Science and Society
Understanding the physical and biogeochemical interactions and feedbacks between the ocean and atmosphere is a vital component of environmental research. Indeed, our ability to predict and respond to future environmental change (e.g. climate) relies on a detailed understanding of these processes. SOLAS has grown in recent years to include more disciplines, from the natural sciences to computing and socioeconomics, as well as a diversity of stakeholders. However, the SOLAS research community has recognised that greater efforts are needed to increase interaction between natural scientists and social scientists – especially in the light of anthropogenic influence on the ocean-atmosphere system. Three main topics are currently being pursued.
Science and Society Team
Valuing carbon in the ocean
At the Monaco workshop in March 2017, a series of key questions and knowledge gaps around marine carbon have been identified. These include the lack of consensus on its definition and purpose to identification of the need to apply Earth-systems scale understanding of the ocean carbon cycle and if the concept of Blue Carbon is to be used to incentivise positive action, particularly in marine systems beyond those at or very close to the coast.
At least one paper is currently being drafted to address these issues and a second workshop is planned to take place in Norwich, United Kingdom in 2018 to discuss how to continue the work from then on
Air-sea interaction, policy, and stewardship
The open ocean and the atmosphere are either perceived as “common good”, one with no owner, or a combination of the two. Moreover, the actual forms of stewardship beyond national jurisdiction leave some blurred spaces where political and economic interests often clash. Thus, although ocean governance requires a global approach, it was found that there is no general answer to the question of how policy-making deals with an uncertain future beyond national borders. Many examples were identified where international law strives to require states to act collectively through international or regional organizations, or to adopt measures at a regional or national level as agreed in binding agreements or voluntary instruments. Nevertheless, the challenges that arise from the lack of implementation, compliance, and enforcement were acknowledged as an impediment to achieving the desired outcomes.
Another pressing issue is if there are cultural differences at the local, national or regional level in how to effectively promote long-lasting stewardship of the open ocean. The perception of the nature of the sea is socially constructed in different ways and deeply affected by colonial and post-colonial history, post-cold war scenarios and new transnational identities. Also, different stakeholders use the ocean in different ways for different purposes via marine spatial planning. As a result, it is difficult to communicate the ocean to a global audience and accordingly to promote a shared approach to its stewardship.
The first draft of a manuscript is in preparation. It is then to be decided if it is worthwhile going further down this avenue by, for instance, submitting proposal to funding agencies.
This theme could likely lead to a project studying global attitudes towards the open ocean in general and the development of methods to promote long lasting stewardship (including the identification of what methods work for whom). We mainly depend on the expertise of social scientists here and expect first progress in autumn 2017. A potential paper, the second from this group, could form the basis for further pursuing research on stewardship of the open ocean in 2018 and beyond.
There is an increasing awareness of the impacts increasing shipping traffic may have on environmental processes in the surface ocean and the lower atmosphere in the future. The ability to accurately forecast ship emissions based on ship traffic data and data from shipping companies is a potentially powerful tool to evaluate the environmental impact of ship traffic and ensure compliance with legal regulations. However, due to its complex nature, this area requires traditional experimental research as well as modelling efforts combining economic and natural science. Legal regulations of air pollution and liquid discharge from ships need to be considered as well including the legal obligation to refrain from transforming one type of pollution into another.
The usage of new technologies in the shipping industry, such as scrubbers, is supposed to benefit the environment by significantly reducing certain ship emissions to the atmosphere. However, using scrubbers may lead to other, yet unascertained and unquantified impacts on the marine environment. Several interdisciplinary research priorities were identified which helped to improve our understanding of these potential impacts and the development of a sustainable shipping industry.
A follow-up workshop on this topic took place in Gothenburg in October 2017. This topic received the most encouragement to be pursued further. We aim at a proposal for a large international grant related to a Future Earth call, which has not been released yet. There has been suggestions that this could form the basis of an own institute with more permanent means of funding.
In future work, we hope to include topics like the evolving policy frameworks for floats, involvement in the development of an international regime for the protection of the atmosphere, and co-operation with the group working on geoengineering.
- last update April 2018 -