25 September 2019   Leave a comment

The United Nations has released a new report on the state of the world’s oceans and cryosphere (those parts of the planet that are frozen–sea ice, permafrost, and the like). The report is quite detailed and very alarming: “Ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for the past 25 years or so, they’ve been warming twice as fast” and sea levels are rising quickly because of ice melting on Greenland and Antarctica. The report also identifies a threat that has yet to receive a great deal of attention: marine heat waves. National Public Radio outlines that threat:

“‘It’s sort of remarkable that prior to 2012 [or] 2013, nobody had thought about heat waves in the ocean,’ says Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. ‘And then, in 2012 we had a huge event here in the Northwest Atlantic, and the Gulf of Maine was right at the center of it. It was a real surprise.’

“The abnormally hot water affected animals that live off the coast of Maine, including lobster and other creatures that are crucial to the local fishing economy. What’s more, it quickly became clear that the state wasn’t alone.

“‘Subsequently, these kind of heat wave events have kind of popped up all over the ocean,’ Pershing says. ‘We’ve actually had three major heat waves in the Gulf of Maine — 2012, 2016 and 2018 — and now we’re looking at repeat heat waves in the northern Pacific; Australia’s had some repeat heat waves. So it’s really becoming a part of the conversation in oceanography.'”

A lot of the damage to the oceans is already baked into our future. NPR reports: “Some marine impacts of climate change will unfold in the coming years no matter what. Accelerating sea level rise, for example, will threaten billions of people and present an existential threat to millions who live in Indigenous coastal communities that are flood-prone and rely on fishing.” The oceans remain one of the most unprotected parts of the planet. National Geographic points out how far away we are from protecting the oceans well:

“In 2014, scientists called for 30 percent of the world’s oceans to be protected by a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2030, yet it already seems likely the world will fall short of the UN’s goal to protect 10 percent of oceans by 2020. Though the UN says we’re 8 percent of the way there, experts caution that only 2.2 percent of the world’s oceans are fully off limits to commercial activity, and only 4.8 percent is actively managed.”

National sovereignty remains a profound obstacle to the safeguarding of the oceans.

The Pew Research Center has conducted a fascinating poll in the US about the level of trust that Americans have in their institutions. Trust is perhaps the most important component of political legitimacy and it is an attribute that once lost is difficult to regain. The degree of distrust is actually quite staggering:

“…a third or more of Americans think that unethical behavior is treated relatively lightly – that is to say, wrongdoers face serious consequences only a little of the time or less often. Indeed, majorities believe that members of Congress (79%), local elected officials (57%), leaders of technology companies (55%) and journalists (54%) admit mistakes and take responsibility for them only a little of the time or none of the time. Some 49% say the same of religious leaders.”

These results are deeply unsettling. If citizens do not believe that their leaders are ethical, it raises all sorts of questions about how they determine the ethical basis for their own behaviors.

Posted September 25, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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