Jon White – From the President’s Office: 11-26-2018

2018-11-26T15:46:27+00:00 November 26, 2018|

A Tale of Two Reports 

As Thanksgiving fades into another full and busy work week here in D.C., I’d like to tell you about a couple of recent publications I think we should all be thankful for. While the publications describe immense challenges that must be overcome, I am grateful that the federal government is putting resources and efforts into identifying and resolving the issues they raise.

On Black Friday (perhaps appropriate), the federal agency collaborative Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), stressing the need for increased action related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Otherwise, “climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.” It further elaborates that “while mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.” In relation to our ocean and coasts specifically, the report corroborates the widely-held understanding that “rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, retreating arctic sea ice, sea level rise, high-tide flooding, coastal erosion, higher storm surge, and heavier precipitation events threaten our oceans and coasts. These effects are projected to continue, putting ocean and marine species at risk, decreasing the productivity of certain fisheries, and threatening communities that rely on marine ecosystems for livelihoods and recreation.”

The week before that, after receiving public input (including this letter from COL), the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released Science and Technology for America’s Oceans: A Decadal Vision. This report “presents a decadal vision for an innovative and collaborative ocean S&T enterprise that promotes American security and prosperity while conserving the marine environment for present and future generations.” It recognizes that “a healthy, productive, and resilient ocean is inextricably linked to Earth’s climate and weather patterns and contributes significantly to our quality of life. The ocean provides and creates jobs, gives mobility to our Armed Forces, helps feed our Nation, secures our borders, fuels our economy, enables safe movement of goods, and provides places for recreation.” These are all components of COL’s ocean security framework, which is in harmony with this report in stressing that ocean scientific and technological research are crucial to “understanding the physical, chemical, biological, and geological changes in the ocean,” which are “vital to the survival and prosperity of humanity.” The vision further delineates five specific goals that correspond to ocean security, in addition to listing “areas of immediate ocean research and technology opportunities” that will advance understanding of our changing ocean and Earth system – which is the report’s first overall goal.

I suggest that these two publications in tandem should drive a renewed call to action for our nation to embrace ocean and Earth science as critical enablers for our future survival and prosperity. The challenges they describe are immense but so are the opportunities we have right now to take bold and appropriate action that will ensure a healthy and prosperous ocean that meets the needs of humanity and all other life on our planet. The ocean science and technology community certainly understands this, but we must redouble our efforts now to influence the leadership and citizenship of our nation, as well as our partners around the globe, to this end. If we fail to do so, I fear future generations will offer us little thanks for the opportunities we missed, which are so clearly articulated in these two timely reports. And that would be a sad Thanksgiving tale indeed.

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