated mainly in the north along the Arabian Sea coastline where arid climate prevails. Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, 43.50 million plants will be planted in one of the world’s largest endeavours to restore mangroves.  

This ambitious project will not only provide a natural barrier against erosion, climate disasters but will also restore breeding grounds for finfish and shrimps. It has the potential to improve the livelihoods of fishing and herding communities living in the many coastal villages dotting the country’s northern shores.   

A man leaning into a body of water to plant a mangrove tree. Mangrove trees are incredible trees. They act as climate change heroes because of their incredible ability to sequester carbon.

Mangrove planting has been increasingly considered a Nature-based Solution (NbS)  

This enthusiasm, seen through national policy commitments and community-led initiatives, can now be assessed against a Global Standard for NbS, a criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that these projects are credible and well-designed to maximise their full potential.  

Mangroves provide many benefits and their ability to store carbon cannot be ignored. It is a useful nature-based solution to help reduce our emissions but it’s not the only one! 

What can I do to further mangrove conservation? 

  1. Show your support for mangroves in native areas –
    Find out if mangroves are native to your surroundings. If they are, vocalise your support for them and educate your community on the importance of mangroves.

    If your local mangroves are subject to degradation, rally support for preservation and speak to your local authorities. You can also keep track of mangrove restoration through the Mangrove Restoration Tracker tool.  
     
  1. Be a considerate tourist –
    Mangrove tourism exists across 93 countries, with boating being the most popular activity. So next time you travel, appreciate mangroves and the diverse wildlife they host but don’t leave anything behind!

    You can also participate in mangrove planting, for example, in the Philippines, through the Planeterra Project.  
     
A bridge leading across water and into a mangrove forest.

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How can I tackle a problem as complex as climate change?

A ripple of water. Ocean Generation makes environmental science easy to understand and shares how each individual has a ripple effect on the environment and health of the Ocean.

The Ocean has never been this subjected to the level of intensity of climate change impacts caused by human activities. With every 0.1 degree C of warming, we make it more and more difficult for humans, flora, and fauna to adapt. 

A warming Ocean means that marine ecosystems like coral reefs and salt marshes are less able to host marine biodiversity and sustain many benefits for humans.

This also disrupts the Ocean’s ability to regulate the global climate system, water, and carbon cycle. 

It goes without saying that the climate crisis is now a defining issue of our lifetimes, and we have a slim window of opportunity to reduce our collective impact. 

Four images side by side: Rough blue Ocean waves and foam, a factory releasing carbon emissions behind a field of yellow floowers, a single green lead on a crusty dry piece of Earth, a bright pink and healthy coral in the Ocean. Ocean Generation makes climate science simple to understand.

Is there a way out of the climate crisis? 

The Ocean stores 20-30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities but this is unsustainable, resulting in an acidic, slow circulating, less oxygenated Ocean.

To put it simply, we need to rapidly reduce our emissions to give young people and future generations a chance to secure a sustainable future.  

According to the latest IPCC report, we need to cut global GHG emissions by nearly half by 2030. These emissions come from electricity production, food, agriculture, land use, industry, transportation etc. Cutting emissions requires global collaboration and cooperation – from governments to individuals.  

The challenge is immense, but the solutions could not be clearer.

A ripple of water. Ocean Generation makes environmental science easy to understand and shares how each individual has a ripple effect on the environment and health of the Ocean.

What do we need to do to limit global warming?  

Some of these solutions have already been set in motion: Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing uptake of clean energies, restoring carbon sinks, and much more. The slow pace of adoption and funding associated with these solutions have been repeatedly questioned, given the world is currently at 1.1C.  

The effects of climate change are already being felt in different corners of the world, albeit disproportionately.  

In order for us to stay within any warming limit, we need to make the necessary changes needed to sustain humanity as a whole. And as individuals, each and every one of us have carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles.  

We must address the fact that
we do not emit emissions equally 

Globally, there are huge disparities between those who over-consume and those who consume less due to socioeconomic and geographic factors.  

In fact, the top 10% of high-income households contribute 34–45% of consumption-based household GHG emissions and the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.  

These stark differences mean that individuals in the top 50% are the in the best position to reduce their emissions, giving the opportunity to raise living standards for those in the bottom 50%.  

When considering our lifestyles, the conclusions are quite similar. 

What impact do our lifestyle choices have on carbon emissions?  

According to 2022 UNEP report, “the lifestyles of the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population (broadly speaking, most middleclass persons living in industrialised countries), are responsible for almost half of the global emissions, while the lifestyles of the wealthiest 1% are responsible for about twice as many GHG emissions as the poorest 50%”.  

Lifestyles are not just about the things we consume, but also addresses the communities we live in, the values we foster and the choices we make.

Individuals that are socio-economically well-off are in an instrumental position for enabling change. One paper suggests that individuals in this category could reduce emissions as role models, citizens, organisational participants, investors, and consumers.  

Ultimately, environmental, and societal well-being go hand-in-hand; it is in humanity’s best interests to fairly consume within our means.  

Footprint made of sea shells on the sand at a beach. Each of us has carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles. We can minimise our impact with every decision we make.

What can people to do to lower their carbon emissions 

There are four key areas where individuals can have the most impact: Food, transport, housing, and the things we buy (like appliances, clothes etc).  

There is no denying that industry supply chains have a responsibility to reduce environmental impacts and provide sustainable choices. Small, and local businesses also tend to be more transparent, gaining consumer trust. Low-carbon alternatives exist in each of the aforementioned areas, and we can collectively vouch for further changes, whether that’s accessibility or affordability.  

At Ocean Generation, we will be covering climate change solutions under each of the above areas through 2023. Namely:

What we Eat food sources, diets, and food waste 
How we Move modes of mobility 
What we Purchase appliances, fashion 
How we Live energy sources and energy-saving behaviours 

Four areas where individuals have agency over their emissions: how we move, how we live, what we purchase and what we eat. Ocean Generation will be covering solutions related to climate change because climate solutions are Ocean solutions. We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy Ocean.

Climate change solutions are Ocean solutions, and vice versa.

The finite resources on this planet need to be utilised efficiently and distributed equally while minimising our impact with each and every decision we make.  

The future of the Ocean is very much in our own hands.  

With every 0.1C degree warming avoided, biodiversity and humans are given another chance. Let’s make every choice count!  

The future of the Ocean is in our hands. To have a healthy planet, we need a healthy Ocean. Ocean Generation shares climate change solutions and Ocean solutions to safeguard our planet.

Why is the Ocean so important?

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Why protect blue carbon ecosystems?  

The Ocean stores a considerable amount of our carbon:

The Ocean is one of the largest natural carbon sinks on Earth, making it a crucial component of the carbon cycle. This means that the Ocean captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This carbon is stored in surface waters, eventually making its way into the deep Ocean. 

But there are other ways in which carbon is stored… 

The role of blue carbon  

All along our coastlines, we have unique ecosystems that capture and lock carbon away, mostly in the soil, for sometimes thousands of years.

These ecosystems are termed “blue carbon.”

This includes: 

Mangroves
Seagrass Meadows, and 
– Salt Marshes 

They can be potent carbon sinks, storing more carbon than forests on land, on a per-area basis, in the case of mangroves. Some of the other benefits include: 

– coastal protection (acting as a buffer between the Ocean and land) 
– increased biodiversity 
– reducing Ocean acidification  
– soil stabilisation 
– improved water flow and water quality  
– storm and flooding surge prevention, and  
– increased resilience to cyclones 

These ecosystems can be considered a nature-based solution in tackling the rise the carbon emissions.

But they are under threat. In fact, globally, between 20-50% of blue carbon ecosystems have already been converted or degraded.  

Drivers of blue carbon loss and degradation 

Our coastlines are often competed for – whether its daily Ocean activities or commercial purposes.

This invariably devalues existing blue carbon ecosystems. The main drivers of loss and degradation are: 

– salt ponds (for salt extraction) 
– agriculture  
excessive use of fertilisers (pollution)
intensive aquaculture
coastal infrastructure development  

The case for protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems 

If degraded or lost, blue carbon ecosystems have the potential to release the carbon back into the atmosphere.

This is not the best scenario, given carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are already reaching levels not experienced in at least 2 million years (!). 

Not only is protection and restoration good for the climate, but it also has the potential to create jobs and support economic growth.

Coastal ecosystems have the ability to mitigate around 0.5-2% of current global emissions. However, there is high uncertainty around its potential in the face of future climate scenarios, as well as loss of coastal land due to sea level rise.  

Many restoration efforts have failed in the past, mainly due to not addressing the root causes of degradation.

It is now understood that successful restoration efforts require local communities’ involvement at every stage, economic incentives, and robust frameworks for implementing and assessing these ecosystems.

Most importantly, reducing human activities in these areas can aid the recovery of these precious ecosystems.  

We need existing solutions to work together to reduce the adverse effects of the climate crisis.

We must protect what we have, restore what we have lost, and adapt to the circumstances we face.  

If the Ocean thrives, so do we. 

Why is the Ocean so important?

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