Alex Rogers: The West refuses to address climate change but developing countries most vulnerable to threats to oceans and marine life
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
We’re continuing our discussion with Professor Alex Rogers. He’s an author of the new report The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals, which found the world’s oceans and marine life are facing an unprecedented threat, the most extreme in the last 300 million years.
Thank you so much for joining us again, Professor Rogers.
PROF. ALEX ROGERS, DEPT. OF ZOOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: Yup. It’s great to be back with you.
NOOR: In the first part of our interview, we went over some of your findings, some of the threats, and some of the causes that are threatening the oceans of the world. I wanted to talk to you now about your proposals. What kind of policy needs to be taken on by the world community to address these problems?
ROGERS: Well, I think the important thing to recognize here is the value of the oceans to humankind. The ocean provides us with things like food, and obviously we know the value of fish, essentially. But the ocean also provides many other services which are the equivalent of billions or trillions of dollars in value. Examples of that include cycling carbon–they absorb something like a third of the carbon dioxide we produce–and the production of oxygen. Something like one out of every two breaths we take comes from the oceans.
Given the value of those services, we’ve really got to look seriously at solutions to some of these problems. One of the first and most obvious solutions is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This has been a very controversial subject, and the argument about how to do this and who should do it has raged between states. But the bottom line is if we don’t get control of carbon dioxide emissions, the oceans will continue to warm, they will become more acidic, and there will be less oxygen in them. And those impacts will have really significant effects on marine life and on all those valuable goods and services we rely on.
NOOR: What are the greatest obstacles to addressing this problem?
ROGERS: Well, the greatest obstacles are really political will and, I think, a failure to recognize the seriousness of the current situation. Carbon dioxide is now rising at a rate which is almost geologically unprecedented. So we’re performing a massive experiment with the planet. We only have one planet on which to live. Coupled with this, the problem is linked to human population size, the continuing growth of human population. And multiply that with the per capita need for resources, and that adds up, really, to this carbon dioxide problem.
So states have really got to seriously start to address reductions in carbon dioxide. And they’ve certainly got to do that within the next ten years to have an impact on the amount of carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the atmosphere and which is ending up in the oceans.
NOOR: So it would appear to me that that goal of cutting back, of seriously cutting back carbon emissions in the next ten years is not likely going to happen. What could be the consequences? And are there other steps that could be taken if those cutbacks in carbon dioxide are not put into place?
ROGERS: Well, one thing that helps is to get under control the other pressures which the oceans are suffering from, so, for example, to sort out issues related to overfishing. This involves a raft of measures to reduce the size of global fishing fleets, to deal with problems of illegal fishing vessels. And this is one problem which has, you know, ramifications to other areas of security globally. So, for example, Somali piracy crisis has linked back to illegal fishing, where foreign vessels were coming into Somali waters and stealing their fish. This piracy crisis alone is costing us $12 billion per annum.
There are a raft of other measures associated with fishing we need to take as well. So, for example, fishing is very poorly regulated across much of the ocean area called the high seas. And we’ve really got to get to grips with managing what humans actually do on the high seas and moving those activities to sustainability. In terms of pollution, many of the problems come from land. So we’ve got to address what we’re doing on land that’s producing pollutants, which then end up in the oceans.
NOOR: And finally, what type of communities, what countries are going to be most impacted by the threats outlined in your report?
ROGERS: Well, this is the real problem. The countries most vulnerable to all of these problems are developing states. Particularly, countries in Africa and some parts of Asia are highly vulnerable to these climate change impacts on marine life, basically because those impacts extend to commercially fished species, which people rely on for their daily protein intake or for their livelihoods.
Many of the other impacts from climate change are likely also to be felt most severely in those countries. So they are really caught in the crunch between the different effects of climate change, both on land and, as is now apparent, in the oceans.
NOOR: And at the same time, it’s the First World countries, it’s the developed world that is blocking this serious tackling of carbon dioxide emissions.
ROGERS: Indeed it is. It’s both what we traditionally view as the West, but also countries which really used to be viewed as developing countries but no longer are. So these are countries such as India, China, Brazil, who now have well-developed economies and populations which are increasing and on a per capita basis, you know, producing more carbon dioxide emissions. Everybody wants a better lifestyle, better conditions from which to live.
Somehow we’ve got to address all these inequalities and change lifestyles, or use technology to actually decrease those carbon dioxide emissions, or eventually to even consider pulling some of that carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
NOOR: Professor Rogers, thank you so much for joining us.
ROGERS: Thanks very much.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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