Building G at COP 20 is filled with several hundred exhibitor booths. From 9 AM to 9 PM delegates stroll, peruse and learn. But almost none of these booths focus on the ocean. An important exception is the Hot, Sour, and Breathless Booth, sponsored by Plymouth Marine Lab, UK, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and CMBC, USA, and the Univ. of Santo Tomas, Chile. Here, COP delegates and observers can learn how excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is warming, acidifying and de-oxygenating the oceans. One-on-one conversations with delegates, press and observers allow us to have detailed, country-specific discussions of change in the ocean and the ecological and economic consequences. Our goal is to have the ocean highlighted in the negotiations and appear in the declaration text.
This may seems like a painstakingly slow way to reach people - but we think it can make a difference. For example, in 4 hours one morning we talked with representatives from Algeria, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, USA and UNFCCC Secretariat members. Our group speaks and presents materials in English and Spanish, but it would have been great to have fluent French, Portuguese and other languages represented.
Most of the people we talk with have heard of global warming. At least half have heard of ocean acidification. Almost none know about ocean deoxygenation. What are the issues that people are most interested in? They want to know which factors most affect their country. Why should those with no ocean (e.g., Botswana) care? And what can we do? In these conversations we emphasize reduction of CO2 emissions and local focus on improved water quality and reduced fishing stress in order to enhance ecosystem resilience.
Another very interesting issue that comes up occasionally is whether our three stressors are climate change. Most consider warming to equal climate change. Some consider ocean acidification to be CO2 pollution. Ocean deoxygenation is an indirect, follow-on effect of warming (through changes in oxygen solubility, stratification and ventilation). We consider these all products of climate change – that need raised attention, and Peru, a noted upwelling country, is a great place to do this.