Posted by: Hendra Siry | 16 December, 2009

Are we friends of the sea?

By: Fadel Muhammad and Jatna Supriatna , Copenhagen | Tue, 12/15/2009 8:58 AM | Opinion

The sea makes Indonesia what it is. It surrounds us and flows among us, provides food and income, and forms the backbone of many of our values, our heritage and culture.

But now, oceans that once were considered everlasting providers, are threatened by climate change. They threaten the livelihood of more than 3 billion people globally and the homes of 400 million
in the least developed countries in the world.

Evidence presented at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit shows that oceans carry much of the load of climate change, and the ability of Indonesia’s oceans to provide a living for us is rapidly declining.

The ocean covers 71 percent of the world’s surface and has absorbed more than 30 percent of the CO2 emissions that have been released into the atmosphere.

It has also absorbed more than 80 percent of excess heat caused by climate change. As a result, the oceans are now undergoing a distressing transformation — from rising sea levels that threaten our low-lying islands and towns, to warming ocean temperatures to increasing extreme weather and natural disasters.

These impacts have serious and irreversible consequences for marine and coastal ecosystems and the resources they provide.

For example, global projections predict that climate change may lead to a large-scale redistribution of global fisheries by 2055.

Particularly worrying for us is that the country estimated to have the biggest loss in potential fish
is Indonesia.

If carbon emissions remain at the current high level (referred to as A1B), Indonesia’s fisheries are projected to decline by more than 20 percent over that time.

Warming ocean temperatures have already impacted greatly on coral reefs. This means huge potential economic losses for our nation. The economic benefits from coral reefs in Indonesia — from fisheries to shoreline protection and tourism — have been estimated to reach US$1.6 billion per year.
It is now time to tackle climate change and reduce its damaging impact on our oceans. There is
still hope.

This means, first and foremost, the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This includes all countries — from the USA and Europe to China and Indonesia.

We must be part of the solution, and for Indonesia, this means cutting emissions and reducing
deforestation.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already made bold and progressive promises, but we need to see these materialize.

We must also ensure that the international community recognizes the impact of climate change on oceans and the coastal community when deciding how to spend adaptation funding, which is critical
to ensure that people around the world are prepared for present and future changes.

We must protect and intelligently manage Indonesia’s marine resources. Marine planning approaches, such as the Conservation International Seascapes initiative, which works closely with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry in Indonesia, takes into account all demands — from fisheries to coastal protection, storms and coral reefs — and is essential.

Many coastal habitats are critical to help us fight climate change, such as protecting fisheries and coasts and controlling erosion.

Protecting our coastal oceans can also help to mitigate climate change as mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes absorb carbon from the atmosphere and bury it into the sediment at approximately 10 times the rate observed in temperate forests and 50 times the rate observed in tropical forests.

As a country that consists of more than 17,000 islands and has a long and diverse coastline and ecosystem, Indonesia has no choice but to foster its relationship with the sea.

The question we must now ask ourselves is: are we friend or foe? To my mind, we have no choice — if we make an enemy of the sea, we will lose out.

Fadel Muhammad is Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister.
Jatna Supriatna is regional vice president of Conservation International (Indonesia) and a lecturer at the University of Indonesia’s Department of Biology postgraduate studies.


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