Georgia Aquarium (GAI) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), two of the co-founders of Ocean Visions, have provided critical support for the establishment of the Ocean Visions – UN Decade Collaborative Center for Ocean-Climate Solutions (OV – UN DCC). Headquartered at Georgia Aquarium, the OV – UN DCC is the only center of its kind in the United States. It will lead and support processes to co-design, develop, test, and ultimately deliver scalable and equitable ocean-based solutions to mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change. The Center’s work contributes to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030 that are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
The partnership will pursue, among other things:
- Research collaboration
- Education and outreach
- Development and testing of innovative solutions
- Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion
Key Facts about Climate Change and Ocean Health:
- The climate crisis is one of the greatest threats facing public health, natural resources and the economy worldwide. It also is the greatest threat to the ocean, which nurtures 80% of all life on Earth. Billions of people rely on food from the ocean, and world economies depend upon it for fishing, tourism, shipping, energy and more. Not only is the ocean ecosystem at risk, but it is the world’s largest carbon sink, vital to curbing the impacts of climate change.
- Human activities have increased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels by more than 50% in the atmosphere and by 30% in the upper layer of the ocean. The effects of CO2 pollution and excess heat on the ocean are unraveling the system:
- Warmer ocean water holds less oxygen.
- Warmer upper layers of the ocean inhibit mixing with the middle layer of the ocean, which is a primary exchange system that brings nutrients into the global food web.
- These warmer waters expand, and that expansion is causing a significant portion of the sea-level rise that coastal ecosystems and communities have been experiencing.
- Warmer waters also drive marine heat waves that decimate coral reefs. More than half of the Earth’s tropical coral reefs have already been lost in part due to heating and bleaching.
- Warmer waters are driving species that can migrate to do so; their move toward cooler water is leading to migrations of fish stocks poleward.
- Warmer waters mean less Arctic sea ice, which in turn adds to conditions that drive further warming and large scale impacts on the climate.
What Are Ocean-Climate Solutions?
Significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions globally is essential, but it will no longer be enough to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius – the tipping point for dangerous and potentially irreversible climate disruptions. Billions of tons of carbon dioxide pollution also must be removed from the atmosphere. The world’s oceans offer substantial opportunities for climate mitigation and carbon clean-up.
Oceans are the largest carbon cyclers on the planet. Ocean-climate solutions can take many forms, including:
- Natural solutions, like mangrove, salt marsh, sea grass and seaweed restoration and conservation to absorb and store carbon
- Technologies that can strip CO₂ from the atmosphere or remove it from the air and water and safely store it permanently
- Technologies that enhance and assist the growth of seaweed and phytoplankton
- Ocean alkalinity enhancement technologies
- Ocean-based renewable energy technologies
- Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture to produce low carbon food
What is the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development?
In 2017 the United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to be held from 2021 to 2030. This Decade aims to provide a global framework to ensure that ocean sciences fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the ocean and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Decade provides an opportunity to create new collaborations across the science-policy interface to build transformative new solutions for our oceans and coasts that will benefit humanity. The Ocean Decade is being coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO) to promote transformational, large-scale change and advance urgent action to move from the “ocean we have” to the “ocean we want.”
What is a Decade Collaborative Center?
Decade Collaborative Centers (DCCs) provide support to the Decade Coordination Unit (DCU) within the IOC-UNESCO Secretariat—the central hub that manages the day-to-day operations and implementation of the Ocean Decade. DCCs provide technical, logistical, and financial support for stakeholder engagement, catalyzing new Decade Actions, communications, awareness-raising and outreach, resource mobilization, and monitoring and reporting.