Oceans: The planet's forgotten lungs

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Sustentator, Paris, France

Among the many  effects of climate change, oceans are tipping into trouble. Advocates say they are in urgent need of protection in the Climate Negotiations.
 
 
"I propose an exercise. Breathe deeply and exhale air. Ready? Come back to do it again... This second time you must thank the possibility to breathe and have oxygen to the oceans". Thus, with a simple and reflexive exercise, the documentary Racing Extinction achieved this year anticipate cop21 on the risk on the oceans are in the world and the consequent and irreversible damage that is being generated in the flora and wildlife that inhabits them.

That same concern today moved to the estate of the "climate summit" to mark the Action Day, which formed the oceans main part of the exhibits to be considered "the largest and most important ecosystem protect". Why it is important? Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) explains it perfectly: "Instead of talking about Earth, we should call it Planet Ocean. If the oceans were a country, they would be the world's seventh largest economy".

Oceans produce between 50 and 80% of oxygen and consume more than 25% of carbon dioxide (CO2) of the planet. That is, as we had anticipated conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall, along with forests, one of the main ecosystems of which depends on human and animal life. But unfortunately, in both cases the negative action of man is greatly affecting their conservation.

There are two major problems facing the oceans today product of human activity. On the one hand, pollution mainly from a common problem that knows no distinction between surface and ground water: waste. According to Cesar Harada, director of Protei INC, 300 tons of waste per day are dumped into the ocean. That has made that today, for example, there is a "plastic island" at the meeting point of two streams of the Pacific Ocean that affects not only water quality, but also the lives of birds that eat what they find there, from labels even to whole bottle caps.

On the other hand, when we talk about climate change and the reference to the emission of CO2, often we do not contemplate that the ocean is one of the most affected. Why? Through acidification, a process whereby the pH of the ocean is reduced due to absorb more CO2. That is, a greater amount of satisfaction of needs based on fossil fuels, more CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, further acidification of the oceans.

The impacts of this phenomenon are staggering: coral reefs will corrode faster endangering its existence, some species that inhabit affected their conditions of adaptation to increased acidity and this impacts with an imbalance in the entire food chain (not only the animal world, but also of man, because there are many communities that are economically dependent on fishing). Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of Suez Environment, blunt about the situation appeared: "The water problem will be the first symptom of global warming, because water is the first that is evidenced".
 
To cope with this situation, Harada believes that three specific actions are required: measure, to determine the current state of affairs of the oceans; understand this problem to act; and protect this knowledge by measuring and making pre consciousness. But much Harada as Kakabadse consider not only the authorities are responsible for the situation to establish control and conservation policies, but also the social organizations and civil society itself which should also be involved in their care. Such is the case of some students from Hong Kong (Japan) who designed a robot capable of moving through the water and detect plastic that live there. That is, we would answer the first and second action Harada: measuring and understanding. In this regard, Kakabadse considers vital the generation and promotion of Marine Protected Areas to ensure care for the natural resource, but also encourage the participation of local communities.

It may not correspond to a place where one can "put your feet on solid ground", it may not have beautiful and thick trees to contemplate and perhaps not an area of ​​housing for men. But the truth is that the oceans are vital to all life forms, they give us the possibility to breathe and enjoy cleaner air, they offer a unique diversity of flora and fauna that surpasses all fiction. Ultimately, as emphasized Harada, "the only place where we can find life is in the oceans". Let us not forget this lung of Planet Earth (or Ocean).