Can you imagine a world without an ocean?

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Versha Mishra, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

————————————————

The importance of the world’s ocean cannot be overstated. They supply 50% of the oxygen we breathe, feed billions of people, and provide livelihoods for millions more. They are the great biological pump of global atmospheric and thermal regulation, and the driver of the water and nutrient cycles. And they are among the most powerful tools for mitigating the effects of climate change. In short, the ocean is a critical ally, and we must do everything in our power to safeguard them.

This is all the more important, given the unprecedented and unpredictable threats that we currently face. Though the ocean has been integral to slowing climate change, absorbing over 30% of the greenhouse-gas emissions and 90% of the excess heat generated since the Industrial Revolution, the cost has been huge. Ocean acidification and warming has been occurring at alarming rates, and are already having a serious impact on some of our most precious marine ecosystems – an impact that will only intensify.

Today, vast swaths of the world are experiencing what is likely to be the strongest El Niño on record. The adverse weather resulting from the phenomenon – which originates in the Pacific, but affects the ocean worldwide – is expected to affect adversely over 60 million people this year, compounding the misery wrought last year. It is a sobering reminder of our vulnerability to both natural and human-induced shocks to the earth’s systems.

Despite all of this, we continue to degrade our oceans through the relentless destruction of habitats and biodiversity, including through overfishing and pollution. Disturbingly, recent reports indicate that the ocean may contain one kilogram of plastics for every three kilograms of fish by 2025. These actions are facilitated by chronic failures of global governance; for example, one-fifth of all fish taken from the ocean is caught illegally.

Current and future generations alike need – and deserve – a healthy, resilient ocean. Growing awareness of – and strong commitments to resolve – the challenges facing our oceans is heartening. But it is just the beginning. One hopes that 2016 turns out to be the year when the world enters a new era of ocean regeneration.