What you need to know about climate change and blue carbon: global issues

The distinctive boats used by fish workers in Andhra Pradesh, India.  Their unique design, with a curved end and a flat center, provides stability in the waters of Andhra Pradesh and reflects the ingenuity of local fishermen.  Credit: Aishwarya Bajpai/IPS
The distinctive boats used by fish workers in Andhra Pradesh, India. Their unique design, with a curved end and a flat center, provides stability in the waters of Andhra Pradesh and reflects the ingenuity of local fishermen. Credit: Aishwarya Bajpai/IPS
  • by Aishwarya Bajpai (new delhi)
  • Inter-Press Office
  • The coastal ecosystem protects us, nourishes us and could be the solution to mitigating climate change. In this explainer, published on World Ocean Day, IPS discusses blue carbon and why it is so crucial.

What is blue carbon?

Blue carbon refers to the carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in marine or coastal ecosystems worldwide. These ecosystems include coastal plants such as mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes, which trap CO2 in their seabeds.

Why is it important?

The coastal ecosystem provides a protective shield, shielding communities from the negative impacts of natural disasters and climate change by maintaining cooler temperatures, even in summer.

How do we know this?

Research shows that despite covering less than 5 percent of the global land area and less than 2 percent of the ocean, coastal ecosystems store about 50 percent of all carbon buried in the oceans. ocean sediments. Remarkably, they can store five to ten times more carbon than forest areas on land. These carbon stocks could increase up to 6 meters deep, with layers that are thousands of years old. As the largest carbon sink (the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere), they play a crucial role in reducing the effects of climate change by absorbing 90 percent of excess heat and 23 percent of man-made CO2. emissions.

What else do coastal ecosystems do?

Coastal ecosystems serve as a barrier against natural disasters such as floods and storms and contribute to climate regulation in coastal areas. They provide habitat for coastal animals and support communities that rely on coastal resources for food and livelihoods, especially ocean dwellers and fish workers worldwide.

What happens when coastal ecosystems deteriorate?

More than a third of the world’s population, or about 1.4 million people, live in coastal areas and on small islands, which make up only 4 percent of the Earth’s total land area. For example, mangrove loss has increased to 40 percent since 1970, while coral reefs have witnessed a A decline of 50 percent since 1870.

At the same time, the global coastal population has grown dramatically, from about 2 billion in 1990 to 2.2 billion in 1995, comprising four out of every ten people on the planet.

What does the sea tell us about global warming?

Over the past fifty years, more than 90 percent of global warming has been observed in the ocean. Recent research shows that about 63 percent of the total increase in stored heat within the climate system between 1971 and 2010 can be attributed to warming of the upper oceans, while warming from depths of 700 meters down to the ocean floor contributes to an increase in temperature. additional 30 percent.

What are the consequences of this global warming?

Specifically in the Indian context, the Indian Ocean experienced a temperature increase of 1.2°C. This warming trend has led to the rapid intensification of cyclones, with forecasts indicating a tenfold increase in cyclone formation, from the current average of 20 days per year to an estimated 220–250 days per year.

How can blue carbon fight climate change?

Blue carbon ecosystems are critical to combating climate change because they provide an effective carbon sink. For example, mangroves, known as one of the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics, boast an average annual carbon storage ranging from 6 to 8 Mg CO₂e/ha. surpass global rates observed in mature tropical forests.

Can we revive our coastal ecosystems?

Yes, there are several ways to do this, including carbon capture technologies and strategies such as phytoplankton blooms, where fertilizing the ocean with nutrients can improve carbon uptake. We could also use wave pumps to transport carbon-saturated surface water to the deep ocean, which promotes carbon sequestration. Another method involves adding pulverized minerals to the ocean, which can absorb larger amounts of carbon dioxide, aiding carbon capture efforts.

We must also ensure that our policy frameworks reduce the carbon footprint, including actions to preserve natural systems and reduce emissions.

There is a need for continued research and training for skilled experts in carbon capture systems.

Therefore, countries around the world can protect their future, biodiversity and the planet by encouraging the conservation of coastal ecosystems.

This feature was published with the support of Open Society Foundations.

IPS UN agency report

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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