By Olivia Lopez and Ryan Ono
From hurricanes in the gulf to wildfires in the west, U.S. communities are already seeing profound impacts from climate change. Meanwhile, global average temperatures are on track to rise an additional 2 degrees Celsius under current policies.
To address the crisis, we need an “all hands on deck” approach that decarbonizes sectors from electricity to transportation, pursues sustainable carbon dioxide removal, builds resilience to the climate impacts that we can no longer avoid, and ensures climate justice for frontline communities.
The ocean is a major part of the solution. In fact, ocean-based climate measures could reduce the gap between our current emissions trajectory and the emissions that would be compatible with the Paris Agreement by 6 to 21 percent by 2050, according to an analysis by the High-Level Panel.
Sponsored by Representative Raúl Grijalva, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act is the first comprehensive U.S. bill on ocean-climate action. It maps a wide range of ocean-based mitigation and adaptation measures—from reducing shipping emissions to creating climate-resilient fisheries—that we can bring to the fight against climate change, while simultaneously supporting social justice and an economic recovery. Topline elements of the bill are below.
We need to decrease greenhouse gas pollution dramatically to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, which is the goal set by the Paris Agreement to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In the coming year, the United States should do its part by rejoining the Agreement and developing an ambitious emissions reduction target for 2030. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act presents a range of measures that would help support U.S. mitigation. Selected components of the bill include:
Reducing emissions from shipping
Supporting offshore renewable energy
Reducing emissions from offshore oil & gas
Advancing blue carbon storage
Countless communities, economies, and ecosystems are dependent on a healthy ocean—and we must build their resilience to the climate impacts that we can no longer avoid. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act presents a range of adaptation solutions.
Promoting marine protected areas
Critical species habitat and biodiversity are declining due to human activities, most notably climate change. The bill aims to slow and eventually reverse this trend by establishing a process to designate ocean areas for preserving habitat and species and for building resilience to climate change. Specifically, this bill would:
Creating climate-ready fisheries
Warming ocean waters, less oxygen, and ocean acidification are just a few of the changes altering fisheries in the United States and around the world. This bill enables fishermen and resource managers to better prepare for and adjust to these new conditions by:
Confronting sea level rise and flooding
Coastal communities face increasingly higher ocean waters, floods, and diminished land areas due to climate change and coastal erosion. To manage these impacts, this bill would:
Addressing ocean acidification and harmful algal blooms
Ocean acidification and its exacerbating impacts on harmful algal blooms can go unnoticed by human communities until disaster strikes the local ecosystem, reducing stocks of commercially and recreationally important fisheries, shellfish and damaging ecosystem and human health. As carbon dioxide pollution has already been absorbed by the ocean and altered the chemistry of coastal waters, local communities will need to better understand and adapt to these new conditions. This bill:
Addressing multiple crises
Congress currently faces not only a climate crisis but also an economic crisis and a social justice crisis—and it should address these interrelated issues holistically. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act pursues ocean-climate justice—and a “blue-green” economic recovery—in several ways, including by:
Promoting environmental justice
Supporting economic recovery
In addition to advancing ocean-based mitigation and adaptation domestically, the bill seeks to advance U.S. leadership internationally. For example, the bill would create a plan to reduce U.S. black carbon emissions 25% to 33% below 2013 levels by 2025, consistent with the commitment under the Arctic Council. It also recommends that the United States ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
U.S. leaders have a historic responsibility—and opportunity—to create a country that is powered by clean energy and resilient to climate impacts. This Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act provides a roadmap for bringing the power of ocean solutions to the fight against climate change.
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