134: Dr. Lisa Levin & James McFarlane, Is Seabed Mining the Answer?
Guest Name(s): Dr. Lisa Levin, James McFarlane
Is seabed mining the answer? Listen in with Matt and two special guests this week. Dr. Lisa Levin, Distinguished Professor Emerita at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who specializes in biological oceanography. Dr. Levin is a deep-sea biologist interested in the intersection of biodiversity, climate and human disturbance. Joining her is James McFarlane, Chief Operating Officer of Strategic Robotic Systems who brilliantly weighs in lucidly on this crucial matter.
Episode Audio Links:
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host and I’ve got some great guests on the program. Today we’ve got Dr. Lisa Levin, professor emeritus of Biological Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Professor Levin has authored 275 scientific publications, pretty amazing, contributed to the IPCC reports.
And very noted scientist in this area also have Jim MacFarlane, past head of the Office of Resource Environmental Monitoring at the ISA, the ISA is the International Seabed Authority. And Jim held that position 2009 and 2011 currently is the CEO of Strategic Robotic Systems.
So we’re going to be talking about seabed mining today and what the risks are of going forward in that process. China is planning to use the deep sea mining to gain both economic and military advantage over the US the US is kind of sitting on the sidelines and has not ratified this, the ISA treaty through the UN, because it doesn’t want to undermine its sovereignty on the high seas by giving power to the ISA.
So Jim, maybe you could start us off and talk about your experience of the ISA what it is and what’s going on there. And thank you for being on the show.
Pleasure and an honor to be here. The ISA was born out of UNCLOGS, the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea, and unclose developed two bodies out of that document one was the ISA the International Seabed Authority. And the other body was it last the international tribunal along the law, the sea ISA is comprised of five arms there is the LTC which is the legal and technical commission, the Finance Committee, the assembly, the council and the Secretariat itself.
And the secretariat is basically the business end of the organization that writes all the white papers creates the you know, the framework for developing legal instruments and from there, it would go to the LTC the LTC would arm wrestle amongst themselves to get an answer as to what they believe those regulations should or should not say.
And they send it back to the secretary to provide additional details and you know, streamlining of what that looks like. And then once the LTC has got to a place where it is happy, it goes through to the council, which is a smaller subset of the member states. And the council would go through and they would ratify. And then from there, it would go to the full assembly, where it would take consensus of the 169 member states to pass anything into its into a final form.
So what was your position there? And why did you leave the organization,
My position there was as the head of the Office of resources and environmental monitoring. And I did a two year term appointment there. And I was asked to come back to Canada and run my father’s business. And that’s why I left the ISA to go run an undersea technology company.
I should have probably stayed in Jamaica, it’s a beautiful place to live and work in I do believe that the the ISA has an extraordinarily important role in managing deep ocean resources. And that was the reason I went there was to try and help really establish a solid environmental conversation around what it means to disturb deep ocean resources.
Do you think that there should be some degree of alarm that the United States is not engaged in that process and that China’s exerting a lot of influence in that area?
Well, the United States has observer status, and they go to the meetings and they certainly are involved in conversations with all of the other member states. So it’s not as if the United States is living in a vacuum, they certainly do try to influence the conversation regardless of them not having member status. So,
Dr. Levin, how does deep sea mining impact the seabed and what are the consequences of deep sea mining?
It’s a very important question because we have not done On any mining at any sort of relevant scale, the real answer doesn’t exist yet. But we know of many different types of impacts that will occur. And they include a complete removal and disruption of the in area that’s mined, removing the substrate the structures that the animals live on, like nodules. And at the same time resuspending sediments into the water that’s called a sediment plume.
There is a very light li going to be released of trace metals, many of which are toxic, possible release of radioactivity from the seabed, there’s a tremendous amount of light and noise and vibration that doesn’t normally occur in this very quiescent area. So all of that is problematic to the animals that live there. And then after the aura is brought to the ship, and extracted there is the return what’s called return water that sent back down into the deep sea at some mid level, that also has suspended part, fine particles and contaminants associated with it.
So there there’s a whole collection of, of different types of physical and geochemical disturbance and biological disturbance that can occur. What we don’t really know is how long that will last and how far it will spread, and how all the different species that live down there will react to all of this. But we do know from some very old tests mining that these ecosystems recover quick, would recover very, very slowly.
After 20 to 30 years of some simulated I wouldn’t say it’s test mining, just simulated disturbances and polymetallic, nodule areas, the microbes haven’t recovered, the animals haven’t recovered, the scars are still sharp. So because things happen very slowly in the deep sea, we know that the impacts will be severe, like likely involving loss of biodiversity, and and probably last a very long time.
So I guess is your position that more study is needed before any mining is done? Or will you do come out and take a position that no deep sea mining should be done period?
Well, that’s a hard one. I personally believe that we probably don’t need the minerals from the deep sea due to changing battery technologies and new resources on land and different types of reuse and recycling. And also because there is so little known about the deep sea ecosystems, we don’t really know what we wouldn’t be messing up.
Now, there is a lot of research that’s still needed, because we don’t know the distributions of species and how they’re connected. We cannot say for sure what species would be lost or on what timescales with what level and coverage of of mining.
So research could help us definitely inform us about both the biodiversity that connections, the linkages to the surface and to other countries waters and in a way that would allow us to make decisions about whether to mine or not in a more effective way. So yes, I do think we need to do some more science.
Jim, as far as the ISA is concerned, is it doing the types of research that Dr. Levin is suggesting that be done? Or is it kind of rushing through this process to to allow countries to start mining more quickly?
I think that the amount of research that’s been done is miniscule. I think, when you look at the total number of data points they have for an area, likely ccz, which is four and a half million square kilometers, is woefully under sampled. They don’t have enough information to do evidence based decision making.
And what is that, what is your opinion based on?
I spent 15 years at a place called Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. For the first nine years I was there I was the chief pilot of a vehicle called Ventana which just passed its 45th 100 dive. It’s been out there diving and doing research since 1988, August 26 1988. And it’s still out there working today. The amount of research that that vehicle has done has allowed the research institution to really get you know resolution of the Monterey Bay Area down to a very, very fine point.
But that’s over 30 years of going out four or five days a week. And exploring that area. We’re talking about an area that’s 4.5 million square kilometers, the ccz, the Clarion Clipperton zone, and there’s about four, maybe 5000 data points in that whole area. It’s nowhere close to doing the type of resolution required to be able to make the proper decisions as to whether mining should be undertaken in that area.
I think it’s going to be decades before we collect enough information to be able to make informed judgments as to whether the cost of this is worthwhile.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got two great guests on the program, Jim MacFarlane and Dr. Lisa Levin. We’ll be right back in just one minute. Stay tuned.
At Matern Law Group we believe that every voice deserves to be heard, not just the rich and powerful whether you’re facing problems in the workplace defective consumer products or environmental issues. Our skilled attorneys are here for you. We have decades of combined legal experience and we have earned a reputation for excellence in the courtroom. We look forward to serving you at Matern Law Group contact 844-MLG for you or 844-654-4968.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Jim McFarlane and Dr. Lisa Levin on the program. And Jim, you had just stated really strong case for why we haven’t done enough research before going ahead and mining. The question is does it look like countries are going to go ahead and start mining before the research is done? Because it sounds like China is pushing the ISA to come up with kind of the Go ahead in the next year or two? What’s the status of that.
So, there is no rules and regulations for exploitation of minerals nor is there an environmental code mining code or are the financial instruments required to administer the sharing under the common common resources of humankind. So, there has been a groundswell of opposition from FSM, the Federated States of Micronesia, Spain, others yo vana to Dominican Republic, Canada, Brazil, Finland, etc, who are all coalescing around calling for a moratorium. And the United Kingdom just joined that group as well.
And they are all working quite closely with the deep sea conservation Coalition, which is really a groundbreaking group of NGOs and governments and so forth that are really trying to get everybody to understand the scale of what they’re talking about here. And, you know, when we talk about the scale of the deep ocean mining, there are 30 contractors out there today that have contracts either for polymetallic, nodules, C for massive sulfides, or Ferro manganese, cobalt rich crust.
And each one of those environments has its own, you know, challenges but let’s take the nodules because they seem to be the one that will probably be the first place that people go exploiting because it’s the easiest to do. Dr. Levin’s point about the substrate being disturbed is actually actually very accurate. In 1978, and 1979. Oh, am I in OMC, ocean mining Inc. and ocean Mining Corp, went out and did test mining in the what was known as USA one and USA two, which are both located in the CCC. And this was before the ISA was enacted.
So it was when the US thought that they could go exploit the resources. When not asked for permission. 2004 NOAA went back out and revisited these sites and there is no recolonization you know, the disturbance is like it was yesterday. You know, how long did the nodules take to form they took millions of years to form? You know, how long did it take to completely wipe it out one pass about 10 minutes.
So, you know, there’s the seafloor itself was being disturbed to the nth degree, but beyond that, the discharge of the sediment waters, you know, as that goes through the pelagic environment, and you know, it’s going to cause havoc to things like siphonic fours and larvae scions and the dueces and all these other types of critters that are, you know, filter feeders living in this waterfall, and they’re not designed to be dumped on by a dump truck full of sand or sediment or whatever you want to call it.
So, you know, this is not a benign operation mining is intrusive by its very nature. And it’s going to disturb the ecosystems quite dramatically.
Dr. Levin, can you tell us why it’s crucial to protect the ocean and its seabed?
Sure, I mean, the ocean is really critical to the health of this planet, it plays a fundamental role in stabilizing the climate, taking up carbon out of the atmosphere and transferring that carbon into and sequestering it in the deep ocean.
And so there is some concern that mining would pretty much disrupt some of those carbon services, both by releasing carbon from the sea floor and by interfering with the animal life in the midwater that’s responsible for moving the carbon down into the deep sea and enabling sequestration, the deep ocean remineralizes all organic matter and releases nutrients that then make their way back to the surface and fuel phytoplankton that fuel the food webs that are responsible for all our productive fisheries in the ocean.
So we require a healthy ocean to have, you know, complete cycles that enable fish production. There are other kinds of services that we are still discovering, you know, there’s so little that we know about the biodiversity in the deep ocean. And so little of its been characterized, that we’re still discovering new ecosystems, new nursery grounds, new species functions. And, you know, there is concern that if we destroy what we don’t know yet that we may suffer consequences down the line that we can’t even envision now.
Yeah, I was reading about the phytoplankton and the potential reduction of that due to global warming thus far, and, and its role in taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. What are you seeing on that front? It’s, I guess, be somewhat unrelated to deep sea mining, since that hasn’t got underway, but just the degradation of our environment, thus far and its effect on the phytoplankton in the ocean?
Well, I’m not sure if you’re asking about climate change and global warming, definitely, the warming of the atmosphere is warming the ocean. And that’s leading to more stratified waters. So less nutrients are mixed up into the surface, and overall primary production is, is starting to decline. And the projections are for more decline, that primary production is the phytoplankton that you’re talking about taking up carbon.
And it isn’t unrelated to mining in the sense that climate change is exerting pressure on the deep sea at the same time that my name would. And when we combine a whole host of stressors together, it makes it so much more difficult for the the organisms that are there to function properly.
So how is the current state of the environment causing stress on the deep ocean at this time?
Well, we the okay, climate change has caused warming. And we know that deep ocean is also warming, some mostly in the southern half, I would say the greatest warming is in the southern hemisphere, although the emissions are mostly from the northern hemisphere. And that warming is also causing the ocean to lose oxygen.
And it’s also and the uptake of carbon dioxide by the ocean is also causing what we call ocean acidification. So the pH is going down and the and it’s becoming harder for animals that produce calcium skeletons. To to do that, and so all of those Act and the the reductions in phytoplankton are potentially reducing food supplies.
So all of those are stressors on life in the ocean and also life in the deep ocean. And it when you add seabed mining as a additional stressor with suspended sediments, and noise on light and vibrations and release of contaminants it makes it’s going to just make it really difficult for all that life in the ocean to to survive and function.
So what can individuals do to address the issues related to this deep sea mining and try to put a stop to it?
Get your voice heard it, if you if you don’t say anything, you know, nothing’s ever going to happen. And a lot of people don’t think about the oceans, they see the surface of the water. And they have not had the, the honor and the privilege to spend their entire life, you know, charging around underneath the surface of the waves.
And I can remember, you know, this is something I’ve done my entire life since I was a child. And, you know, my firt, my father put me in a submarine for the first time when I was eight years old. And I can remember my grandmother, you know, I bring videos of the deep ocean stuff that I was exploring and show it to her. And she was totally shocked. She didn’t know, you know, she lived close to the ocean her entire life, but she really didn’t have an appreciation for what goes on in the oceans.
And so what people can do is they can get informed about our oceans, they can, you know, there are many, many resources out there today, available just by going online to you know, start understanding the conversation, get involved call, you know, your members, House of Representatives, Senators, write letters, you know, I’ve, I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve just called called somebody, you know, sent them a letter, hey, I’m interested in this, or I need some help to understand that they’re responsive.
And I think it’s incumbent upon us to, you know, make the noise and start to get people involved. And I think the things like the deep sea conservation coalition, you know, help those groups, you know, bring your voice to the table and be heard,
I would say that you actually can do quite a lot like Jim said, California, Washington and Oregon have already banned seabed mining within their state waters. that’s those are state actions, but you can definitely let call your congress people know that you are against mining you and also support companies that have moved already and vowed not to source deep sea minerals.
There are several car companies that have done that for batteries. And there’s Google, I think Microsoft, I’m not sure exactly which companies but there’s a whole host of them. Tiffany, the jewelry company has come out against seabed mining because gold and silver are being looked at from hydrothermal vents. So I think, you know, both letting business know and letting your government officials from the local level on up know, could be very important.
Well, those are all great ideas. You’re listening to a climate change, and I’ve got two great guests on the program. We’ll be right back and just one minute to talk to Dr. Levin and Jim MacFarlane. So we’ll be right back stay tuned
Hi, this is Matt Matern, host of A Climate Change. Tune in to hear thought leaders discuss the solutions to heal our planet. All of us can play a part. We can vote consume less, get involved with local environmental organizations. Check out A Climate Change with Matt Matern at aclimatechange.com Or pick it up on I Heart, Spotify and Apple and learn how we can heal the world by taking action every day.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. I’ve got two great guests on the program, Dr. Lisa Levin and Jim MacFarlane. Dr. Levin, we were talking about stewardship offline. And particularly I’ve been talking to others in the environmental movement about John Locke and how some of his ideas about Liberty also related to stewardship of our environment.
And unfortunately, those ideas didn’t make it into kind of political documents, I think at the time, because everybody just assumed resources were essentially unlimited. And that pollution could never cause a problem because science had not evolved to that point. And we were not as capable as humans of destroying the environment 300 years ago, but now are quite capable of doing that. So tell us a little bit about the work that you’re doing with the deep ocean stewardship commission and why that’s important.
Sure. It’s the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative. And we are a scientific network that actually brings together scientists who are familiar Are you aware and work on the deep ocean. And we also joined together with policy and law experts, economists, some business people to put together the expertise that’s actually needed to make decisions about the deep ocean with a focus on maintaining the integrity of ecosystems as they are and to enable them to be available for future generations.
So we call ourselves DOSI. We started in just over a decade ago, and sands have grown to a network of over 3500 members or so with the goal of bringing science to policymaking and focus, especially with the international level. So we can delegate to the International Seabed Authority meeting, or observers, we are not telling you, we are considered observers. And we comment regularly and critique the development of regulations and impact assessments for test mining and in any of the other documents that are available for stakeholder input.
But we also engage in climate policy, we go to the climate cops, we send people to have been participating in development of the new biodiversity treaty on the high seas. We are involved in the Convention on Biological Diversity. So anywhere that there’s a human activity in the deep ocean, we have people engaged in deep sea fisheries, people engaged in offshore energy. And so we try to bring deep sea science to decision making and all of these arenas.
Are you involved in in advising the ISA or at least, you know, bringing information to them regarding the work that they’re doing and creating rules regarding deep sea mining?
Yes, definitely. I mean, I am Josie. I have been to several ISA meetings. And but the last couple of years, I’ve just been listening online, because the many of the discussions are streamed and available to the public. But I have input had input on doses interventions and critiques of, of many of the ISA documents.
As far as you can tell, does it look like the brakes are being put on the ISA in terms of creating rules that would actually protect the deep sea? Or is the process kind of going forward such that it looks like mining is going to be opened up in the next few years? A little of both?
Actually. I mean, the discussions definitely have delved increasingly deeper into environmental impacts, and what kinds of regulations are needed to detect and avoid these and monitor these and what and respond to them. But because it was actually nabru, not China that triggered this two year rule a couple of years ago, but began to the ISA, to speed up the development of the mining code.
This two year rule states that once it’s triggered, it’s part of it’s a minor ruling in the Law of the Sea. But once it’s triggered, the ISA is responsible for developing the code within two years, or must consider applications for exploitation mining. Now that two years came and went last July. And the regulations aren’t ready, as Jim said, and the metals company and narrow, who are the ones who wanted to submit an application first said they would wait. First, they would wait till this this December.
And now I think they’ve said they would wait till next year to submit their application. Whether the regulations will be fully developed by next year, it’s hard to know because they’re incredibly complex. They don’t just involve environmental regulations. They’ve involved finance, and compliance and liability questions and so many different complicated questions.
So we’ll see what happens. I think that definitely there is both a moratorium movement, as you heard about, and a lot of countries questioning whether mining should go ahead before we have the science that’s necessary. I’ve also heard the US observers say that they do not think that mining should occur until the science is further along and we’re prepared to make effective regulations and I many people agree we are not there.
I guess the question is, are there enough votes to have a moratorium put in place are enough countries willing to take the stand at this point in time and say, “no deep sea mining.”
There’s 23 right now that have come out in favor of a precautionary pause or a moratorium, or only one country has come out for a ban on deep seabed mining, and that’s France. So I honestly don’t know how many countries would have to make that decision, I assume at least a majority, but maybe even more, maybe two thirds or something like that.
Definitely. That number of countries doesn’t exist, but it’s growing in another year. I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know. I’d be interested to hear what, James says.
Jim, what are your thoughts on that front?
As Lisa has pointed out, is extraordinarily complicated. You’ve got financial regimes, you’ve got environmental codes, you’ve got mining code. And then you’ve got to get into the actual minerals marketplace. And, you know, what does that look like as far as the value of minerals and is the cost going to support exploitation out in the high seas, it’s not a very cheap adventure. I mean, it takes a lot of money to go out and work in those areas. I think that, you know, the precautionary pause is extraordinarily important.
I think that we do not have anywhere near the knowledge base required to do you know, the appropriate management issues for taking care of the deep ocean. And I can give you a really interesting example, the CIO V, which is the central indian ocean basin also has nodules, just like the CCC does. And, and IoT, the National Institute of Ocean technology in Chennai, India has been out working in those waters, trying to understand the environment a little better.
And they found a snail down there that had an extraordinarily iron rich shell. It’s the only place in the world that this snail was found. And it’s right smack dab in the middle of where they would like to exploit the minerals, the polymetallic nodules. That’s just one area where they found a species that nobody knew anything about. And it was on their exploratory dives. Well, if you take an area the size of the CCZ, which is four and a half million square kilometers, and you start to do the research in that area, you don’t know what you don’t know.
I mean, there’s so many unknowns in the deep ocean, you know, the average depth down there is over five kilometers.
Okay, how many vehicles are there in the world that can go to five kilometers?
There’s not a whole lot of them, you know, there’s only a certain number of vehicles that are available to go work those depths, which means your data collection takes time. And your knowledge base grows slowly. But you need to have those resources out there to be working in that area to be able to understand the environment and the ecosystems and the interaction of all the different species and stuff.
And the other thing that Lisa pointed out that is extraordinarily concerning to me, is the reintroduction of carbon into the water column. You know, the amount of carbon that is processed through the oceans that goes down into the deep ocean and is sequestered on the bottom is substantial. And we have, you know, a lot of global warming because of carbon in our atmosphere. And we know that about half of that carbon goes into the ocean annually.
What happens if you really disturb a very large area and you reintroduce a whole pile of carbon back up? You know, is that going to increase the ocean acidification, what’s it do to the pH?
All of those things that Lisa points out, are extraordinarily frightening, given the scale of what’s being discussed. And if you look at the contract areas in the CCZ, you can go to the ISA’s website, and you can pull up all of those areas. And you take that box of space, and you overlay it across the United States. We’re talking about an area that goes from one coast to the other.
Okay, this is not, you know, the, the Sea of Cortez, you know, we’re talking about a space that stretches from California to Washington, DC. You know, it’s an extraordinarily large area that they’re talking about disturbing.
Well, it is shocking and and we need to value sea life and value our environment. And fortunately, that hasn’t been part of the equation. I think that’s what I was kind of referring to in my comments about John Locke and stewardship is that we need to value stewardship and our environment because we’ve only valued dollars versus and profits get valued in our system versus protecting our environment.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, I’ve got Dr. Levin and Jim McFarlane on this program. We’ll be right back in just one minute. Stay tuned.
And Matern Law Group we believe that every voice deserves to be heard, not just the rich and powerful whether you’re facing problems in the workplace defective consumer products or environmental issues. Our skilled attorneys are here for you. We have decades of combined legal experience and we have earned a reputation for excellence in the courtroom. We look forward to serving you at Matern Law Group contact 844-MLG for you or 844-654-4968.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Dr. Lisa Levin of the Scripp Institute on the program as well as Jim McFarlane, who was an official with the International Seabed Mining Association. I guess, misstated that International Seabed Authority. One question I like to ask the guest is, who would you put on your Mount Rushmore of climate activists? And I’ll start with you, Jim.
Oh, I think we’ll have to go with her deepness. Dr. Sylvia Earle has been probably one of the greatest and most vocal “save the oceans” people on the face of the planet in my lifetime.
Okay. And Dr. Levin, who would you put up there?
Well, you said climate activists, I would put Greta Thunberg up there, I think it’s pretty remarkable what one little girl can do to get the attention of the world.
And it’s yeah, it’s inspiring to us all to go out there and do our best and you never know what’s going to happen.
So that was a great story. Why don’t we pivot to a topic? Which is our resources, our common heritage of mankind? And if so, what would you do to change our system of regulation based upon that, that theorem?
Well, what what you’re referring to is the fact that when the Law of the Sea was written, it created the the minerals resource, it designated the minerals resources in international waters, as being the common heritage of mankind. And that means that they belong to all the countries of the world, and all the people in those countries, it means they cannot be exploited for the sole benefit of a commercial mining operation, for example, it means that they cannot be exploited for the exclusive benefit of one country.
And so any revenues that would come from seabed mining, should it occur will have to be shared in some way, with everybody, and benefit everybody. And currently, there are many questions being raised about who actually would benefit from mining should it happen, and how any of the financial benefits would be shared with the world. And it’s very controversial, they haven’t really decided how that would happen.
But in many of the economic analyses show that countries, individual countries, not the mining company, you know, the underlying companies, but most individual countries would gain very, very little, maybe a million dollars, you know, a per country, which is almost nothing and and yet everybody would experience the damage done to the environment and the consequences to the environment. And there are many questions about whether this is worth it, you know, whether the the flow of funds would really benefit northern hemisphere, wealthy countries or mining conglomerate so.
So that’s one big issue and that the common heritage, many argue is not just the minerals, but the environment. And so are is mining the right decision to ensure that future generations have the benefits of these ecosystems.
So in terms of this common heritage of mankind, as far as it relates to laws see, does that have any applicability to taking fish out of the sea, or is it only related to mineral resources, it’s only for go ahead only for the seafloor. Okay, Jim, did you want to comment on this area as well?
Well, I’d offer up a quote that I’ve had in my back pocket for many years. And that is, we’re only caretakers of this planet for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. And, you know, this effort to go mine in the deep ocean is going to go more than just our grandchildren’s grandchildren. It’s something that’s going to last for a long, long, long time.
And it’s, it’s irreversible, this is a one way street, you’re not going to, you know, go do remediation, and over 5,000 meters of water, once it’s disturbed, it’s disturbed. And that’s the end of the conversation. And I’m just very, very concerned about any of these efforts going forward.
Do you believe that the Biden administration is taking the correct position on seabed mining for the short term or long term? Or is it going in the wrong direction?
I think that people are becoming more informed. And I think people are starting to understand the scale of destruction that will occur from deep ocean mining. I think that in all likelihood, any commercialization of the collection of nodules or seafloor massive sulfides, or what have you would probably occur within a country is easy before it happens out in the area and the areas what’s defined in unclassified everything outside of a country’s exclusive economic zone.
So what are the things that you think are the most important pieces, the environmental puzzle that the US or other major countries should be focused on to to save our environment?
I think that there needs to be enhanced research programs. And we are seeing a lot of private entities stepping up and making this happen. You know, there’s the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute that was put in place by David Packard, there’s the Schmidt Ocean Research Center, which is by Eric Schmidt from Google.
There’s a Norwegian entity Now X Ocean, there’s a bunch of efforts coming to fruition, that are really focused on doing substantive work in in the deep ocean realm. And I think that that needs to accelerate. And I think that large countries like United States and developed countries like France, have research programs that need to be better funded, so that they can have, you know, a larger presence in that sphere. And
Professor Levin, you were talking about going to COP. Are you planning to go to the upcoming COP? And if so, what do you see? What are you going to be advocating for while you’re there?
Oh, that’s, I’m so glad you asked that question, I will be going, I’ll be going for the full two weeks to Dubai. And I gone for the last most of the last nine cops and I advocate for greater awareness of the deep ocean, its role in climate. And in this particular cop, we’ll be having some sessions talking about the importance of deep ocean biodiversity to climate on this planet, and how preserving and conserving what we might call the carbon services or the carbon cycle services of marine life is so important.
Right now, it’s unusual, but the UNF Triple C, a treaty and the convention and the Paris Agreement really apply mainly to exclusive economic zones. And that leaves out the 60% of the international ocean. So one of the things that I often try to talk about is the importance of managing the ocean holistically and harmonizing the different types of international treaties and conventions so that the ocean is not managed in a siloed way.
Right now, we manage fisheries separately from climate separately from biodiversity separately, you know, everything separate, and so doesn’t work. You can’t just divide up the ocean into sectors and pieces and sea floor versus water. They’re all connected, and we only have one ocean on this planet. And it’s really important that we keep that ocean healthy, both for both for the climate and for people.
So what concrete results are you going to be shooting for in Dubai? And what will be a win for us?
Well, you know, the biggest result that we need to shoot for is to get emissions down. I know for the deep ocean reducing emissions and slowing and stopping global warming will help save deep ocean and deep ocean biodiversity. How we go about doing that is Is, is really, you know, a big challenge. And we, and there are many people who want to use carbon dioxide removal.
And there’s concerns that might replace emissions reductions and the ocean is now a really big target for carbon dioxide removal technologies. I have a lot of concerns about the consequences for those technologies at scale, what it would do to deep sea ecosystems.
So one of the things I’m trying to do is raise awareness about that. But you know, the big wins, really are getting coal coal out of the picture, and ultimately getting fossil fuels out of the picture, terms of emissions, or those those will be huge winds. So it’d be challenging, you’re going into kind of enemy territory, so to speak, going to Dubai, it is the big oil capital of the known universe.
So, you know, I think it would be great if you could get the biggest oil producers to agree that they are going to shut down their business in the future to save the planet. That would be incredible. We had a prior guest on the show talking about rolling out the Montreal protocols to say methane so that we can limit methane going forward in the same way that we did for I think it was CFCs back 30-40 years ago.
Well, it’s been a great having you both on the program, Dr. Lisa Levin, and Jim MacFarlane, amazing. Your work in on the environment for decades has really been inspirational to us and keep doing the great work that you’re doing.
Check out their organizations online. Tune in next week. Check our program out on Apple Music Spotify, iHeart Radio, as well as at aclimatechange.com and look forward to having you listening next week.
This is Matt Matern.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
Help Us Combat Climate Change by Subscribing to our Newsletter!