Middle East Climate Conference, but Looking South for Hope
November 30, 2023
In preparation for this year’s international climate change summit, which started today in Dubai and is known as the 28th Conference of the Parties or COP 28, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, visited Antarctica to witness the growing effects of climate change.
The Antarctic is recognized as the frontlines of our fight against climate change, not only as an early indicator of how our planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity are being impacted by rising temperatures, but also because of the millions of tons of ice that could melt and severely impact coastal communities worldwide. For example, a study published in Nature Climate Change last month said warming has increased to the point that the ice sheet will now experience “unavoidable” melting which could raise global sea levels by almost 6 feet over the next few centuries. Another study published in Science Advances, also last month, reported that nearly 50 Antarctic ice shelves have shrunk by at least 30% since 1997 and 28 of those have lost more than half their ice in that short period of time.
“We are witnessing an acceleration that is absolutely devastating,” Mr. Guterres said about the rate of ice melt in Antarctica. “The Antarctic is waking up and the world must wake up,” he added.
COP 28 presents an opportunity to roll up our sleeves, listen to the science, and raise our ambition for collective action. As these important talks take place from Thursday November 30 to Tuesday December 12, Point Blue will once again be participating, sharing our science and expertise, as well as learning from amazing thought leaders from around the world to strengthen our knowledge and resolve. As the conference takes place you will be hearing from us on how things are going and what we are learning. In particular, we’re proud to continue supporting earlier career conservationists by sponsoring two graduate students from the Harvard School of Business, Grace Lam and Abdullah Al-Shakarchi. Please pay attention to our social media accounts for real-time updates from Grace and Abdullah! You can find Point Blue on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.
As is often the case, there is certainly a fair amount of skepticism this year on the speed and ambition of these negotiations to help us make the type of course correction we need to shift the trajectory that we are on. There are also many questioning whether a nation so heavily invested in fossil fuels as the United Arab Emirates is the appropriate host country for this event.
As scientists and observers of the natural world we share the sentiment expressed by many, including the UN Secretary General, that we need to scale up our collective efforts to fight climate change and protect our planet. And, as one of the few scientific institutions with decades of on-the-ground research in the Antarctic (and our team is on the ground there now as I write this), we also know firsthand how much can be done if we collaborate. Our science directly contributed to the creation of the largest marine protected area in the world, the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, which is home to critical habitat to so many marine species, including the Adélie Penguin which is the subject of over 25 years of Point Blue research. The establishment of this marine protected area came about from a multi-national collaborative effort that made sure that science and research were at the core of management strategies for one of the most pristine environments in the world.
As Mr. Guterres stated during his visit to Antarctica, “Antarctica is geographically remote for most of us, but its future is closely linked to that of future generations. I was encouraged to see how people working in and for Antarctica are guided by cooperation, not competition. This is the spirit we need at COP28.”
I sincerely hope that nations can come together with more ambition and commitment to a safe climate future than ever before. Meanwhile, Point Blue will continue our work in California and beyond to study and conserve the natural world that we all care so much about. There has never been a greater need for organizations like Point Blue to give everything we can to face the dual threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, and we are excited to bring our nearly 60 years of experience to meet this moment.