This month is the fifth anniversary of my joining Conservation International. In that time, I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most beautiful and interesting corners of our oceans – from the stunning coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia to the wonders of the Galápagos Islands and the unique coral columns of the Abrolhos Islands in Brazil. However, along with the joy of visiting these places and meeting the people who depend on them every day, I feel a sadness knowing that climate change is already eroding all of these ocean ecosystems.
If we start now, we can prepare for many of the impacts of climate change – by protecting mangroves that protect coastal communities from the impacts of sea level rise and by conserving coral reefs that are naturally resilient to ocean warming.
However, how we prepare for ocean acidification is less clear. One third of the carbon we produce – by driving our cars, from power plants, from deforestation –is very quickly dissolving in the oceans and rapidly increasing their acidity. This change will have a potentially devastating impact on coral reefs and important fisheries such as salmon, lobster and clams.
The only known remedy for this particular symptom of climate change is lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. And unless we do this soon, the beautiful places I have seen over the last five years won’t be there for my children.
Emily Pidgeon is the director of CI’s Marine Climate Change program.