Oceans and ocean activism deserve broader role in climate change discussions

Joshua Cinner, at Australia’s James Cook University, interviews fishermen in Papua New Guinea about adapting to changing social and environmental conditions

Tessa Hempson/James Cook University
Joshua Cinner, at Australia’s James Cook University, interviews fishermen in Papua New Guinea about adapting to changing social and environmental conditions

Less visible, but perhaps more indelible, signs of changing climate lie in the oceans. A University of Washington researcher in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs argues in the journal Science that people—including world leaders who will gather later this month in Paris for global climate change negotiations—should pay more attention to how climate change’s impacts on ocean and coastal environments affect societies around the globe.

“When people see headlines on big science findings that the oceans are acidifying, or sea levels are rising, they feel a sense of helplessness in the face of inexorable change,” said lead author and UW professor Edward Allison. “Yet there are many things that people can, and indeed are already, doing.”

The review paper, published Nov. 13, looks at scientific understanding of changes to the world’s oceans and how people around the world are responding to those changes. These reactions include denial, planned adaptation, a search for technical fixes, and political activism to reduce emissions and tackle the root causes of climate change. The paper also looks at how projected changes in climate and ocean conditions will impact economic activities related to the oceans, to begin a discussion about the future of the human relationship with the marine environment.

Read more at UW Today »