The Importance of the Ocean

Glenn Rohrbacker

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One of the pressing issues facing the 2016 election is the concept of climate change. And shockingly, it has become somewhat of controversial. The issue has encompassed a lot of different forces coming together to fight this inevitable epidemic. Pleads from scientists as well as major support from, mainly, Democratic politicians has brought this issue into the forefront of public policy. With temperatures rising, polar ice caps melting, animal species decreasing, and other environmental factors that are less obvious, the world is changing at a vast pace. Scientists are urging citizens to act quickly in order to save the planet we inhabit.

More specifically, the ocean plays a huge role in affecting how climate changes our world. Between coastal environments experiencing rapid erosion, sea levels rising, and rapid pollution, the ocean is a major contributor to the environmental risks that the Earth faces today. Contributing directly to the issue is the excess carbon dioxide, as well as illegal and overfishing, which makes the ocean warmer and more acidic and actually hurts fishers along the coasts. Also, damaging the environment is the increase of coastal storms, which also puts citizens at risk.

The State Department of the United States has launched a new initiative looking to this affect the ocean has on climate change and decided to bring people from all over to the world together to solve this issue. The pinnacle event of this initiative is the Our Ocean Conference and this year marks the third annual event. The event, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, took place this past weekend and gathered leaders from all over the world to start taking action on these important issues.

In the first two conferences, participants pledged over $4-billion for “conservation activities and commitments to safeguard the over 6 million square kilometers of ocean and marine areas.”

This year’s conference theme was to start making moves on these protective measures for the ocean.

“The message throughout the conference is about action,” says Judy Garber, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She is the main pioneer coordinating the Our Ocean Conference.

“One of the key voices in our diplomacy is the voices of young people, who truly have the most stake in our ocean’s future,” explained Assistant Secretary Garber.

One of the major conflicts within the climate change issue is those who deny its existence. The Our Ocean conference was a direct response to this narrative, in an effort to bring to light the issues that are not policy, but reality.

“The ocean affects the air we breathe, our weather, food for millions of people, and affects livelihood,” says Garber.

The administration is also focusing on highlighting their successes in this movement, as shown in previous conferences and through travel to other nations. Last week, there was a pact made between President Obama and President Xi of China to join the Paris Agreement, which is the most recent global effort to protect against the harms of climate change.

Garber indicated that the ocean is being threatened, and there is no denying that. However, what she wants people to realize is that there are solutions.

“It is all of our responsibility to take action to save our ocean,” she says.

A number of countries are working on plans for how to reduce their carbon footprint and pollution in the ocean at the OurOcean Conference. Also, there are new ongoing efforts to reduce plastic usage by partnering with industry producers to discuss and plan for alternatives that are better suited to help the environment.

A recent study was done by A Non-Government Organization that projected that it is possible to reduce plastic being pushed into the ocean by the year 2035. The State Department’s message is directed toward this goal, in hopes to change everyone’s behavior in a way that helps the environment and the ocean specifically.

This venture is being taken very seriously by the State Department and by what is left of the Obama Administration. The Department is working closely with other branches of government, including the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. They are also working with several state governments and non-governmental agencies to push for reduction of harmful environmental practices in the future.

There is no current set goal for specific development, but it is stressed by Assistant Secretary Garber that this will be an ongoing effort to help save the ocean.
As indicated by Secretary of State John Kerry, “Nothing connects all of us, but the ocean. If we can act together and act now, we can save it.”

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The Importance of the Ocean