Oceans and climate change seminar

Fisherman checking fishing net.

I have been to a full day seminar – Sida Development Area Symposium, subtitled ”Oceans and climate change”. This post will be unusually long. I think it is an important topic. It is also related to development issues.

The seminar was actually interesting to the layman. I will summarise the speakers words of wisdom.

Johan Schaar (SIDA) did the opening remarks:

  • Depleted fish stocks are a major issue for the poor and coastal populations.
  • We are approaching peak oil and beginning to understand the impact of climate change.
  • Lowering of PH and higher temperatures affect ecosystems.
  • Increasing risk of storms and higher sea levels.
  • What are the key adaptive strategies?

The following speakers followed in the morning as part of the science perspective:

Johan Rockström (SCR):

  • There is scientific evidence we are in trouble.
  • Climate change is primarily caused by the rich minority.
  • This is a totally new situation with the anthropogenic pressures on earth.
  • It is not just a matter of climate change. We should not forget poor land management and tourism.
  • The poor coastal regions are the most vulnerable to climate change.
  • The change is dramatic and we must phase out our fossil dependance.

Kevin Noone (ITM/SRC):

  • Emphasised the importance of collaboration with SIDA.
  • Rapid changes are seen in ocean aciditiy. It will make a clear difference on ocean ecosystems.
  • Corals feed around a billion people.

William Cheung (University of East Anglia):

  • Humans have an impact on marine ecosystems and fisheries.
  • Species will move to cooler and deeper waters nearer to the poles.
  • Geo-political implications can be foreseen. The ”mackarel war” is one example.
  • Resource sharing/allocation should be considered.
  • Decrease of Atlantic cod and small yellow croaker in China and neighbouring countries.
  • Catch potential is worst in West African countries and Indonesia.
  • The tropics, developing countries, are amongst the most severely affected. They are not prepared to deal with this change.

Carl Folke (Beijer/SRC)

  • A new situation. We shape the planet.
  • We are all interconnected. The shrimp use fish meal from the whole planet.
  • Maine, USA – The lobster has not been over exploited. But fishes have and it has lead to a monoculture of lobster. No biodiversity – no resilience – cannot deal with climate change.
  • Chile is a good example of how crisis can be turned into an opportunity with shift to democracy following dictatorship. It lead to policy innovation improved ecosystem management. The window of opportunity enabled fishers to reorganise and influence new national fishery legislation.

We had a coffee break, group discussion and lunch. The lunch was delicious, and perhaps surprisingly, they did not serve fish.

In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of listening to development perspectives from these speakers:

Jaqueline Alder (UNEP)

  • 55 % of all carbon is captured by living organisms in oceans, and not land.
  • Two stories to capturing carbon. 1. Burial – long-term. 2. ”pumps/flows” (up to 71 % of all carbons stored in oceans)
  • Restoration and management is possible. It improves human health, and mangrove replanting in Vietnamn, is a good example with flood control, improved fish catches and better water quality.
  • It is important to implement existing conventions, protocols and practises.
  • Prioritise sustainable management of ocean systems.

Edward H. Allison (WorldFish)

  • The moderator, Pär Holmgren, said we have now heard many speeches and climate change is a complex matter. He asked: ”Is it possible to change?” Allison was positive and mentioned how we have gone through other difficult issues such as the fall of apartheid and having equal rights for women.
  • Adaptive responses: Ecosystem restoration, strengthen human rights – especially that of women, improve access of coastal people to social services and social protection schemes, etc. These are things you would like to do anyway so there are ”no regrets”.

Chandrika Sharma (ICSF)

Nadine Marshall (CSIRO)

  • Focusing on the local level.
  • Sensitivity is correlated with dependancy.
  • Being a fisherman is related to a fundamental identity. That is why it is difficult for them to change profession.
  • Often the fishermen are away from their families many months. These are special personalities which is their strength. At the same time they do not network and are isolated. That is why they have a limited capacity to change.
  • In general, men are more negatively afffected than women by having fewer identities. Women are more flexible because they can switch identities during bad conditions.

Panel debate:

A lot was said. Most was a repetition of the speeches. I believe the important points were:

  • A green party politician said it is sad politicians are not interested in these questions. She said that it is important to teach people.
  • Connect research and development.

My analysis:

These kind of seminars are good. However, let us be realistic. I do not think it will lead anywhere without involving politicians that make decisions and businesses. There is a risk of having an enclosed circle of experts discussing and patting on each others shoulders.

I sat next to a freelance journalist during the discussions around the tables. Non-scientists, external people like her, should spread the word. I am trying to do the same here.

Cleantech was brought up in the panel debate. More than 50 % of the Swedish GDP is derived from export. Take the Swedish Trade Council’s SymbioCity concept as an example and collaborate. What basic needs do local people have? Find out what incentives businesses need to invest in developing countries.

On a final note, George Carlin thinks differently 😉 (warning: strong language):


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