- UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans & the Law of the Sea: The Effects of Climate Change on Oceans – Co-Chairs’ Summary (May 2017)
- Global Ocean Forum: Roadmap on Oceans & Climate (Nov. 2016)
- Sustainable Development Goal 14
Ocean Law & Policy in the News
The United Nations expects thawing ice to raise sea levels by between 28 and 98 centimeters (11 and 38.6 inches) by the end of the century. A scenario mirroring the middle of that range emerged after a 2013 earthquake in central Philippines caused 43 centimeters (16.9 inches) of subsidence among a chain of small islands.
None of the hundreds of islanders moved away, even as high tide began flooding the newly lowered ground. The impoverished locals instead raised their houses on stilts or mined local reefs to raise floors in homes, schools and other buildings.
That contradicts the theory that worsening floods driven by climate change will lead to mass migration, according to the study, published in Nature Climate Change. Estimates of climate migration’s scale vary widely, but many experts think 200 million migrants is a reasonable expectation.
Officials in the Philippines had offered the islanders the option of relocating to the mainland, but a lack of funding meant the relocation site had no homes.
Still, the researchers wrote, the islanders’ opposition to leaving their homes played a larger role in their decisions to stay put (Alister Doyle, Reuters, July 24). — AAA
Panel takes aim at sea trash
Published: Monday, July 24, 2017
Experts say sea turtles are particularly at risk because they often mistake plastic bags and other plastic items as food. In 2015, a study estimated that more than half the world’s sea turtles had ingested plastics.
Sullivan’s bill has 18 co-sponsors: 10 Democrats, seven Republicans and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.
Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, July 25, at 10 a.m. in 253 Russell.
Witnesses: David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries at the State Department, and Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.
Submerged ‘fairy world’ forest offers glimpse into future
Published: Wednesday, July 5, 2017
An undersea forest — preserved remarkably well after about 50,000 years at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico — could offer researchers new insights into the ways coastal ecosystems react to climate change.
The bald cypress grove off the Alabama coast was likely entombed under several feet of sediment until Hurricane Ivan churned the seafloor in 2004. Uncovered, the ancient trees attracted fish, which caught the attention of local fishermen; the press and researchers soon followed.
“It was like entering a fairy world,” said Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register. “You get down there, and there are these cypress trees, and there are logs lying on the bottom, and you can touch them and peel the bark off.
“Experts said there’s nothing else in the world like these cypress samples, which offer a glimpse into a 1,000-year period that featured much lower sea levels and glaciers covering much of North America.
Based on pollen analysis and cypress’ intolerance for salt water, researchers believe the forest was once a swamp or valley several miles inland from the ancient shoreline. As sea levels began rising as quickly as 8 feet per century, the sediment samples show tree pollens giving way to grass pollens — painting a picture of rapid ecological change that could soon repeat itself.
“We’re looking at 60 feet of seawater where a forest used to be,” said Martin Becker, a paleontologist from New Jersey’s William Paterson University who has visited the site. “I’m looking at a lot of development, of people’s shore homes and condominiums, etc., you know. The forest is predicting the future, and maybe a pretty unpleasant one” (Peter Holley, Washington Post, June 29). — AAA
Seas threatened like never before — U.N. chief
Published: Tuesday, June 6, 2017
The seas are “under threat as never before,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told a conference on oceans yesterday.
Oceans are being severely damaged by pollution, garbage, overfishing and the effects of climate change, he said. He cited a study that found that garbage in the ocean could outweigh fish by 2050.
The five-day conference is the first major event to focus on climate change since President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Guterres said fights over territory and natural resources have blocked cleaning efforts for too long.
“We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe,” Guterres said. “Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself” (Edith Lederer, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, June 5). — CS