While the Trump administration pulls out of Paris Climate Accord and prepares for offshore drilling of fossil fuels on both coasts:
“California has long been a world leader in working to address the impacts of climate change. California agencies are working to address sea level rise and ocean acidification, to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, and to prepare California’s fisheries for the effects of climate change.”
The ocean is a quiet workhorse for our life here in California. It’s a source of fun and relaxation, awe and beauty, but it also gets dinner on the table for many of us. As a marine scientist and an ocean policy expert, respectively, we think about the ocean all day long. More and more we are connecting the dots between ocean health and climate, as the ocean plays a crucial role in helping to regulate Earth’s climate by absorbing up to 30% of global carbon emissions.
On Monday, the annual U.N. climate talks will commence in Madrid. This year’s climate negotiations, the “Blue COP,” will include more discussions than ever before on the role of oceans in a changing climate. The relevance to our California way of life cannot be overstated.
The scientists unequivocally say the ocean is ground zero for climate change. Here in California, we are already seeing this — from ocean acidification and its growing impacts on our shellfish industry to the effects of marine heatwaves off the coast. Together these events signal that a changing ocean will also change what we get from the sea, driving growing concerns on the part of commercial and sport fishermen.
California is far from gloom and doom. While the federal government drags its feet and protracted international negotiations resume, California’s natural resource managers and research science community are on the job. As a state, we are taking action, making significant investments to build resilience to climate change impacts, and exploring solutions to the systemic changes we see in the ocean. Case in point — we are home to the world’s largest network of marine protected areas, which could now serve as buffers against climate change.
In 2012, following an extensive public planning process and significant financial investment by the state and philanthropic partners, California completed its statewide MPA network. California’s groundbreaking, science-based statewide network of marine protected areas — now covering 16% of state waters and encompassing 852 square miles — is the first of its kind in the United States.
The management effort that has followed is comprehensive and strategic, with a focus on scientific monitoring, interagency coordination, public education and outreach, and enforcement. Indeed, this follow-through represents the second half of California’s MPA success story. Seven years later, a new study suggests that the marine protected network is already showing signs of success. But within this success might be a hidden nugget, an investment we made as Californians that now has relevance in a changing ocean.
California has long been a world leader in working to address the impacts of climate change. California agencies are working to address sea level rise and ocean acidification, to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, and to prepare California’s fisheries for the effects of climate change.