Oceans and seas 2020-2023

Written by  //  December 26, 2023  //  Cities, Environment & Energy, United Nations, Water  //  Comments Off on Oceans and seas 2020-2023

Seven Seas
International Seabed Authority (ISA)

Murky waters
Deep-sea miners say they offer a clean, ethical way to harvest precious metals for a low-carbon future. Environmentalists aren’t convinced.
They don’t look like much at first, the black, potato-shaped blobs that lie scattered on the seabed, deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
But as is so often the case, looks can be deceiving.
These nodules, and the metals that lie within them, are at the heart of a new and potentially lucrative mining frontier.
Metals like cobalt, copper, nickel and manganese have been mined on land for years, but going deep into the ocean to find them is becoming an increasingly tantalizing prospect. Companies like DeepGreen Metals and Nautilus Minerals — both with Canadian ties — have invested millions in preparation to raise the minerals from the seabed. (August 2018)

26 December
A sinking nation is offered an escape route. But there’s a catch.
last month…tiny Tuvalu struck a deal with Australia that would allow 280 people a year to move there.
(WaPo) This agreement is the latest step in Tuvalu’s preparations for what feels like its inevitable inundation.
Tuvalu amended its constitution in October to state that the nation will maintain its statehood and maritime zones, meaning it will continue to assert sovereignty and citizenship, even if it no longer has any land.
This follows an audacious initiative to become the world’s first digital nation, with the government last year announcing a plan to create a clone of itself in the metaverse, preserving its history and culture online so that people can use virtual reality to visit the islands long after they’re underwater.

14 September
Coalition of small island states makes a case that greenhouse gas emissions are covered by UN Law of the Sea
By Carolyn Beeler
(The World) ​​​​​​​In Hamburg, Germany, an international tribunal makes rulings on the UN’s Law of the Sea, which deals with marine territorial rights and navigation, and requires states to prevent and control marine pollution. This week, a coalition of small island states is asking the court to rule on an unusual case: that greenhouse gas pollution is covered under this law of the sea.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne is co-leading the coalition of nine Pacific and Caribbean islands.
“We’re here today because over a century and a half of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have polluted our precious oceans and devastated the marine environment,” he said before the court in Hamburg, Germany, this week.
Most of the excess heat created by greenhouse gas pollution goes into the world’s oceans, triggering marine heat waves, coral bleaching, migration of fish stocks and sea level rise — all of which poses an existential threat to the small island states, Browne said.
The coalition believes that the Law of the Sea should be interpreted by the court as requiring countries to slash emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

29 July
International talks end without go-ahead for deep-sea mining
Last-minute agreement reached at ISA meeting in Jamaica to discuss moratorium at next year’s talks
(The Guardian) An international meeting in Jamaica to negotiate rules over deep-sea mining has ended with no green light to start industrial-scale mining and with an 11th-hour agreement to hold formal discussions next year on the protection of the marine environment.
The agreement ended intense week-long negotiations at the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an intergovernmental body based in Kingston that regulates sea-bed extraction, over a proposal spearheaded by Chile, France and Costa Rica and backed by a dozen countries to discuss a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining to ensure the protection of the marine environment.
Environmentalists welcomed the compromise as an “open door” to a proper discussion by the ISA assembly, which comprises 168 member states and the EU, on whether mining should go ahead at all. Overall, they said, “important strides forward” had been made towards the protection of the marine environment.
It was a crucial, three-week-long meeting of the ISA, a UN-affiliated body, which was under pressure to finalise rules governing mining by this month.
Over the past month, the UN high commissioner for human rights, 37 global financial institutions, seafood groups, scientists and Indigenous groups have called for a halt to deep-sea mining.
21 July
ISA Council closes Part II of its 28th session
The Council made significant progress concerning the negotiations on the draft exploitation regulations for mineral resources in the Area in an informal setting in plenary (President’s text) and in the four working groups on i) a financial model and payment mechanism for deep-sea mining, ii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment, iii) inspection, compliance and enforcement and iv) institutional matters.

17-21 July
The most important climate meeting of the year
…some are calling the 80th session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) the most important climate meeting of 2023.
The International Maritime Organization aims to adopt a revised greenhouse gas emission strategy for the shipping sector.
(Greenbiz) While shipping accounts for 3 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, it’s the truest example of a hard-to-abate sector. Many companies across the value chain are working hard to accelerate a range of solutions such as ammonia or hydrogen-fueled ships. However, if progress on maritime shipping decarbonization was a large cargo ship setting sail, then it is safe to say that ship is still idling at the port. And in 2023, for multinational companies, with cargo on said ships, maritime Scope 3 emissions don’t represent “low-hanging fruit” to achieve meaningful emission reductions.
18 July
IMO elects Panama’s Arsenio Dominguez as its new secretary-general
(Splash) Dominguez is currently the director of the Marine Environment Division of the IMO, having served previously as the director of the Administrative Division and as the chief of staff.
The election comes less than two weeks after the IMO agreed on a revised strategy to decarbonise the global shipping industry during the 80th gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

8-14 July
The oceans are rich in critical minerals. But will miners be allowed to get them?
Countries meeting in Jamaica this month to hammer out mining code
Susan Ormiston and Carly Thomas
(CBC) There are billions of tonnes of valuable minerals for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage at the bottom of the ocean, and a Canadian-registered company is leading the race to mine them. But marine scientists and environmentalists say it’s likely to risk a sea floor ecosystem about which little is known. Negotiations are underway at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) this month in Jamaica.
The time for a moratorium on deep-sea mining is now
The seafood industry is among those calling for a freeze on deep-sea mining
(Quartz) More voices within the seafood industry have raised the alarm about deep-sea mining and its potential harm to ocean ecosystems as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) convenes this week to discuss regulation of the practice.
The letter was released as the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an intergovernmental body of 167 members states plus the European Union, begins the second part of its annual meetings in Kingston, Jamaica this week, which run from July 10 to 21. Debate over the regulation of deep-sea mining is on the agenda.
Crunch talks due on deep-sea mining controversy
(BBC) Controversial proposals to allow deep-sea mining will be centre-stage at global talks in Jamaica from Monday.
It comes after a two-year ban on the practice expired when countries failed to reach agreement on new rules.
Scientists fear a possible “goldrush” for precious metals beneath the oceans could have devastating consequences for marine life.
Future of deep-sea mining hangs in balance as opposition grows
Ireland and Sweden join countries calling for moratorium on extraction of metals from seabed as UN-backed authority prepares for crucial talks

7 July
‘Vague and non-committal’: MEPC green targets text comes in for fierce criticism
(Splash) The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed on a revised strategy to decarbonise the global shipping industry. The agreement will be formally adopted today but no further changes are expected by delegates. The loose wording in the near finalised document doing the rounds at IMO headquarters will disappoint many Western nations and environmentalists who had been pushing for more firm commitments from this week’s 80th gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). … The Pacific Island countries, supported by Canada, the US, the UK, fought hard this week for a 1.5°C- aligned action, but were opposed by China, Brazil, Argentina and others.

29 June
A shipping emissions showdown stands in the way of one of the biggest climate deals of the decade
Delegates of the International Maritime Organization are meeting in London this week for preliminary talks on how to implement a new greenhouse gas strategy.
The talks are designed to help build consensus ahead of a crucial session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee July 3-7.
In the face of a colossal and growing source of emissions, the United Nations shipping agency is looking to slash pollution from the world’s ocean-going vessels by adopting new climate targets.
Observers of next week’s talks say the summit’s success depends on the pace of those cuts, however.

22 June
Climate impact of shipping under growing scrutiny ahead of key meeting
Court has been told states are legally responsible for tackling sector’s emissions as IMO talks loom
The international tribunal for the law of the sea has been asked by a group of island nations to give its opinion on the climate crisis and marine responsibilities. Like the international court of justice, which was tasked with giving its view on states’ legal duties on the climate emergency earlier this year, the tribunal’s opinion will not be legally binding, but it will be highly influential.
In its submission to the tribunal, seen by the Guardian, the NGO Opportunity Green argues that the law of the sea already obliges all countries to combat vessel pollution and therefore hold the shipping industry accountable for its greenhouse gas emissions.

27 June
Facing extinction, Tuvalu considers the digital clone of a country
As the climate emergency threatens its existence, the tiny Pacific nation is not only trying to reclaim physical land but create a ‘twin’ to survive in future
by Kalolaine Fainu in Funafuti
Tuvalu is expected to be one of the first countries in the world to be completely lost to climate change. The three coral islands and six atolls that make up the country have a total land mass of less than 26 sq km. At current rates of sea level rise, some estimates suggest that half the land area of the capital, Funafuti, will be flooded by tidal waters within three decades. By 2100, 95% of land will be flooded by periodic king tides, making it essentially uninhabitable. That’s within Teafa’s lifetime.

21 June
United Nations adopts high seas treaty, the first-ever pact to govern and protect international waters
By Pamela Falk
(CBS news) The United Nations on Monday [19 June] adopted the first-ever legally binding international treaty governing the high seas. Known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty, or BBNJ, but widely referred to as the High Seas Treaty, the measure approved by the 193 U.N. member states imposes rules aimed at protecting the environment and heading off disputes over natural resources, shipping and other matters in waters beyond any country’s national jurisdiction.
Until now, there has never been any international law governing the high seas, so many individuals and organizations hope the U.N.’s adoption of the measure will mark a clear turning point for vast stretches of the planet where conservation efforts have long struggled in a sort of wild west of exploration, overfishing, oil exploration and deep-sea mining.
“You have delivered,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the member nations Monday upon the treaty’s adoption. “And you have done so at a critical time.”
“To prevent a cascading of species extinctions, last year we universally agreed to the Global Biodiversity Framework’s target of protecting 30% of the planet’s land and sea by 2030,” Peter Thomson, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans, told CBS News. “To reach that target, we’ll have to establish Marine Protected Areas in the High Seas, and happily the BBNJ Treaty will give us the legal means to do that.”
“Roughly two thirds of the Earth’s oceans lie beyond national boundaries in an area known as the ‘high seas’ — yet only about 1% of that largely unexplored expanse has been protected. This year, nearly 200 nations finally agreed on the first treaty to protect the high seas,” the Conservation International organization said.
IMO supports new international oceans treaty
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has welcomed the adoption of a new treaty designed to promote the conservation and marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, known as BBNJ.
The historic treaty addresses conservation, the sustainable use of marine biodiversity, marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments and marine technology, among other issues. The BBNJ was adopted during the fifth session at the Intergovernmental Conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It opens for signatures on 20 September and will come into force after it has been ratified by 60 States.

6 June
First steps agreed on plastics treaty after breakthrough at Paris talks
Delegates from 180 nations set out pathway to binding global agreement on tackling plastic pollution as soon as 2025
Nation-state representatives have taken the first concrete step toward a legally binding treaty to regulate plastic, described as the most important green deal since the 2015 international climate agreement.
Attended by delegates from 180 nations and dozens of stakeholders including civil society groups, waste pickers and a coalition of scientists, the talks were the second of five meetings to thrash out the wording of the new treaty, which could come into force in 2025. …in the end delegates were able to broadly agree on key elements that the treaty should contain, laying the groundwork for the future agreement.
The world produces almost 400m tonnes of plastic every year; an estimated 14m tonnes escape into the ocean annually. There is a growing recognition that this vast international problem requires a harmonised global response.

11 April
Ocean’s rise takes a surprising turn
(Politico) Sea levels across the Southeastern United States are rising three times faster than the global average. …
The findings suggest that communities along the U.S. Gulf and Southeastern coastlines, from Houston to New Orleans and Miami to Cape Hatteras, N.C., could be at even greater risk from rising tides than scientists had predicted.
In recent years, the already vulnerable landscape has seen increased flooding, more severe hurricanes and eroding shorelines that once provided protection from storm surges. Millions of Americans are watching their shorelines not-so-gradually slip into the ocean as flood damages rise and insurance costs spike.
Acceleration of U.S. Southeast and Gulf coast sea-level rise amplified by internal climate variability
(Nature Communications) Meltwater from the world’s shrinking glaciers and ice sheets has contributed to a global acceleration in sea-level rise — but it doesn’t fully explain the pattern happening on U.S. coastlines.
Some researchers suggest that warming waters and changing wind patterns have altered the ocean’s circulation in parts of the North Atlantic and the Caribbean, changing the way masses of water flow up to U.S. coastlines. Others say perhaps the increase is being driven by changes in a warm-water current passing through the Gulf of Mexico.

26 March
The High Seas Treaty
By Polo Heung – Associate, ESG Research
A deal on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction has been reached.
The treaty is key to achieving the global target of 30% marine protected areas by 2030, as agreed to at biodiversity COP15.
We think the pact shows solid global efforts towards biodiversity conservation; final text is pending adoption.
(HSBC) “The ship has reached the shore”: After years of negotiations, UN Member States have finally reached an agreement on the High Seas Treaty (HST) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), aiming to conserve the marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ, commonly called the high seas). The treaty fills the gaps in the 30-year old UNCLOS by addressing the set-up of marine protected areas (MPAs), benefit-sharing of marine genetic resources (MGRs), the transfer of marine technology, and the specifications for the environmental impact assessment of deep sea activities, such as exploration and mining, on the high seas.
Key to the 30×30 target: The high seas comprise two-thirds of the world’s ocean. To achieve the global target of protecting 30% of marine areas by 2030, at least 24% of the high seas should be designated as protected areas1. Currently, nearly 99% are unprotected or unregulated. The High Seas Treaty provides a legal mechanism to set up MPAs (despite the unspecified level of protection). For example, we think the activities of distant-water fishing fleets would be limited by MPAs, affecting fish catch and trade in some economies, e.g. mainland China (Fig. 3).
Solidifying ocean governance: Akin to the CBD (5 September 2022), a Conference of Parties (COP) to the HST will be established and will meet regularly to monitor the progress of biodiversity conservation on the high seas and the treaty implementation. As the International Seabed Authority (ISA) expects to finalise the Mining Code for the Deep Sea in July, we think international ocean governance will be stronger than ever.

22 March
Pressure grows on shipping industry to accept carbon levy
World Bank among those urging levy to fund climate action in developing world and encourage fleets to upgrade
A levy on the greenhouse gas emissions produced from shipping would encourage companies to upgrade their fleets, run them more efficiently and seek cleaner fuels and technologies.
Shipping accounts for more than 3% of global carbon emissions, but is regarded as one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise, as ships run on heavy, dirty, high-carbon fuel oil.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), made up of 175 governments, is hosting meetings in London this week at which the contribution of shipping to the climate crisis will be a key focus. Many nations are concerned that the sector has done too little to address its impact on the climate.

15 March
A Rush to Mine the Deep Sea Is Underway. It Must Be Stopped.
Dr. Diva Amon, Director and Founder of SpeSeas; a 2020 National Geographic Emerging Explorer; on the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative’s Executive; a World Economic Forum’s Friend of Ocean Action; and a 2022 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation
(NYT opinion) The deep sea is a trove of biodiversity, rich in living resources used in medicines and critical in regulating the climate and providing spawning and feeding grounds for fish. The planet would not be the same without it.
But the ocean is facing plenty of problems. Pollution can be found in every marine ecosystem, from the estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year to toxic chemicals accumulating in animals living in the deepest deep-sea trenches. The waters are becoming warmer, more acidic and less rich in oxygen. Twenty percent to 25 percent of marine species are already at considerable risk of extinction.
Now a new threat looms.
The ocean could be the next frontier for mining. An obscure but consequential organization formed under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty is finalizing regulations for mining activities in over 40 percent of the planet’s surface. Approval of these rules, in the works since 2014, could come possibly as soon as July. After that, a scramble to mine the deep sea could commence. And once it begins, there will be little hope of reining it in.

13 March
Retreat in Rodanthe (interactive)
Three houses collapsed into the sea. Now, homeowners in this N.C. beach town are retreating.
(WaPo) Along three blocks in a North Carolina beach town, severe erosion is upending life, forcing hard choices and offering a glimpse of the dilemmas other coastal communities will face
As similar shifts befall other communities, scientists say, millions of acres of U.S. land and hundreds of thousands of homes and offices could slip below swelling tide lines over time. Properties in vulnerable areas could lose value, harming homeowners and sapping local tax bases.
“This is a national and a global problem,” said Reide Corbett, an oceanographer and executive director of the Coastal Studies Institute at East Carolina University, who sees in Rodanthe a glimpse of the quandaries that await other places as seas rise, storms intensify and deteriorating shorelines creep closer to human developments.
“We are going to see more and more of these challenges going forward. The process of shoreline erosion is not going to go away,” Corbett said.

5 March
UN delegates reach historic agreement on protecting marine biodiversity in international waters
Secretary-General António Guterres has congratulated UN member countries for finalizing a text to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, calling it a “breakthrough” after nearly two decades of talks.
“This action is a victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come,” said the UN chief in a statement issued by his Spokesperson late Saturday evening just hours after the deal was struck at UN Headquarters in New York, where tough negotiations on the draft treaty have been under way for the past two weeks.
The agreement reached by delegates of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, better known by its acronym BBNJ, is the culmination of UN-facilitated talks that began in 2004.
Already being referred to as the ‘High Seas Treaty’, the legal framework would put more money into marine conservation and covers access to and use of marine genetic resources.
Through his Spokesperson, Mr. Guterres said the treaty is crucial for addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
“It is also vital for achieving ocean-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework,” said the statement, referring to the so-called ‘30 by 30’ pledge to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s lands and inland waters, as well as of marine and coastal areas, by 2030 made by a historic UN conference in Montreal this past December.

14 February
Rising seas threaten ‘mass exodus on a biblical scale’, UN chief warns
António Guterres calls for urgent action as climate-driven rise brings ‘torrent of trouble’ to almost a billion people
(The Guardian)The climate crisis is causing sea levels to rise faster than for 3,000 years, bringing a “torrent of trouble” to almost a billion people, from London to Los Angeles and Bangkok to Buenos Aires, António Guterres said on Tuesday. Some nations could cease to exist, drowned under the waves, he said.
Addressing the UN security council, Guterres said slashing carbon emissions, addressing problems such as poverty that worsen the impact of the rising seas on communities and developing new international laws to protect those made homeless – and even stateless – were all needed. He said sea level rise was a threat-multiplier which, by damaging lives, economies and infrastructure, had “dramatic implications” for global peace and security.
The International Law Commission is assessing the legal situation. In 2020, the UN human rights committee ruled that ​​it was unlawful for governments to return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by the climate crisis.
A new compilation of data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) shows that sea levels are rising fast and the global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years. Sea levels rise as warmer water expands and ice caps and glaciers melt.
Prof Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, said: “Sea level rise imposes risks to economies, livelihoods, settlements, health, wellbeing, food and water security and cultural values in the near to long term.”

13 January
Coastal residents fear ‘hideous’ seawalls will block waterfront views
Up and down US coastlines, cities as diverse as New York, Charleston, Norfolk, Houston and San Francisco are staring down the same dilemma: tall concrete walls could technically protect homes and property from seas rising because of climate change, but the proposals are so potentially hideous that some locals are rejecting them.
“The fights are around many of the same issues,” said Billy Fleming, a director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design who specializes in climate change adaptation. “It’s about people worrying about what these seawall proposals could do to the visual character of a place.”
Coastal communities have for decades ignored warnings about climate change, constructing more and more buildings and homes in flood-exposed areas even as the dangers rise. And now that coastal dwellers are seeing the drastic solutions required to keep them safe, potentially turning their charming cities ugly, people are snapping to attention.


16 December
A joint US-French satellite launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California before dawn on Friday aboard a SpaceX rocket. Its purpose is to map nearly all of the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers. It’s called Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT. The satellite will shoot radar pulses toward Earth, with the signals bouncing back with necessary information. It will also reveal the location and speed of rising sea levels and shifting coastlines, helping to improve flood and drought forecasts, and will cover the globe between the Arctic and Antarctica at least once every three weeks on its three-year mission.
19 October
Oceans are warming faster than ever. Here’s what could come next.
The world’s oceans have been warming for generations, a trend that is accelerating and threatens to fuel more supercharged storms, devastate marine ecosystems and upend the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, according to a new scientific analysis.
(WaPo) Published this week in the journal Nature Reviews, it finds that the upper reaches of the oceans — roughly the top 2,000 meters, or just over a mile — have been heating up around the planet since at least the 1950s, with the most stark changes observed in the Atlantic and Southern oceans.
The authors of the review, who include scientists from China, France, the United States and Australia, write that data shows the heating has both accelerated over time and increasingly has reached deeper and deeper depths. That warming — which the scientists said likely is irreversible through 2100 — is poised to continue, and to create new hotspots around the globe, especially if humans fail to make significant and rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
Past and future ocean warming
(Nature Reviews) In this Review, we outline past and future ocean warming, its drivers and consequences. We begin by outlining the current ocean observing system for monitoring ocean warming, followed by discussion of contemporary global and regional OHC changes. To support adaptation and mitigation, model projections of ocean warming are then provided. The far-reaching consequences of ocean warming on physical, human and biological systems of the Earth system are subsequently outlined, before ending with a discussion of the remaining challenges and outlook for monitoring and understanding ocean warming.

13 October
The uninsurables: how storms and rising seas are making coastlines unliveable
With 10% of Canadian homes now uninsurable due to extreme weather, the climate crisis forces people to make hard choices about where they live
(The Guardian) Most of Canada’s major cities are built on the frontlines of a changing climate – along rivers and coastlines or on flood plains. Although it has the world’s longest coastline, Canada is far from alone in the crisis. Indonesia, which has the second-longest coast, has lost much of its natural protection against the encroaching sea, as mangrove forest disappears and the land sinks due to over-extraction of groundwater. Thawing permafrost has shed thousands of hectares of Russian coastline into the ocean and stretches of Australia’s Gold Coast are at severe risk from erosion and storm-surge damage.
Governments are bracing for the mounting costs from extreme weather to upend life in cities. A recent report warned that floods and droughts could cost the global economy US$5.6tn by 2050.
In the past, provincial governments in Canada offered to compensate homeowners who were thinking about moving away from flood-prone areas as a way of mitigating risk.
But the programmes have seen limited success – both because residents say the compensation is too low to afford a house elsewhere – and because many feel a strong tie to the land, which they are unwilling to sever.

30 September
Amid rising seas, island nations push for legal protections
(AP) — When and if an island nation fully submerges due to rising seas, what happens to the nationalities of its citizens?
This and other related questions are being considered by island nations advocating for changes to international law as climate change threatens their existence.
“Climate change induced sea level rise is a defining issue for many Pacific Island states and like most climate change issues, Pacific Island states have been at the forefront of challenging international law to develop in a way which is equitable and just,” said Fleur Ramsay, head of litigation and climate lead of the Pasifika Program at the Australia-based Environmental Defenders Office.

28 August
Greenland ice sheet set to raise sea levels by nearly a foot, study finds
New research suggests the massive ice sheet is already set to lose more than 3 percent of its mass, even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases today
(WaPo) The findings in Nature Climate Change project that it is now inevitable that 3.3 percent of the Greenland ice sheet will melt — equal to 110 trillion tons of ice, the researchers said. That will trigger nearly a foot of global sea-level rise.
Greenland ice sheet climate disequilibrium and committed sea-level rise
(Nature) Ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet is one of the largest sources of contemporary sea-level rise (SLR). While process-based models place timescales on Greenland’s deglaciation, their confidence is obscured by model shortcomings including imprecise atmospheric and oceanic couplings. Here, we present a complementary approach resolving ice sheet disequilibrium with climate constrained by satellite-derived bare-ice extent, tidewater sector ice flow discharge and surface mass balance data.

27 June-9 July
C. Uday Bhaskar: Lack of global consensus bodes ill for health of world’s oceans
(SCMP) From marine pollution and harmful fishing practices to biodiversity loss and increasing acidification, our oceans are in trouble but long-term issues tend to get short shrift from political leaders
The inability to effectively regulate oceans stems mainly from contradictions, anomalies and the realpolitik surrounding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

A new declaration to help save our oceans
(UNEP) Last week, world leaders adopted a landmark declaration at the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in Lisbon to scale up science-based and innovative actions and address the ocean emergency of habitat loss, ocean acidification and ecosystem degradation.
More than 150 countries gathered at the conference, co-hosted by the governments of Portugal and Kenya, agreed to take actions to strengthen, among other things, marine pollution, blue economies and marine protected areas.
Marine pollution accounts for at least 85 per cent of marine waste, and plastic litter is the chief pollutant. Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our ocean. If nothing is done about it, by 2040, the equivalent of 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline worldwide is projected to flow into the ocean yearly.
The Lisbon declaration ‘Our ocean, our future, our responsibility,’ called on governments to do more to prevent, reduce, and eliminate marine plastic litter – including single-use plastics and microplastics – by contributing to comprehensive life-cycle approaches, encouraging recycling and environmentally sound waste management.
The declaration welcomed the decision made at the fifth UN Environment Assembly held in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this year to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Member States gavelled a historic resolution to forge the agreement by 2024.

World Leaders Pledge Greater Action to Save Oceans from Existing, Future Threats, Adopting Sweeping Political Declaration as Lisbon Conference Concludes
The 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference concluded today with world leaders adopting an action-oriented Political Declaration to save the ocean from existing and future threats, including marine pollution, harmful fishing practices, biodiversity loss, and acidification.
Through the Declaration, titled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility”, Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives participating in the Conference — which focused on Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water) — said that greater ambition is required at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean


8 November
Tuvalu minister to address Cop26 knee deep in water to highlight climate crisis and sea level rise
‘We are sinking’: foreign minister Simon Kofe hopes the speech will demonstrate the reality of sea levels rising for countries on the frontline
The Guardian) Many big polluters have vowed to intensify their carbon cuts over coming decades with some aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But Pacific Island leaders have demanded immediate action, pointing out that the very survival of their low-lying countries is at stake.
Before Cop26, it emerged that one-third of Pacific small island states and territories would be unable to send any government figures to the summit in Glasgow due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The lack of high-level representation of Pacific nations at the meeting led to fears that the concerns of these countries, which are among those most at risk due to the climate crisis, would not be appropriately represented at the summit.
In October, a World Bank report said that projected sea level rise could cost the Marshall Islands, a country in the north Pacific halfway between Hawaii and Australia, its status as a nation.

10 August
#InDeepTrouble: An Overview of Bottom Trawling in Canada
(Pacific Wild) Large bottom trawl nets are currently being dragged along Canada’s seafloor, wiping out vulnerable fish stocks, coral reefs and other invaluable ecosystems. Non-target and endangered species are falling victim to these nets and are tossed overboard as bycatch. Furthermore, bottom trawling is responsible for releasing more than one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by disrupting carbon stored in the seafloor.

5 August
Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)
(Nature) AMOC, a major ocean current system transporting warm surface waters toward the northern Atlantic, has been suggested to exhibit two distinct modes of operation. A collapse from the currently attained strong to the weak mode would have severe impacts on the global climate system and further multi-stable Earth system components. Observations and recently suggested fingerprints of AMOC variability indicate a gradual weakening during the last decades, but estimates of the critical transition point remain uncertain. Here, a robust and general early-warning indicator for forthcoming critical transitions is introduced. Significant early-warning signals are found in eight independent AMOC indices, based on observational sea-surface temperature and salinity data from across the Atlantic Ocean basin. These results reveal spatially consistent empirical evidence that, in the course of the last century, the AMOC may have evolved from relatively stable conditions to a point close to a critical transition.
Scientists warn of Gulf Stream collapse leading to ‘climate catastrophe’ in Canada, world
(Global) The AMOC has been speculated to undergo two modes: the first of which is described as a strong current that helps the gush of warm water from the tropics maintain large parts of Europe’s current climate, while the second is described as a weak mode, which if activated is considered to be one of the world’s climate tipping points towards catastrophic damage.
[U of T professor Kent Moore] pointed to…an event that occurred near the end of the Earth’s last ice age, around 13,000 years ago. As large swaths of ice began to melt from the ice sheets in North America, the sudden influx of previously frozen fresh water being dumped into the ocean prevented the heavier saltwater in the stream from sinking and returning to the equator, resulting in a weaker current. The result, according to Moore, was a cataclysmic event that sent what is considered Europe today into a “deep freeze” for about 1,000 years. As the Gulf Stream “shut down,” so did the flow of warm waters which brought warmth to the Scandinavian seas off the European continent.

2 August
The Seas Are Rising. Could Oysters Help?
How a landscape architect is enlisting nature to defend our coastal cities against climate change—and doing it on the cheap. In New York, Kate Orff will use oyster reefs to mitigate storm surges.
By Eric Klinenberg
(The New Yorker) “Before Buttermilk Channel was dredged, people used to walk from here to Governors Island at low tide,” she said. “There were oysters, tide pools, grasses, lots of colorful marine life, and they were a big part of New York’s coastal-protection system. They acted like breakwaters, absorbing wave energy and slowing the water before it hit the shore. We’ve spent the past one hundred years dredging out everything for shipping and hardening the edges. Now we have a different climate, and we need a different approach.”
A great deal of Orff’s work addresses the inescapable fact that the Atlantic Ocean is rising, and coming for the land. She’s the founder of the design firm SCAPE, the director of the Urban Design Program at Columbia University, and the first landscape architect to win a MacArthur “genius” grant. She’s also at the forefront of an emerging approach to climate resilience that argues we should be building with nature, not just in nature. Its guiding principle is that “gray infrastructure”—the dikes, dams, and seawalls that modern societies use to contain and control water—is often insufficient, and sometimes destructive. Green infrastructure, by contrast, involves strategically deploying wetlands, dunes, mangrove forests, and reefs to reduce threats of catastrophic flooding and coastal erosion, while also revitalizing the land. This carefully designed “second nature,” the thinking goes, could be our second chance.
…the Billion Oyster Project, a nonprofit that aims to reintroduce the bivalve, in vast quantities, to the waterways of New York City—oysters being a critical part of her coastal-infrastructure plans. Correctly deployed, oysters can form dense reefs that slow the movement of water and mitigate the impact of storm surges.

26 July
5 ways climate-driven ocean change can threaten human health
Tiff-Annie Kenny, Adjunct professor, Faculté de médecine, and Mélanie Lemire, Associate professor, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université Laval
Malaya Bishop, Research Assistant, Department of Biology – Food Security, Climate Change, and Indigenous Health, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa
As the world turns to the ocean for “blue economies,” “blue spaces,” “blue health care” and “blue prescriptions,” it’s important to remember the ocean as a site of historic and enduring oppression, exclusion, racism and other violations of human rights. For the health of the ocean and its peoples, the ocean needs to become more equitable — and that means reconciling and healing the histories and relationships of cultures, values and knowledge systems that all share the sea.
(The Conversation) Humans have a deep and complex relationship with the sea. It provides food and essential nutrients, medicine and renewable energy. People swim, surf and scuba dive in this “blue gym.” It’s even an important part of therapeutic recreation, like surf therapy for war veterans and children with autism.
Economies are also bound to the ocean. Fishing, tourism, marine transportation and shipping bring jobs, income and food security, while serving culture and other social determinants of health.
Ocean waters are now warmer, more acidic and hold less oxygen. Ocean ecosystems, already stressed from overfishing and pollution, face escalating risks of further degradation. With melting sea ice, rising sea levels and growing extreme weather events, human health and well-being now face many threats, most aimed at coastal populations.

19 July
As sea levels rise, B.C. coastal cities could face flooding from moon’s ‘wobble’
A lunar cycle that repeats every 18.6 years could worsen floods from climate change’s rising seas
(CBC) “Very, very slowly the axis the moon is orbiting the Earth around is kind of shifting … and the tides are going to respond.”
The issue came to the fore after the release of a new NASA study, published in Nature Climate Change journal earlier this month, called “Rapid increases and extreme months in projections of United States high-tide flooding.”
Although the study only examines impacts on U.S. coastal communities, the same effects would apply to cities in B.C. as well as other coastal areas in Canada, explained [Jess McIver, an assistant professor of astronomy at UBC]. She added that the effects of moon wobble would vary by location.
She said she hopes further studies can specifically examine how the phenomenon, known formally as a “precession effect” of the lunar cycle, could impact Canadian tides.

16 July
High-Tide Flood Risk Will Increase 5 to 15 Times Over Next 15 Years, Putting Coastal Economies at Risk
By Renee Collini
(FlaglerLive.com) The frequency of high-tide flooding along the U.S. coasts has doubled since 2000, and it’s expected to increase five to 15 times more in the next 30 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns in a new report released July 14, 2021.
I work with coastal communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico that are facing the risks of rising seas as they try to avoid preventable damages and costs, such as infrastructure failures and falling property values. Information like the NOAA report is critical to helping these communities succeed.
Last year, the U.S. averaged four days of high-tide flooding, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story – regionally, several areas saw far more. There were record-breaking numbers of high-tide flooding days in 2020 along the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic coasts. The city of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, jumped from three days of high-tide flooding in 2000 to 22 days in 2020. …
Sea level rise disproportionately impacts poorer, marginalized communities, and the impact of high-tide flooding has been no exception. People living in some of the most underserved coastal communities are facing increases in their insurance premiums because of the flood and storm risks, sometimes with more than 90% of the insurance policies in a single ZIP code projected to increase.

14 July
Scientists aim to build a detailed seafloor map by 2030 to reveal the ocean’s unknowns
Dr. Sean Mullan teaches in the applied ocean mapping graduate program of the School of Ocean Technology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Marine Institute in St. John’s.
(The Conversation) Marine scientists often feel like they’re fumbling in the dark. The global ocean covers about 71 per cent of our planet and is central to life as it exists on Earth. But only about 20 per cent of the seafloor has been directly mapped so far.
Survey ships equipped with sonars called multibeam echo sounders are being used to measure the depth of the seafloor to better understand it. But the size of the job is enormous. A single survey ship would take about 350 years to adequately map most of the seabed deeper than 200 metres, and it would take another 620 years to map the shallower areas.
We must map the ocean faster. Today, marine surveying, or hydrography, is central to major international initiatives, including one that aims to see all of the ocean floor mapped in unprecedented detail by 2030.
A more detailed and accurate global model of water depth would reveal the seafloor’s shape, and the data can be used to understand seabed composition. This will increase the safety of marine navigation, inform security and defence operations, improve oceanographic and climate studies, support various sectors of the sustainable ocean economy and guide decisions on habitat conservation. But it could also come with risks and costs.
The Battle for the Ocean Floor
(OZY) Only 20% of Earth’s ocean floor has been mapped. Vast stretches of our seas are less understood than the surfaces of Mars and Venus. Yet that great unknown is now emerging as an untouched economic frontier. From mining firms to Big Tech, industries are queueing up to explore and exploit the deep seas. So get ready to dive into a world of mystery and wonder, learn about battles bubbling beneath the surface of the oceans, meet individuals making waves down below and revisit the myriad ways in which the sea has inspired everything from myths to the military.
Mining rare minerals and metals from beneath the ocean could avoid the environmental damage of on-shore mining, and fuel our sustainable transition. In the most common version of deep-sea mining, huge excavation robots scour the seabed for polymetallic nodules, small potato-sized clusters of key minerals such as cobalt and nickel. Resources like these are in high demand for building technologies like new batteries, which will be crucial to electrifying our society. These mining activities, however, might damage deep-sea ecosystems we know very little about. Which is why NGOs such as Greenpeace and even some companies, like BMW, are calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining.
Governments are increasingly diving into the deep. Several countries are now realizing how crucial oceanic internet cables are. Russian submarines have been known to monitor or even tap undersea cables. And the European Union wants to expand its offering of internet cables to promote its own technological sovereignty. In the meantime, international institutions are trying to keep order. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a little-known Jamaica-based institution related to the United Nations, will in the coming years decide on the future of deep-sea mining. Companies and NGOs are holding their breath.

Extreme heat waves are putting lakes and rivers in hot water this summer
(The Conversation) Many people may perceive lakes and rivers to be refuges from unprecedented heat, but freshwater systems are no less sensitive. Heat waves have killed thousands of fish in Alaska as temperatures exceeded the lethal limit for coldwater fishes.
This year’s hot and dry summer could collapse the salmon fishery in the Sacramento River in California. In British Columbia and Yukon, salmon numbers have declined by as much as 90 per cent and have led the federal government to shut down 60 per cent of the commercial and First Nations communal salmon fishery.

12 July
How countries are turning the tide on marine plastic pollution
(UNEP) More and more countries are joining the Clean Seas campaign to fight against marine litter and plastic pollution. Over 60 countries – both coastal and landlocked – have signed up to this global movement with ambitious pledges and commitments.
Many have pledged to reduce or eradicate single-use plastics from their societies through stronger legislation and regulation. Others have committed to invest more in national recycling facilities and promote action plans to prevent harm to the coastal and marine environment.
The next phase of Clean Seas is expanding on the source-to-sea approach focusing on the root cause of marine plastic, which mainly comes from the land-based sources and works its way to the sea through lakes, rivers, and waterways.

8 July
‘Heat dome’ probably killed 1bn marine animals on Canada coast, experts say
British Columbia scientist says heat essentially cooked mussels: ‘The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk’
(The Guardian) More than 1 billion marine animals along Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died from last week’s record heatwave, experts warn, highlighting the vulnerability of ecosystems unaccustomed to extreme temperatures.
… The mass death of shellfish would temporarily affect water quality because mussels and clams help filter the sea, Harley said, keeping it clear enough that sunlight reaches the eelgrass beds while also creating habitats for other species.
Fisheries in hot water
Extreme heat boils Canada’s waters and shellfish (Reuters video)

7 July
The scientists fighting to save the ocean’s most important carbon capture system
The population of kelp forests, which help clean the air, has fallen dramatically. That has environmentalists worried.
(WaPo) Kelp forests cover a quarter of the world’s coastlines, stretching from Antarctica to Australia, Mexico to Alaska, providing food and shelter for thousands of species, while sucking carbon from the atmosphere. But over the past decade, thanks to warming waters and overfishing, they’re disappearing.

23 June
Cloud spraying and hurricane slaying: how ocean geoengineering became the frontier of the climate crisis
Around the world, dozens of ingenious projects are trying to ‘trick’ the ocean into absorbing more CO2. But critics warn of unforeseen consequences
(The Guardian) Tom Green has a plan to tackle climate change. The British biologist and director of the charity Project Vesta wants to turn a trillion tonnes of CO2 into rock, and sink it to the bottom of the sea.
Green admits the idea is “audacious”. It would involve locking away atmospheric carbon by dropping pea-coloured sand into the ocean. The sand is made of ground olivine – an abundant volcanic rock, known to jewellers as peridot – and, if Green’s calculations are correct, depositing it offshore on 2% of the world’s coastlines would capture 100% of total global annual carbon emissions.
The plan relies on a natural process called weathering. “Weathering has been working on the planet for billions of years,” says Green, a graduate of Harvard Business School who runs Project Vesta from San Francisco. “When rain falls on volcanic rocks, they dissolve a little in the water, causing a chemical reaction that uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon ends up in the ocean, where it’s used by marine-calcifying organisms like corals and shell-making animals, whose skeletons and shells sink to the bottom of the ocean as sediment and eventually become limestone.”
The idea of using the sea to absorb excess carbon is not far-fetched, says Green. Ocean water can hold 150 times more CO2 than air, per unit of volume. “The ocean has already taken up about 30% of the excess carbon dioxide that we’ve emitted as a society,” he says. He and his colleagues are gearing up to test their process in two similar Caribbean coves, one acting as an untouched “control” in the experiment.
There remain many unknowns. Would such an intervention work? Who gets to decide if it should go ahead? Could there be side-effects? It is complex chemistry, and the natural process of weathering would be accelerated to an unnatural pace. Our understanding of the workings of the ocean is a mere drop in the proverbial. But with our race to mend the planet having taken on Sisyphean overtones, there is still hope that the vast, churning seas can be our lifeline.

June 2021
Maya Lin, Ghost Trees and Sea Level Rise
(Climate Science) Analyses of recent satellite photos show large swaths of forest along the east coast of the U.S. that are dead and/or dying. Visible from space, some tens of thousands of acres of coastal forest habitat have been converted to shrub-land or marsh habitat. This unique land cover of standing dead and fallen tree trunks was gray in color and dubbed, “ghost forest.”
The major portion of the die-off occurred after a five-year drought, which was then followed by a hurricane [Irene] in 2011 that inundated the land under a six-foot wall of sea-water. This combination of extreme events, according to Dr. Emily Ury from Duke University [Rapid deforestation of a coastal landscape driven by sea-level rise and extreme events], was “not normal. Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously … and it is not just a local issue.” Rising sea-levels, and salinity, can penetrate well inland and can lead to dramatic die offs and loss of coastal forests.
… what we have is a confluence of factors that further complicate, intensify and contribute to climate change; these include sea level rise, salt water intrusion, storm surge, dead trees no longer fixing carbon and taking carbon dioxide [CO2] out of the atmosphere, and then as they decay putting CO2 back into the atmosphere which results in more warming and round we go again.

29 April
Watching a coral reef die as climate change devastates one of the most pristine tropical island areas on Earth
(The Conversation) The Chagos Archipelago is one of the most remote, seemingly idyllic places on Earth. Coconut-covered sandy beaches with incredible bird life rim tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from any continent. Just below the waves, coral reefs stretch for miles along an underwater mountain chain.
It’s a paradise. At least it was before the heat wave.

25 February
Canada’s oceans agenda
With over 7 million Canadians living in coastal communities, Canada has a lot at stake in protecting our 3 oceans and coasts. We rely on our oceans for food, jobs, clean air and much more. Our stewardship of this important natural resource is part of our social fabric and is woven into the vast history of maritime and Indigenous traditions.


2 December
World leaders are waking up to the ocean’s role in a healthy planet
(Nature) Fourteen nations have made an unprecedented and welcome commitment to use marine ecosystems sustainably. It is equally important to establish a system to hold them to account.

19 November
UK to support plans for new global treaty to ‘turn tide’ on plastic pollution
Lord Goldsmith says Britain, the second biggest per capita producer of plastic waste, could play leading role in tackling crisis
Britain has thrown its weight behind a new global agreement to tackle the plastic pollution crisis, which Lord Goldsmith said would go “far beyond” existing international agreements.
This week, the Guardian revealed there is growing support for such a treaty internationally, but that neither the UK nor the US, the world’s biggest per capita producers of plastic waste, had yet pledged their support.
The minister for Pacific and the Environment said on Wednesday he believes it is time to start negotiations on a UN treaty on plastics similar to the Paris agreement on the climate crisis. He suggested the UK could provide a leading role in negotiating the terms of such an agreement, as it had with the leaders’ pledge for nature.

September 2020
Considering Indigenous Peoples and local communities in governance of the global ocean commons
By Marjo K. Vierros et al.
(Science Direct) The United Nations are currently negotiating a new international legally-binding instrument to govern the global ocean commons, a vast area beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) owned by everyone but not cared for by any single entity. Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have been underrepresented in the debate about governance of ABNJ despite their internationally recognized rights and their role as custodians of many globally-significant migratory species that travel between coasts and high seas. Here we use examples of active transboundary connectivity by migratory species as case studies to highlight the relevance of IPLCs on islands, coasts and beyond to the governance of the global ocean commons, and make a case for their essential and beneficial inclusion in it. Many migratory species are culturally and economically important to IPLCs, who are frequently the first to suffer if these species are overexploited or decline due to inadequate management in ABNJ. Four case studies (Pacific salmon, Marine Turtles, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Northern fur seal) illustrate knowledge, innovations and practices of IPLCs that have global importance in informing strategies for conservation, sustainable and equitable use of marine species in general. IPLCs can contribute to enriching the diversity of approaches and solutions, and by elaborating on principles directly relevant for governance of ABNJ within the UN process and beyond. (Marine Policy, Volume 119, September 2020, 104039)

26 February
NASA satellite photos show Antarctica melting in record-setting February heatwave
Before and after photos of Eagle Island ice caps were taken by Landsat Science’s Operational Land Imager during a heatwave between Feb. 4 and Feb. 13. The NASA Earth Observatory said the photos show the heatwave melted 20 per cent of the island’s snow in a matter of nine days.

13 February
A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas
An estimated 600 million people live directly on the world’s coastlines, among the most hazardous places to be in the era of climate change. According to scientific projections, the oceans stand to rise by one to four feet by the end of the century, with projections of more ferocious storms and higher tides that could upend the lives of entire communities.
Many people face the risks right now. Two sprawling metropolitan areas offer a glimpse of the future. One rich, one poor, they sit on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: the San Francisco Bay Area (population 7 million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million). … in both places, climate change has magnified years of short-sighted decisions. Manila allowed groundwater to be pumped out so fast that the land sagged and turned into a bowl just as the sea was rising. The Bay Area allowed people to build right at the water’s edge, putting homes, highways, even airports at risk of catastrophic flooding.  Now, Manila and the Bay Area face tough choices. They could adapt to the rising tide, which could mean moving people out of harm’s way. Or, they could try to force the water to adapt to their needs by raising their defenses. For leaders, politically tough decisions lie ahead. What do they save on the water’s edge, what do they forsake and how do they reimagine their coastal cities in an age of climate disruptions?

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