Posts Tagged ‘IPSO’

State of the Oceans

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Well, this is grim reading.

The International Program on the State of the Ocean – IPSO – has published a summary report of a meeting of late June. Twenty seven fisheries and ocean scientists and other experts from 8 organizations and 6 countries assessed the current state of the oceans. A lot of global expertize resides in this group of people. The ‘long’ summary includes a list of 100 references published in peer reviewed journals, a lot of them from 2010 and 2011 – the report is evidence based, to say the least.

And the evidence indicates that the oceans are well along the way of the worst case scenarios published in the IPCC report of 2007. Ice is melting faster in the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, and Antarctica; ocean surface temperatures are rising; sea levels are rising; increase in ocean acidification is measurable; methane trapped in sediments is beginning to be released; changes are occurring in the distribution and diversity of marine species, in primary production and in harmful algal blooms; and food webs continue to simplify, with jellyfish too often becoming the top predator in the ecosystem.

Sea surface temperatures, measured globally by satellite, are rising. (

The lead-off statement of the summary is clear enough: The biggest threat to our ocean’s health is climate change, with its rising sea temperatures and acidification. Because this has become so difficult to resolve, we must at least reduce the other main stressors on the ocean to give it the best chance of dealing with climate change.

What are the other stresses whose impact we could reduce? They are too familiar: overfishing, habitat destruction, extraction pollution, and alien species introductions.

Negative synergy of these stresses will certainly drive any resilience to climate change ever lower. For example, global coral reefs, coping with rising temperatures and acidification, along with the other stresses, have little chance of surviving this century.

Those parts of the Great Barrier Reef that are most protected appear to be the healthiest, the most resilient (

The IPSO report does have some strong recommendations.
– Reduce CO2 emissions immediately.
– Restore the structure and function of marine ecosystems.
– Reduce and close fisheries, and develop a holistic approach to sustainable fisheries management.
– Establish far more marine protected areas.
– Reduce pollution from agricultural runoff and from resource extraction.
– Apply the precautionary principle that everyone seems to agree with and then ignores.
– Promote effective governance of the high seas through the UN.

And then some stark conclusions:
– Current consumer values coupled with current rates of population increase are not sustainable.
– Timelines are shrinking rapidly – and the longer we wait to act, the greater the cost.
– Core values of human society and its relation to the natural world and the resources on which we all rely must be re-evaluated.

What do you think? In the face of the world’s growing economic and social problems, are we capable of changing our core values? Are we capable of finding the global resolve to meet any of the recommendations before we run out of time, and extreme and irreversible change is upon us?

Opportunities still exist. The IPSO report should be read as an opening salvo, leading up to the next UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June, 2012. Rio+20, as it also calls itself, apparently without any intended irony.

All the right things get said leading up to Earth Summits.