Why is Blue Carbon Important to Climate Action?

Oceans are the front lines of climate change. Melting ice sheets and glaciers are causing rapid sea level rise, threatening marine wildlife and coral reefs, and triggering more frequent and more severe hurricanes and other storms.

Oceans are also our largest heat and carbon sink, absorbing nearly one-third of Earth’s carbon dioxide. Dr. Erin Meyer, Director of Conservation Programs and Partnerships at the Seattle Aquarium, recently joined me to discuss the important role of “blue carbon” in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Blue carbon is still an unfamiliar term to many. It encompasses all the marine ecosystems known to store disproportionate amounts of carbon while simultaneously protecting coastal habitats and shorelines — namely mangroves, seagrass, tidal marshes, kelp, and algae. Erin noted that less traditional types of blue carbon include marine life such as blue whales, who absorb up to 33 tons of carbon dioxide before sinking it in the deep ocean.

As Erin wrote in the Seattle Times in 2019, we can protect this natural defense against climate change by restoring and conserving the carbon-sequestering powerhouses in blue carbon ecosystems. Having recently co-created a Regenerative Plan with the Seattle Aquarium, Verdis Group has seen firsthand the Aquarium’s leadership in advocating and taking action for ocean conservation.

While blue carbon has disproportionate benefits compared to terrestrial plants and forests, restoring blue carbon ecosystems is much more difficult than planting trees. It can require trained divers and expensive gear, and scientists are researching how to best restore beneficial marine plants in unpredictable underwater conditions. Protecting the blue carbon ecosystems we have today “is an investment in our future, an investment in biodiversity, in conservation, and in climate action,” Erin said.

“Our oceans are really one big ocean that cycles all around our planet, and we’re all connected through its waters,” Erin said. “No matter where you are on the planet, taking action to help restore or protect the ocean is taking action for your local community and for the community on the other side of the planet.”

(Photo by geoff trodd on Unsplash)

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