It’s fairly easy to predict what will happen to the turkeys tomorrow at the traditional pardoning ceremony at the White House. It’s much more difficult to predict what will happen with our weather and climate in the months and years ahead, but one thing we do know is that ocean observations play a crucial role in our ability to understand and predict changes in our Earth system. To this point, an outstanding report was released last week from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate.
This report was also briefed at a meeting of the Ocean Studies Board, where speakers highlighted how the ocean, as the richest data source for understanding climate, is also the least understood. The great work of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) was underscored, as these programs have helped to dramatically increase observations and data integration around the world and have aided in determining Essential Ocean Variables (EOV) to inform future observation priorities. A key finding of the report highlights both the progress we have made in global ocean observing in recent years, as well as the need for more: “The current ocean observing system has made significant contributions to better understanding the ocean’s role in the earth system, including its heat, carbon, and fresh water budgets, and to better understanding global and regional sea-level change. Sustaining, optimizing, and increasing ocean observing capability will further improve understanding of the ocean’s role in climate.”
In addition to addressing the importance of long-term monitoring, the report also highlights the need for increased national coordination and planning, including the development of a long-term (decadal) ocean observing plan. This would ensure there is a coordinated approach for sustained and increased ocean observing by the U.S. The role of public-private partnerships was also emphasized as an effective mechanism to increase observational data and to raise awareness of the value of ocean observations to all Americans. I applaud the work of the committee and staff who developed this important report, and I know COL will play an important role in addressing the challenges and opportunities that are described therein.
Another challenge COL is addressing is language in the House tax reform bill that would tax graduate tuition waivers as income. Graduate education makes our nation innovative and competitive, and we should be finding ways to make it more, not less, affordable. We’ll continue weighing in and reporting on this issue as both chambers move on tax reform.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Many Pacific Island nations will lose 50 to 80 percent of marine species in their waters by the end of the 21st century if climate change continues unchecked, finds a new Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program study published in Marine Policy. “Under climate change, the Pacific Islands region is projected to become warmer, less oxygenated, more acidic, and have lower production of plankton that form the base of oceanic food webs,” said lead author Rebecca Asch, Nereus Program alumnus and Assistant Professor at East Carolina University. “We found that local extinction of marine species exceeded 50 percent of current biodiversity levels across many regions and at times reached levels over 80 percent.”