Dialogue-driven Conference Tackles Ocean and Climate Change
July 11, 2012
Giang Nguyen, McCormack Graduate School
Hurricane Katrina. The Haiti earthquake. The tsunami in Japan. Do these represent an escalating trend in terms of the devastating effects they have on human societies? How will climate changes like rising sea level, flooding, destruction of natural ecosystems, and others disrupt communities around the world and impact national policies?
Hosted by UMass Boston’s Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security (CIOCS), the first Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security (GC ’12) brought together hundreds of participants from 16 countries and multiple sectors to investigate these very questions and others on the intersectionality of oceans, climate, and security. Under the theme of “Collaboration and Action to Address the Impacts of Climate-related Ocean Change on Human, National and International Security,” the conference provided participants an unique opportunity to assess the current global climate change science and policies and to develop recommendations for action.
This groundbreaking three-day conference examined the threats that will soon be faced by 60% of the world’s population: Some direct threats include melting polar ice, rising sea levels, and changing of ocean chemistry and temperature. As the pace of ocean warming and acidification quicken partially due to our exhaustive release of greenhouse gases, the coast lines will soon be faced with devastating effects of not only flooding, but also increasingly frequent and intense storm events. Other indirect threats include decreased agricultural productivity, forced migrations, and destabilization of economies as oceans lose their ability to regulate climate and provide for human needs. Essentially, all of these effects will translate into potential scarcity of foods, potable water, and resources making climate change a potential catalyst for conflicts.
Reinforced by the long-standing history of fighting brought on by droughts, famine, and unwelcomed migration, the military has been at the forefront in understanding the critical threats climate change may pose as well as determining how to reduce the risks of it. However, with participation from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private industries, the government, and academia, this conference marked the first time that scientists and policymakers from all sectors join the military leaders in focusing on these issues.
Conference speakers included the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Jane Lubchenco and the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. Panelists and discussion sessions focused on assessing the current state of the science behind climate change, identifying key affected regions and issues within these priority geographic areas, and developing recommendations for intermediate- and long-term interdisciplinary action.
UMass Boston is proud that GC ’12 served as a leading reflection of CIOCS’s commitment to engage scientists, policy makers, and security specialists to identify and communicate the critical interdependence among oceans, climate, and human safety.
The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security is a joint effort of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies and the College of Science and Mathematics with a mission to advance solutions to complex ocean, climate, and security challenges and preparing coastal communities for a safer, more productive, and healthy future.