As the window for climate action narrows, experts in marine science and economics are calling for a new “Teal Deal” that embraces the enormous potential for clean energy that lies in the world’s oceans—along with positive side benefits such as decarbonizing shipping, supporting marine fisheries, and restoring coastal habitats.
“Don’t overlook the power of the oceans to help combat climate change. That is the message of a group of scientists who believe that the world’s oceans are too often viewed as victims…rather than recognized as part of the solution,” writes the World Economic Forum. In a report recently published in the journal Conservation Letters, the scientists propose a new framework that Green New Deal policy-makers could use to develop “terrestrial and ocean‐integrated policies that can complement and enhance terrestrial‐focused initiatives.”
By adding a tint of blue ocean to conversations around a Green New Deal, the study authors hope to point out that “the ocean’s winds, waves, and currents represent a massive source of clean energy that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while meeting electricity demand,” the WEF writes.
The authors provide examples of the ocean’s potential to reduce emissions and provide climate and environmental benefits across four sectors: energy, transportation, food security, and habitat restoration. Offshore winds, for example, could be better suited for power generation than land-based winds, as they are stronger and typically blow more in the afternoon and evening, when energy is a peak demand.
Changing the design of ships, meanwhile, could reduce transport emissions; aquaculture and fisheries have a lower carbon footprint than many land-based food production systems; and “restoring coastal habitats such as mangroves, tidal wetlands, and kelp forests will help capture and store carbon dioxide, preventing it from entering the atmosphere,” the scientists say. Up-and-coming technologies could further harness the energy of ocean currents and waves.
Together, these initiatives could form an oceanic contribution to something that is often framed as a terrestrial problem, with terrestrial solutions. As the hour for averting climate disaster grows late, combining these ideas with existing approaches to a Green New Deal could be a not-to-be missed opportunity.
“Given political friction and constrained budgets, an integrated policy framework offers greater potential to achieve a portfolio of mitigation and adaptation goals in a cost‐effective manner, beyond what could be realized with marine or terrestrial policy solutions alone,” the study authors say in their abstract.