Sunday, December 4

“It is time to act”, the UN alert on the state of the oceans


Plastics in the water in India. / EPA

More than 150 countries meet in Portugal to try to protect marine ecosystems from degradation and climate change

Jose A. Gonzalez

“We have not sufficiently valued our oceans,” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), warned this week. “We are facing an oceanic emergency.” Strong words in one of the summits marked in red on the climate agenda and that overlaps with the one held by NATO in Madrid.

“It is a very important summit”, answers from the Portuguese city Begoña Casas, professor of Economics and Business at the European University. “Many of the speakers and attendees talk about taking action now,” she warns. Because, inaction has a cost: “If we do nothing, in 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea,” she says.

Data and research reveal that an average of eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year. A warning that Guterres himself launched at the opening of this summit by the oceans: “The Pacific already has a mass of plastic that has a surface area larger than France.”

“If we do nothing, in 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea”

Begona Houses

Professor of Economics and Business at the European University

“This type of contamination is the best known,” says Casas, “but there are more,” he adds. Another one is by chemicals, “many people don’t know it, but there is a lot of untreated water that carries medicines to the seas and oceans.”

Marine pollution is one of the major problems facing 70% of the planet’s surface and has raised the temperature of the seas and oceans. “We need to raise awareness of what is happening,” Casas details.

The past twelve months have once again broken a record for temperatures in seas and oceans, where the Mediterranean is once again the most affected. The effects of climate change on these ecosystems are numerous, from rising sea levels to the death of corals.

Furthermore, the oceans are the largest heat sink on the planet. They absorb 90% of greenhouse gases and are also a very efficient carbon sink. “If the ocean is not healthy, there is no healthy planet,” repeats Casas.

“What is happening is transcendental”

Five days of work, conferences, bilateral meetings to “raise awareness of the importance of the ocean in our lives.” A vital union for health and also economic, since “it directly employs 40 million people, almost the total of the Spanish population”, recalls Casa. In addition, he adds, “a seventh of the world’s population depends on the oceans.”

The impact of climate change on the oceans “can no longer be described in individual and isolated stories about the bleaching of coral reefs,” says the United Nations. “If current trends continue, it is possible that more than half of the world’s marine species will be extinct by 2100,” add several investigations.

“We hope that the commitments made here will not be forgotten when we return home”

Charlina Vitcheva

Director General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission

Threat added to direct human activity on marine ecosystems. “Yes, pollution is a big problem, but there are others such as overfishing or illegal fishing,” says Casas.

The Lisbon summit has uprooted the commitment of the almost 150 countries present at the summit to ban subsidies for this type of practice. “We need a sustainable blue economy,” warns the professor of Economics and Business at the European University.

Goods that could reach three trillion dollars in 2030, according to the OECD. “There is a great economy waiting for us,” said John Kerry, the United States representative in the Portuguese capital.

“We hope that the commitments made here will not be forgotten when we return home,” warned the Director General of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission, Charlina Vitcheva, in her speech.


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