We can’t protect our climate without ocean action
Most people now recognise the importance of terrestrial ecosystems like tropical rainforests in taking carbon out of the atmosphere and minimising the impacts of the climate crisis. We are rightly alarmed at rampant deforestation, which threatens to push critical ecosystems such as the Amazon over a tipping point and into a mass die-off. For the ocean to keep playing its role as one of Earth’s vital life support systems, it must be home to abundant, thriving marine life. Animals, from fish to whales, and plants, from seagrasses to mangroves, are central in taking carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it safely. The essential carbon storage mechanism of the ocean is lost when habitats and their diversity of life are destroyed. The onslaught on the oceanic world should worry us all. Hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 are released every year through marine habitat destruction. Since industrial fishing began in the early 1950s, we have lost 90% of the world’s large ocean fish, such as sharks, cod and swordfish. Mangrove forests are disappearing, coral reefs may be gone at 2C of global heating, and “bottom trawling” can wipe out seabed ecosystems in the “blink of an eye”.