Arowana Impact Capital

Life Below Water (Part III):
Why Ocean Science is Critical

to a Sustainable Future

In the last edition of a three-part series, Arowana Impact Capital joins the United Nations in mapping out a sustainable future by saving the world’s oceans.

2021 kicks off a decade of ocean science for sustainable development. The opportunity to reverse the course of history – that is, from degradation of the environment to its restoration and sustainable use – hinges upon the data driven actions we take today.

The Ocean Decade, from now until 2030, turns the spotlight on the science community in intensifying efforts to protect our waters and save the blue economy, especially in the face of numerous challenges.

The health of our oceans, which is vital to all life on the planet, has reached a “critical point,” a 2020 study noted. “Most fish stocks are overexploited; climate change and increased dissolved carbon dioxide are changing ocean chemistry and disrupting species throughout food webs; and the fundamental capacity of the ocean to regulate the climate has been altered.”

“The decade aims to encourage the science community, the policymakers, the private sector, and the civil society to think beyond ‘business as usual’ and aspire for real change,” the researchers said.

Real change begins at this pivotal point in the climate crisis. For one, the capacity to generate reliable scientific research is still “unevenly distributed” across the world, according to the United Nations. Because of this, countries and territories that are unable to invest in ocean research could fall further behind in the global agenda of environmental protection and sustainable livelihood creation.

The Ocean Decade, however, gives governments across the world a “common framework for action,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Climate action, in light of sustainable development, however, cannot succeed without stakeholders first having a comprehensive picture of where we are in our restoration efforts and how far we are from achieving our sustainability goals –  we need science to give us that hard evidence.

Water resources cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet the absence of a global unified research system for ocean scientists to reference, collaborate on and share with one another makes our climate response all the more difficult to implement.

The world’s oceans are critical drivers of global climate and weather-related natural hazards. Photo by Marek Okon on Unsplash

“The oceans are critical drivers of global climate and weather-related natural hazards,” said Dr. Sue Barrell, former chief scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia. “Deeper insights on ocean science, powered by enhanced ocean observing and data sharing systems, will dramatically advance understanding and modelling of the whole earth system and benefit all people, everywhere.”

The United Nations recognises the value of ocean research, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water). SDG 14.A aims to “increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing states and least developed countries.”

The IOC is the UN agency mandated to support global ocean science and services “to achieve a healthy, safe, and resilient ocean for sustainable development by 2030 and beyond”. An example of the IOC’s call to action is the development of science-based solutions for fisheries management, the UN said.

“This alone will have a significant impact on helping many countries to achieve the SDGs needed to support the health and well-being of their communities and to achieve food security,” the agency said. 

 Apart from mitigating the impacts of climate change, the ocean science we deliver today should also aim towards a more equitable future. Achieving SDG 14 will create a domino effect on other Global Goals.

“For instance, SDG 14 aims to eliminate overfishing and illegal and destructive fishing practices, pre-conditions required to meet a large number of other SDGs such as no poverty (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), and reduced inequalities (SDG 10),” scientists reported.

“Make peace with nature
to deliver a prosperous and equitable world for all,
leaving no one behind.”

“While there is an urgency to modifying human behaviour to allow sustainable development pathways, there is still a need in some cases to further understand the magnitude of the problem to find and put into practice more effective solutions,” they wrote.

Restoring the ocean’s ability to nurture humanity and regulate the climate is a “defining challenge,” the UN’s Guterres said. But to enjoy a prosperous world where no one is left behind, we must first “make peace with nature”. 

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