The Ocean is an Unsung Heroine in the Climate Battle

Dangerous hurricanes. Rampant wildfires. Severe drought. The catastrophic weather events that have inflicted havoc across the United States with increasing intensity over the past several months highlight the urgent need to take action to address global warming. As the incoming Biden-Harris Administration signals its intent to make climate change a top issue, it has an opportunity to join forces with an often-overlooked ally.

The ocean is poised to play the heroine in reducing harmful emissions in the United States. A new report from CEA Consulting confirms the ocean as a true power player in addressing climate change. Opportunities for Ocean-Climate Action in the United States finds that tapping into offshore wind energy, protecting coastal blue carbon ecosystems, reducing carbon emissions from shipping, strengthening fisheries management at the state level, and expanding carbon storage below the seabed are five ocean-based opportunities to reduce greenhouse gasses. Of these, offshore wind energy offers the greatest potential.

As Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Jean Flemma, co-founders of the Urban Ocean Lab, recently pointed out in a list of the Top 41 Things Biden Should Do First on Climate Change, “When we think of climate policy, we should think of the ocean . . . in the U.S., offshore wind energy is a massive unrealized opportunity.”

Just how massive? The research shows offshore wind energy could reduce U.S. emissions by up to eight percent over the next 30 years. This is the equivalent of removing about 100 million automobiles from our roads and highways – or nearly half of all the cars registered in the U.S.

To get there, our country urgently needs to make a significant investment in the policy, research, and technology needed to pursue sustainable offshore wind energy siting and production. The return on these investments will go far beyond helping us reduce emissions in order to limit increases in global temperatures and reduce carbon emissions that acidify the ocean and pollute our air. Increasing offshore wind energy production can create 80,000 new jobs while supporting economic growth, technological innovation, and cleaner air.

Offshore wind energy is a new space for most of us. As we continue to collect and assess the data, our task is to address environmental impacts and protect the livelihoods of fishing and tribal communities while moving forward to leverage this tremendous potential. Wind energy not only brings a real opportunity to make urgently-needed progress on climate change – it is also a remarkable chance to shift the narrative from the ocean as a victim of climate change to the ocean as a powerful solution.

The Biden-Harris Administration has promised to “pursue a historic investment in clean energy innovation” as part of its climate plan. This report shows that the ocean is ripe for that kind of investment – and ready to play the heroine in the fight to reduce emissions.