Fellow Story

Our oceans brim with climate solutions. We need a Blue New Deal.

Editor's note: The following op-ed by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson first appeared in The Washington Post.

Our nation has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, home to 40 percent of Americans who live in coastal counties. Our blue economy, including fishing, ocean farming, shipping, tourism and recreation, supports more than 3.25 million American jobs and a $300-billion annual contribution to our gross domestic product. And, for many, our cultural heritage is tied to the sea.

These communities are threatened by rising sea levels, eroding coasts and climate change-fueled storms. Yet the Green New Deal resolution, designed to transform our economy to a 100-percent clean energy future and address astronomical social inequality along the way, makes only a single passing reference to the world's oceans. There is a big blue gap in the Green New Deal.

That’s why I helped advise Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in developing a Blue New Deal for our oceans, to expand the vision of the Green New Deal. The plan aims to restore and protect coastal ecosystems, invest in renewable offshore energy and support good jobs in the Blue Economy. This plan recognizes that we must include the ocean as a key solution to the climate crisis.

As a marine biologist, I know the ocean is a hugely important part of our climate system. The ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases and around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we’ve emitted. This has made the ocean hotter and more acidic. It is driving fish toward the polesfrying corals in place and fueling stronger storms.

We are woefully unprepared for the sea level rise and stronger storms that come with a changing climate. But it’s important to recognize that the climate mitigation and adaptation solutions we need are already here. These include renewable energy, replanting ecosystems, regenerative farming, retrofitting buildings, electrifying transportation and reducing waste. 

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