Climate change and its disastrous consequences for our planet rank high on the political and public agenda – and rightly so. However, many people do not realise how closely the issue of climate change is also linked to the health of the Ocean. Can you explain how they are connected?
The vast majority of people know that trees and forests play a key role as “the lungs of our planet” in combating climate change. However, the fundamental importance of the world’s Ocean in mitigating the effects of climate change is less well known. In simple terms, our Ocean acts as a type of “air conditioning system” for the planet by functioning as a massive heat and carbon sink. Let’s not forget that 72% of the earth’s surface is covered by the Ocean; that gives you an indication of the capacity of these vast, deep bodies of water to absorb heat energy and to capture carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, our Ocean is also bearing the brunt of these man-made effects. First, in the process of capturing CO2 from the air, our Ocean is becoming more acidified – with a devastating impact on marine life. Further, the temperature of the Ocean is rising as the earth heats up – and when that happens, these bodies of water are no longer able to absorb the same amount of heat and carbon at the same rate – meaning their ability to mitigate climate change is diminished, creating a vicious cycle. This shows just how closely our Ocean and the phenomenon of climate change are interconnected – and why ocean conservation is vital.
What exactly is meant by the term “ocean conservation”?
“Ocean conservation” is the term used to describe the protection and preservation of our Ocean and seas and the marine ecosystems within them. Conservation efforts – in the form of policies and direct action – are urgently needed to restore the health of our Ocean, which is being harmed as a result of human activities such as the over-exploitation of fish stocks and other marine resources, as well as pollution and ultimately climate change. The fact that “ocean conservation” is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations in 2015 to combat major global challenges shows the importance assigned to this topic.
How do you and Team Malizia contribute to ocean conservation?
As a team, we contribute to ocean conservation in three ways. The first is by raising public awareness of the urgent need to take climate action and to find solutions to protect our Ocean. That is why we launched our “A Race We Must Win – Climate Action Now” campaign. Part of our mission involves working with schools around the globe through our “My Ocean Challenge” programme to educate children about sailing, ocean science and the environmental factors currently affecting our seas. To date, we have reached over 55,000 children and young people, who are very powerful advocates for this cause.
Second, together with the Mama Earth Foundation, we have created the Malizia Mangrove Park in the Philippines / Mati, Davao Oriental. Our aim is to plant an additional one million mangroves in the park, funded through donations. The park has a key role to play in helping to restore the ecosystem, as mangroves capture high amounts of CO2, which is so harmful to our climate.
The third way we contribute to ocean conservation is by helping to increase scientific knowledge about the ocean carbon cycle and ocean acidification. We use innovative data collection methods that combine sailing and science to gather valuable information about the Ocean. We also want to highlight innovative solutions and technologies that can help combat the climate crisis: Our new boat Malizia - Seaexplorer, which is a high-tech yacht equipped with solar panels and foils and built from recycled materials, is a prime example.
As you just said, the new Malizia - Seaexplorer is much more than a yacht; it is a technically sophisticated research vessel that collects data for science. How did this come about and what do you do with all this data?
That’s correct. Malizia – Seaexplorer has a mini-laboratory onboard so that we can collect ocean data from remote parts of the world, such as the Southern Ocean. While competing in transatlantic and around-the-world races over a period of four years, we will cover around 70,000 nautical racing miles – a vast area, much of which is under-sampled. We use modern sensor technologies that provide continuous readings of pCO2 levels in the ocean. The data samples we collect will enable experts at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, GEOMAR and Future Ocean to estimate the CO2 exchange between the Ocean and the atmosphere and find out more about the processes involved. The resulting insights will support measures to limit ocean acidification and the broader effort to combat climate change.