A critical need faces the planet today. The ocean covers 70 percent of the earth, yet 95 percent of the ocean remains unexplored – two-thirds of the planet. Not understanding the ocean’s chemical, physical, and biological processes threatens ocean-dependent communities and nations globally. Without more fully understanding the ocean’s processes and the ocean’s interactions with the atmosphere and the water cycle, those communities and the planet could be at risk in the following ways:
More than one billion people depend on the ocean for protein like this traditional fisherman from Papua New Guinea. Without better understanding how to manage and sustain the world’s fish populations, this source of protein could be at risk.
Sea Level Rise
Tens of millions of people live in low-lying coastal areas, and scenes like this highway in Louisiana could become increasingly more commonplace. We need to better understand and predict the amount and locations where sea level rise will require adaptation to avoid economic and human dislocation. If millions of people will be forced to migrate, how can we prepare to assist them? How will coastal areas around the world, including those in the U.S. such as Miami, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco Bay know how and when to adapt.
The ocean is the ultimate source of most of the world’s precipitation. More accurately predicting changes in precipitation patterns and volumes is essential to avoiding food shortages for millions and the disruption of regional economies in the U.S. and elsewhere. Better predictions and preparation will help to avoid scenes like this photo of dead cattle that resulted from a drought in Somalia.
Ocean Energy Sources
This wind energy field off the coast of Norfolk, United Kingdom, is only one example of increasing demands for the ocean to produce energy. However, unacceptable negative impacts to the marine environment could occur if coastal energy projects are inadequately researched and sited because of a lack of availability of important biological, physical and chemical data. Without a better understanding of the ocean’s processes, it will be difficult to know how much of the coastal areas can be used to produce clean energy without harming he marine ecosystem.
Shifts in precipitation patterns, food production, sea level, and availability of protein have the potential to compromise International security as ocean-dependent communities struggle to adjust to these changes.