As the world looks expectantly towards Paris for action on climate change, the GCI team at COP21 or ‘Conference of the Parties’ has topped off a hectic week in the French capital.
GCI Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg addressed a VIP-studded oceans breakfast hosted by the United Nations in Paris on 8 December.
Fellow speakers at the UN Foundation Breakfast on the theme of the Ocean included US Secretary of State John Kerry and legendary ocean researcher Sylvia Earle.
For the GCI Director, it was a priceless opportunity to re-emphasise the perilous state of the world’s oceans.
“Maintaining the health and stability of our ocean and its coastal regions could not be more important or more obligatory in the context of human well-being and survival,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.
“Unfortunately, the consensus science tells us that the ocean – once thought to be too big to fail – is in dire risk of failing.”
Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the “Ocean” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contained a warning for the world.
“The current rate of ocean acidification is unprecedented within the last 65 million years if not the last 300 million years,” he said.
“This is extremely troubling in that it implies that our current ocean is rapidly transitioning beyond the conditions that ocean life is adapted to.”
According to Professor Hoegh-Guldberg there were three fundamental steps to take.
To ‘preserve coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef’, the world must keep average global temperature below 2°C above the pre-industrial period – and below 1.5°C in the long-term.
We must also act on the non-climate stresses that are ‘impacting marine ecosystems’, he said
And it was vital the planet avoided what he termed ‘ocean blindness’ – a tendency to overlook the value of the oceans because of our terrestrial origins.
“Despite the fact that 71 per cent of the planet is covered by the ocean, we tend to underplay its importance and significance,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.
A transcript of Professor Hoegh-Guldberg’s address to the UN Foundation Breakfast on the theme of the Ocean is available here.