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We all know that the ocean provides us with food, trade links, recreation and more. One huge contribution the ocean makes which often goes unappreciated, however, is keeping our climate stable.
The statistics are astounding: the ocean absorbs about a third of the carbon dioxide we pump out, and it has taken in a nuclear bomb’s worth of heat every second for 150 years. It gives us every second breath. Clearly, without a healthy ocean, we cannot hope to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but this extraordinary system is under pressure like never before.
The carbon which is locked up in ocean ecosystems is sometimes referred to as “blue carbon”. This blue carbon, found in everything from mangrove forests to whales in the deep ocean, is both a golden opportunity and a real risk.
An opportunity, because protecting blue carbon ecosystems will help pull carbon out of the atmosphere and drag us back from the brink of serious climate breakdown. A risk, because we are currently wiping out this blue carbon at a rapid pace.
The current losses of mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass are estimated as among the highest of any ecosystem on Earth. Every half an hour a seagrass meadow the size of a football pitch is destroyed, and the annual loss of all coastal wetlands is estimated to release around 450 million tonnes of carbon.
Elsewhere, the great whales are recovering from commercial whaling but face serious threats like ship strikes, and deep sea mining threatens to wipe out deep sea ecosystems and release the carbon they currently keep locked up. Overfishing and illegal fishing are harming the ocean’s ability to store carbon in the living things it contains.
By taking action now to reverse these declines and restore blue carbon environments, we can make massive progress on carbon emissions. The benefits go far beyond the climate, too: the same action would safeguard food, income and protection from storms for millions of people around the world.
Along with over 70 other NGOs, and a host of scientific experts and public figures, we are campaigning for blue carbon to get the recognition it deserves. By including blue carbon in their climate plans, tackling the overfishing which is turning the ocean into a desert, and putting an end to the reckless destruction of deep sea mining, world leaders can help build a safer, more sustainable, hopeful world. You can make a difference - join us in calling on them to protect blue carbon here.