The problems of the ocean and climate are intertwined and so are the solutions.
I am lucky to live by the Baltic Sea with my three kids and husband. The beautiful scenery that surrounds us reminds me what I am working for: to save this unique and vulnerable sea. It is only recently that I have realised that the Baltic Sea is like a test pool for other sea areas. Many of the problems the ocean suffers from have already become full crises in the Baltic Sea. Seven of the ten oxygen-depleted “dead zones” in the ocean are in the Baltic Sea. If we can find solutions here, they can be used to benefit the whole Ocean.
The foundation Baltic Sea Action Group is working to save the Baltic Sea. We are convinced that what is needed is a systemic change to a circular economy, and that the most leverage we have is in the food system. Currently, humans are mining virgin phosphorus for fertilizer and producing nitrogen with excessive amounts of fossil fuel – we're wasting these valuable nutrients along our food chain and letting them leak into bodies of water such as the Baltic Sea.
If we recycled these valuable nutrients, putting them to agricultural use, we could keep them from causing eutrophication and they would nurture the soil – healthy soil keeps nutrients in the plant as well as keeping it from leaking into bodies of water. Healthy soil also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and stores it, combating climate change.
Warming sea temperature is linked to the growth of strong hurricanes and other extreme weather conditions.
We know that climate change is dramatically affecting the ocean. Absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide is making the ocean more acid and upsetting the delicate pH balance that organisms rely on. Warming sea temperature is linked to the growth of strong hurricanes and other extreme weather conditions. And there is evidence that the warming climate is making the salt pulses that are vital to the almost-closed Baltic Sea very rare, while increased precipitation brings more nutrient emissions from the land and so worsens the eutrophication of the already suffering sea. Eutrophication (when the environment becomes enriched with nutrients) has already caused hypoxic dead zones in the bottom waters of the Baltic Sea, currently covering an area twice the size of Denmark.
At the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, France launched the 4 per 1000 initiative to store more carbon in the soil, so decreasing the amount in the atmosphere. Both research and practical testing are needed to actualise this ambitious goal. We at the Baltic Sea Action Group are now joining forces with the Finnish meteorological institute and the Finnish innovation fund Sitra to look at research projects and real-life farming to find out the true carbon sink potential of agriculture.
As practical actions continue to take place in Finland, one of the first beneficiaries will be the Baltic Sea – with nutrient emissions from sustainably farmed fields the first to decrease. If we are able to track how the carbon is stored and so change agricultural policies to support those practices in the long run, it will benefit the Baltic Sea, the ocean, our climate, and us all.
This is a goal – and a paradigm shift – that I feel proud to be working for.
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