Science and Policy: Multilateral Approaches to Addressing Ocean Acidification – Claire Lee

Claire Lee at Ocean COP27 pavilionAs a student pursuing a dual degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Political Science on the pre-law track, I came into this conference with great excitement to witness firsthand the collaborative bridging of knowledge that will facilitate climate solutions. Paired with my love for the ocean and the beauty of its vast biodiversity, my academic path in ecology has primed me for the discussions at COP27 surrounding the detrimental impact of climate change on marine life. I strongly believe that the combined efforts of scientific and legislative expertise are imperative in not only achieving the UN’s net zero goals but other important environmental issues as well.

Coral reefs are central to hosting thousands of important marine species that uphold our biosphere and providing a wide variety of crucial ecosystem services. Many serve as a pillar of income and benefit to the economy for nations that rely on these ecosystems for ecotourism. However, these reefs are especially under threat by ocean acidification, caused by anthropogenic activities like the agricultural industry and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Ocean acidification is a ubiquitous and burgeoning problem that plagues our world’s oceans, and efficient action is needed immediately to mitigate its impact and spread. The means in which we take action should be raised to our utmost consideration, therefore I strongly believe in the vast potential of taking on an interdisciplinary approach toward addressing ocean acidification and its impacts on coastal communities and ecosystems.

I had the privilege and opportunity to attend a panel discussion called “OA Action Plans: Increasing ambition for climate action & transforming planning and response to climate-ocean change” at the Ocean Pavilion during my first day at COP27. This event was composed of government leaders and organizations from around the world who have been committing their efforts to the protection of coastal communities, livelihoods, and species from ocean acidification and other climate-related issues. Three speakers stood out to me in particular: Ambassador Ilana Seid, the permanent representative to UN Palau, Dr. Arthur Tuda, the executive director of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, and Congressman Eduardo Murat from the General Congress of the United Mexican States.

Ambassador Seid discussed the significant strides being taken by researchers from Stanford University and the University of Hawaii within the collaborative space of science in the protection of marine biodiversity. One innovation that I found to be especially interesting was the development of ocean antacid tablets to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification and thus help prevent food shortages for reliant coastal communities and biological catastrophes. Dr. Tuda, another panelist from the scientific side of the conversation, highlighted the collective findings of a new report – a culmination of four years of monitoring across six countries – on ocean acidification in the western Indian Ocean region. The key takeaway of this report is the importance of regional collaboration between nations, scientists around the world, and the combined scientific knowledge and resources that facilitate humanity’s progress in understanding climate change. On the other side of the panel, Congressman Murat provided expertise through a legislative lens. Murat is seeking to collaborate with other legislators and eventually pass a bill on ocean acidification consisting of provisions that define the problem itself and gather programs to map, monitor, and manage blue carbon areas to strengthen future legislation in Mexico. Moreover, this bill seeks to reinforce legislation on the source of the problem, targeting agricultural and livestock runoff. After hearing both sides of the conversation, I wondered, how can we maintain a fair balance between different voices and disciplines in reaching solutions? This panel discussion further strengthened my desire to examine environmental issues through multiple lenses.

Moving forward, we must continue to press forward in our fight against climate change through the implementation and advancement of multilateral-based solutions. Although science and policy are seemingly very different realms of expertise, I was able to witness the vast potential for these fields to work in tandem to enact tangible change and solutions in a multi-layered crisis. It is imperative to step outside of our comfort zones and look for answers to our world’s most pressing environmental issues that stretch beyond our own boundaries of knowledge. With that in mind, I encourage all students of non-environmental majors and backgrounds to engage in opportunities like the COP fellowship, to not only engage with the real world but to also gain exposure to the diverse mindsets and perspectives that make up this conference. More than ever before, we need the integration of different disciplines, backgrounds, and ideas into our global negotiations and solutions.