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Q&A – Can we protect our oceans?

In this video, Dr Ceri Lewis and Professor Tim Lenton discuss ways we can protect our oceans in a changing climate.
So this week, we’ve been looking at life in the oceans, and how benefiting that might also interact with positive action on the climate. I’m delighted to be joined by my colleague, Carrie Lewis to talk about these matters, on which she is an expert. Carrie, should we start with ocean acidification and how can we tackle that big problem? Well, anything that tackles carbon dioxide emissions going into our atmosphere also will tackle ocean acidification. Excellent. It’s really that increasing CO2 that the ocean is taking up that’s driving down the ocean pH and altering that carbonate chemistry. So any of these carbon cutting emissions strategies would also– Superb. Affect ocean acidificaiton.
I guess that means that the other, more wild card ideas like geoengineering, cooling the climate by sticking aerosols in the stratosphere, the problem with that is it’s not giving this co-benefit. No, it’s not reducing the driver of ocean acidification, which is purely the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So we really need to reduce those carbon dioxide emissions to actually tackling this problem of ocean acidification. Excellent. And I guess ironically, if you cool the climate and the CO2 is up there, a bit more of it will absorb in the water. Absolutely. So it gets worse. Ha. OK. Well that’s good. That’s somewhere where international action and government action is helpful.
But I’m sure learners will be thinking, what can I do in my own life, even if they live many hundreds of miles from the ocean. So yeah, how can they help? Well, on CO2 emissions, simple life changes can also impact your carbon footprint. Changing your diets to be more vegetarian-based. Brilliant. Really quite has a big impact on your carbon footprint. How often do you use your car, simple things like that. They might sound like small things, but actually they would all add up to quite big changes. And we’re using water in our homes, and washing stuff down the plug hole. I mean, let’s talk a bit about plastics, and then your expertise in microplastics.
Are we all washing, you know, pollution basically down the plug hole to the ocean? - Unfortunately, yes. So we just had a microbead ban come into place. So the 20 little plastic beads that are in our face washes, those will be phased out. So that’s a really good step towards removing how much plastic pollution goes down our plug holes. But there are many other sources of plastics that will eventually end up in the oceans. 10% of what we use will eventually make its way to the oceans, by blowing off landfill sites, making its way down waterways. So simply reducing how much plastic you use in your everyday life would make a big impact into what’s getting into the oceans.
And how does it compare, what we’re doing as consumers, to industry? Because I think most of us would tend to automatically blame industry, and think that they’re the big polluter. But– Actually, if you look at the chemicals that we use our everyday life, again those are washing down our sinks, and our drains, and ending up in the ocean. Most of them will be through sewage treatment works, because they’re not solids. They’re dissolved chemicals. And if we look at those biggest priority pollutants going into oceans by riverways, that actually most of those are coming from domestic use, rather than those big industrial companies. Wow. So as individuals, including our learners, actually we can make more of a difference, which is fantastic.
We can really reduce the amount of pollutants that go down our drains, and our sinks, and end up in the oceans, by riverways. And actually, by removing localised pollution, you’re also helping ecosystems build in more resilience to those bigger global processes. Superb. C if we talk a little bit about those ecosystems, because weren’t some of the really important ones that support fisheries, and tourism? How? Are there strategies by which we can really benefit those ecosystems in a holistic way? You had talked about building their resilience. Absolutely. So we’re stressing marine ecosystems our for new resources, ocean acidification being one. But habitat destruction, exploitation, and these pollutants, these chemicals that we are using ending up in these environments.
The more of those stresses we reduce, the more resilience these systems have to cope with the things that are harder to change. So managing the use of these ecosystems, the fisheries, the exploitation, and the chemical load going into them would really help these ecosystems be able to cope with the slightly harder things, like climate change. Right, because they’re under this multi-pronged attack. And I guess if we get on a good path, and start to recover those systems, we actually can be benefiting some of the communities that might be based on fishing around those ecosystems. And most of these things come down to how you shop, how you spend your money.
If you think sensibly about where you’re putting your money, if you’re buying sustainable products, sustainably resourced fish, environmentally friendly products. You’re starting to remove some of those stresses we’re putting on marine habitats. Fantastic news. Thank you, arrie. So learners, we can all do something to solve these ocean problems, and tackle climate change at the same time. Great.

Professor Tim Lenton discusses with marine biologist Dr Ceri Lewis ways we can protect our oceans in a changing climate.

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Climate Change: Solutions

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