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The Ocean And Its Climate Crisis

Globally, fishing is a $140 billion to $150 billion business annually

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Oceans, boats
Lobster boats are moored in the harbor in Stonington, Maine. VOA

To stand at the edge of an ocean is to face an eternity of waves and water, a shroud covering seven-tenths of the Earth.

Hidden below are mountain ranges and canyons that rival anything on land. There you will find the Earth’s largest habitat, home to billions of plants and animals — the vast majority of the living things on the planet.

In this little-seen world, swirling super-highway currents move warm water thousands of miles north and south from the tropics to cooler latitudes, while cold water pumps from the poles to warmer climes.

Ocean
Artisanal fishing boats moored in the harbor at Nouadhibou, the main port in Mauritania. VOA

It is a system that we take for granted as much as we do the circulation of our own blood. It substantially regulates the Earth’s temperature, and it has been mitigating the recent spike in atmospheric temperatures, soaking up much of human-generated heat and carbon dioxide. Without these ocean gyres to moderate temperatures, the Earth would be uninhabitable.

In the last few decades, however, the oceans have undergone unprecedented warming. Currents have shifted. These changes are for the most part invisible from land, but this hidden climate change has had a disturbing impact on marine life — in effect, creating an epic underwater refugee crisis.

Reuters has discovered that from the waters off the East Coast of the United States to the coasts of West Africa, marine creatures are fleeing for their lives, and the communities that depend on them are facing disruption as a result.

ocean, fish, sardines
A fisherman unloads sardines at the port in Matosinhos, Portugal. VOA

As waters warm, fish and other sea life are migrating poleward, seeking to maintain the even temperatures they need to thrive and breed. The number of creatures involved in this massive diaspora may well dwarf any climate impacts yet seen on land.

In the U.S. North Atlantic, for example, fisheries data show that in recent years, at least 85 percent of the nearly 70 federally tracked species have shifted north or deeper, or both, when compared to the norm over the past half-century. And the most dramatic of species shifts have occurred in the last 10 or 15 years.

Fish have always followed changing conditions, sometimes with devastating effects for people, as the starvation that beset Norwegian fishing villages in past centuries when the herring failed to appear one season will attest. But what is happening today is different: The accelerating rise in sea temperatures, which scientists primarily attribute to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing a lasting shift in fisheries.

The changes below the surface are not an academic matter.

Ocean, lobster
Lindsay Copeland Frazier holds lobsters caught on her father’s boat in Stonington, Maine. VOA

Globally, fishing is a $140 billion to $150 billion business annually, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and in some parts of the world, seafood accounts for half of the average person’s diet. But the effects of this mass migration in the world’s ocean are also much more intimate than that.

From lobstermen in Maine to fishermen in North Carolina, livelihoods are at stake. For sardine-eating Portuguese and seafood-loving Japanese, cultural heritages are at risk. And a burgeoning aquaculture industry, fueled in part by the effects of climate change, is decimating traditional fishing in West Africa and destroying coastal mangrove swamps in Southeast Asia.

Also Read: 60 percent Wildlife Lost In Just Four Decades: Report

Reuters journalists have spent more than a year collecting their stories and little-reported data to bring you this series revealing the natural disaster unfolding beneath the whitecaps. (VOA)

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Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders to Stop Using ‘Creative PR’

Greta Thunberg accuses world leaders of 'creative PR'

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Climate activist Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg a is a young climate activist from Sweden. Wikimedia Commons

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg has called upon world leaders to stop using “clever accounting and creative PR” to avoid real action on climate change.

Speaking at a UN climate change summit, Thunberg said the next decade would define the planet’s future, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

She accused world leaders of making constant attempts to find loopholes to avoid making substantial changes.

The teenage activist’s appearance came after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called her a “brat”.

“The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” the 16-year-old Swede told the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid, drawing applause.

Summits on climate change seemed “to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition”, she added.

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg said the next decade would define the planet’s future. Wikimedia Commons

The clock was ticking as the decade comes to a close, she said.

“In just three weeks we will enter a new decade, a decade that will define our future. Right now, we are desperate for any sign of hope,” she said.

This was meant to be a big moment in the talks, the elixir of the “Greta effect” bringing new energy to a flagging process.

The teenager is almost certainly the most famous person here, attracting far more attention than other celebrities like Al Gore, and the UN badly needs a boost.

Her talk came over as measured, grounded in the latest research, and avoided the flash of hurt and anger she displayed in New York in September.

Looking around the hall, it was striking how many of the national delegations had not turned up for this morning session at the conference.

A snub by the big fossil fuel economies? Or maybe they were too busy in the negotiations themselves?

In any event, the passion among the millions of young people who’ve taken to the streets to demand action on climate change feels very remote from the diplomatic struggles in these halls.

Thunberg’s speech comes after the far-right Brazilian leader lashed out at her after she expressed concern about the killing of indigenous Brazilians in the Amazon.

Also Read- “The World is Watching”, says Antonio Guterres

“Greta said that the Indians died because they were defending the Amazon,” Bolsonaro told reporters.

“It’s impressive that the press is giving space to a brat like that,” he added, using the Portuguese word for brat “pirralha”.

The activist responded by changing her Twitter bio to Pirralha. (IANS)