Guterres: "State of emergency of the oceans": Oceans suffer primarily from human ignorance

Oceans are important CO2 stores.

Guterres: "State of emergency of the oceans": Oceans suffer primarily from human ignorance

Oceans are important CO2 stores. However, due to global warming, their condition is far from good. Rising temperatures are causing hostile areas to grow and corals to die. Microplastic kills fish. UN Secretary-General Guterres warns of a domino effect.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for better protection of the world's oceans to combat the "ocean emergency". At the opening of the World Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Guterres called for global efforts to avert catastrophic consequences for the environment and humanity. "Unfortunately, we took the sea for granted," said the Portuguese. If marine protection fails, there will be a catastrophic domino effect.

Thousands of politicians, experts and environmentalists will discuss how to save seas threatened by climate change and pollution at the UN conference organized by Portugal and Kenya until Friday. For Germany, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke will take part in the conference, which called for "more effective marine protection". Lemke warned that with the destruction of the seas, the basis of human existence would also be destroyed.

The agenda of the conference includes the reduction of microplastics, which have been found even in the Arctic ice and in the deepest sea trenches and kill more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year. Global fishing will also be an issue - according to the US organization Oceana, at least a third of fish stocks are overfished, and illegal fishing usually goes unpunished.

Covering more than two-thirds of the Earth's surface, the oceans are vital to life on the planet: they produce oxygen, provide food and energy, and mitigate the effects of climate change on life on land - albeit at a high cost. So far, the oceans have swallowed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide produced by humanity. As a result, sea water becomes acidic, animals and plants suffer. Due to global warming, the water temperature is also rising, corals are dying and oxygen is becoming scarce. Oxygen-free so-called dead zones are spreading more and more.

"We are just beginning to understand the extent to which climate change is affecting the health of our oceans," said Charlotte de Fontaubert, the World Bank's lead in charge of more sustainable ocean use, ahead of the conference.

Counteracting the lack of oxygen in the seas will be another focus of the ocean conference, for example through the reforestation of mangrove forests, which bind a lot of CO2. According to scientists, however, a reduction in greenhouse gases is also necessary to restore the health of the oceans.

On the occasion of the UN conference, the environmental association WWF also pushed for progress in marine protection. "The seas are our life support system. If we want to preserve them, the international community must now make a consistent political change of course in favor of the seas," demanded the head of the WWF's marine protection department, Heike Vesper. She also warned of additional disruption to sensitive ecosystems from planned raw material mining in the deep sea.

The UN conference was originally planned for April 2020, but was postponed several times due to the corona pandemic.

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