Episode six, Season three of the Climate Curious podcast is now live with our special guest, Susan Ruffo.
“We’ve just been talking about the ocean as a victim, but I believe that it’s part of the solution,” says ocean adviser for the UN, Susan Ruffo, on the latest episode of the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon.
Speaking at TED’s Countdown event in Edinburgh, we spoke to the Senior Advisor to the United Nations on Climate and the Ocean following her TED talk, where she asked the audience to reframe the ocean as bearer of climate change solutions.
The big idea
We need to talk about oceans.
They provide half of the oxygen we breathe, absorb almost a third of the world’s carbon and cover 71% of the planet.
But oceans get surprisingly little air time in the climate conversation. And given how many solutions their unexplored depths might provide to climate problems – that needs to change.
Susan Ruffo asks us to think differently about the ocean, what changing its chemistry actually means for the creatures living there and some of the creative ways marine life is already being used to deal with climate problems.
The damage we’ve done
Unfortunately, we’ve done a lot of things that are bad for the ocean.
“All of the CO2 that we are emitting, that actually gets absorbed by the ocean. Almost a third of it goes into the ocean. And it makes the ocean more acidic. So we’re changing the chemistry of the ocean. If you can imagine that. 70% of the planet and we’re changing the chemistry of it.”Susan Ruffo
So what does that mean in practice? As greenhouse gases trap more energy from the sun, the oceans absorb more heat which is wreaking havoc on sea life.
Coral reefs, including Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef, are dying. Mass coral bleaching results in the starvation, shrinkage and death of the corals that support the thousands of species that live on coral reefs.
Many fish species are moving toward the poles in response to ocean warming, disrupting fisheries around the world.
Oceans currently absorb about one third of the CO2 we emit (about 22 million tons a day). This great service, which has substantially slowed global warming, has been accomplished at great cost: an increase in acidity. This increase has led to oysters and mussels being unable to grow properly, ending up with deformed shells.
All of this can feel disheartening, yes. But, Susan argues, there’s reason to be hopeful. More than eighty percent of this vast, underwater realm remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.
Susan says we must focus on this vital element of the Earth’s ecosystem as a source of nature-based solutions — from absorbing carbon and heat, to being a source of renewable energy.
“It absorbs carbon, has all of these amazing different ecosystems in it, coral reefs, mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses. We can build wind platforms out in the ocean, and we can even start to think about machines that produce energy from waves and tides. Luckily, people are creative. So we’re starting to think about how we can use them.”Susan Ruffo
In this episode, we chat to this ocean expert and lover about:
- Why we need to think of oceans differently: as heroes, not victims.
- Some of the most creative ways people are using the ocean to cope with climate change
- Why including the ocean in the climate conversation is about people, not just the ocean
In this conversation, hosted by TEDxLondon’s Maryam Pasha and advocate and activist Ben Hurst at TED Countdown in Edinburgh 2021, Susan talks to us about the missing piece of the climate conversation: the ocean.
Until next time – stay curious!