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Oregon State University College of Science marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco co-authored a paper concerning ocean-based approaches to climate change, published Wednesday in Science.

The article, co-written with Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland and Eliza Northrop of the World Resources Institute, looks to connect the dots between a pair of international reports. One highlights the impact of climate change on the ocean, and the other analyzes ocean-related solutions.

The paper and the reports by the International Panel on Climate Change, issued Wednesday in Monaco and New York, and the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, released Tuesday in New York at a meeting over which Lubchenco presided, are among elements of international Climate Week, which began Sept. 20. Events include marches and other activities worldwide, with a focus on the United Nations and other sites in New York.

According to Lubchenco, the key takeaway from the reports and the paper is that the ocean could play a role in capping climate change at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Age levels, as called for in the 2016 Paris Agreement.

“The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere paints a gloomy picture of the impacts of climate change on the ocean, ocean ecosystems and people, and an even more dismal portrayal of what is in store unless we get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions rapidly,” said Lubchenco, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“But the new analysis conducted for the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy concludes that ocean-based activities have significant potential to help us actually reach the 1.5-degree Celsius target by 2050 — much greater potential than anyone realized." She was quoted in a press release OSU issued Wednesday.

Although not directly involved in writing the IPCC report, Lubchenco was among the scheduled speakers Wednesday at a New York press briefing, “Blue Leaders: Call to Action on Ocean and Climate.” Other speakers included heads of state and 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

This week’s other key report, organized by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, analyzed five categories of ocean-based activities to evaluate their potential to reduce, sequester and store emissions. 

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 “The report concludes that the first four of those can be deployed right away, but seabed carbon storage will require additional research,” said Lubchenco, who co-chaired the group that advised the panel and oversaw the report. “Combined, there is the potential for ocean-based activities to provide as much as 21% of the emission reductions needed to achieve the 1.5-degree target by 2050. That means in addition to the options for reducing emissions that we already knew about, we now have some new and powerful tools to deploy.”

The High Level Panel features 14 heads of state collaborating to adopt and promote policies and practices associated with a sustainable ocean economy. Led by the leaders of Norway and Palau, the panel also has representation from Portugal, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Fiji and Australia.  

Along with its report, the High Level Panel also released a Call to Ocean-Based Climate Action, challenging nations, businesses and society in general to adopt or promote activities that will help achieve the 1.5-degree goal. 

The Earth has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius, sea levels have risen more than 8 inches since 1880, Arctic sea ice is declining at the fastest rate in 1,500 years, and extreme weather events are becoming more common and damaging.

The actions the High Level Panel calls for are “ambitious,” Lubchenco said, “but we argue that they are necessary, could pay major dividends toward closing the emissions gap in coming decades, and achieve other co-benefits along the way.”

Lubchenco served as an undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere within the Obama administration and later as the State Department’s first science envoy for the ocean.

In 2018, she received the Vannevar Bush Award from the National Science Board, and in 2017, she received the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal. She is also a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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