UMass Boston Ocean Experts Urge Priority Action on Coastal Protection

Office of Communications | June 06, 2013
Ray Mabus (second from left) attended the GC '12 with Provost Winston Langley, Robbin Peach, and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Harry Brett

Ray Mabus (second from left) attended the GC '12 with Provost Winston Langley, Robbin Peach, and Gov. Deval Patrick.


Collaboration Recommended to Combat Warming Seas, Melting Arctic Ice

To mark the fifth observance of World Oceans Day, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security (CIOCS) has released a white paper on the pervasive effects of global climate change on the world’s oceans, the multiple potential impacts on human and national security, and the recommendations for priority actions that arose from last May’s Global Conference on Oceans, Climate, and Security (GC ’12).

The three-day conference, hosted by UMass Boston’s Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security, looked at the conditions that are likely to be produced by climate change, how these conditions will affect coastal and ocean ecosystems and communities, and how they may affect human and national security interests. Ocean-Related Impacts of Climate Change on Human and National Security lists direct calls for action and calls for advance cooperation among national and local governments, the private sector, educators, media, nonprofit organizations (NGOs), and the U.S. Navy and maritime agencies. The paper is available online at http://scholarworks.umb.edu/ciocs.

“Compared to a century ago, oceans are now warmer, higher, stormier, saltier, lower in oxygen and more acidic. Any one of these would be cause for concern. Collectively, they cry out for action,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who was among the 225 conference participants.

Robbin Peach, director of the Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security, coauthored the white paper along with Felix Dodds, associate fellow of the Tellus Institute, and Michael Strauss, executive director of Earth Media. According to Peach, threats to national security can be direct, such as impacting our military installations at sea level, and indirect, such as the destabilization of populations and countries through the loss of food sources and energy.

“The recent events from Superstorm Sandy painfully illustrate these effects.  Human security, threatened by climate-induced changes in marine and coastal community ecosystems, is a national security issue not well understood. We need to engage the public and the next generation,” Peach said.

The paper’s many recommendations include strengthening the political status of the Arctic Council, anticipating that organization’s May 15 decision to add China and five other nations as associate members; utilizing ecologically sustainable methods for building resilience against storm surges; and encouraging comprehensive upgrades to elementary and secondary education, thereby increasing public understanding of environmental phenomena.

“As a city with residences, commercial buildings, and institutions populating our waterfront, we know how important it is to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “We’re pleased to see researchers focusing their attention on solutions. We aim to be the most climate change resilient city in the country, and work like this helps us continue in that direction.” 

Another recommendation is to provide ongoing training for planners, city leaders, and other decision makers in the strategies and tools needed to prepare for extreme-weather events. Who will pay for this training needs to be determined. Peach advocates for the creation of targeted public-private partnerships. 

“Government can’t, nor should, do it alone. Assessing and creating community resilience is a shared responsibility and opportunity—engaging the private sector, public citizens, NGOs, federal and local officials, and all the ‘stakeholders’ who benefit from a more secure, resilient, sustainable community. Individuals in the philanthropic, policy, and business world are critically needed to initiate bold leadership around climate adaptation issues,” Peach said.

About the Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security
The Collaborative Institute aims to work with key influencers and decision makers to strengthen the understanding of the human and national security implications of changing oceans and climates, and inform policy decisions through the application of sound scientific research and technology, demonstrated through place-based pilot projects. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu/ciocs.

About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s ten colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.

About World Oceans Day
World Oceans Day is celebrated on June 8 to increase public awareness of the ways in which oceans and their ecosystems provide nutrition, transportation, recreation, and economic opportunities that support large populations in all global regions. 

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