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Oceans Rise as Kyoto is Sidelined

Green Turtle in South Florida.  Photo Courtesy Kim Mohlenhoff.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy Kim Mohlenhoff.

Copenhagen, Denmark. December 14 was Oceans Day at COP15! It was also the day negotiations broke down (again) over the whole issue of whether parties will agree to parallel commitments under Kyoto and new commitments binding all countries participating in COP15 (recall that US is not a party to Kyoto). So, several delegates from developing countries and small island states took solace in the relative calm of the all-day and in-to-the-evening science-to-policy-to-film and discussion oceans event at the European Environment Agency building in downtown Copenhagen.

One after another, delegates from the Solomon Islands, Monaco, Indonesia, South Africa, and Cape Verde reflected that the scientific presentations at Oceans Day were the best they’d ever seen. The Center for Ocean Solutions was represented by professors Rob Dunbar and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who gave two stunningly clear presentations on ocean acidification and climate change impacts on tropical marine systems and human communities. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the science isn’t getting through to the negotiating parties. In the words of Representative Gordon Darcy Lilo, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology of the Solomon Islands, “the science has not been persuasive so far — that is why negotiations have not gone well in Copenhagen.”

After such a great day of very sobering, albeit excellent, science presentations, this is a hard pill to swallow.

The message is clear: we have to do a better job of communicating and integrating science into policy decision making, which is exactly what the IPCC was and is designed to do. So, why are we at this point now and what can we do about it? The developing countries want and need their own scientific voice. Not imported scientists, but their own. Dr. Kwame Koranteng of the Fisheries Management and Conservation Service of the FAO/UN adamantly says developing countries need help with scientific capacity-building. We should be exchanging our graduate students and post docs and supporting science education in developing countries.

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