Ocean, People, Planet

There is only one ocean, essential to the life of everyone on Earth—and it faces perils like never before

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Ocean, People, Planet

The ocean covers nearly three-fourths of the Earth. Vast and powerful, it is central to the life of everyone on the planet, supplying more than half of the world’s oxygen, providing food and recreation, and supporting economic vitality. Yet for all its seeming invincibility, the ocean has never been more in danger.

Its very chemistry is changing as ocean waters become more acidified through climate change. Its inhabitants—from large sharks to finger-sized crustaceans—are under assault. 

Plastics pollution is now ubiquitous, found even in the ocean’s greatest depths. And sea levels continue to rise, challenging the barriers separating people from water.

Yet for all its seeming invincibility, the ocean has never been more in danger.

In this new series, we focus on the connection between the health of the ocean and the health of the planet—and what that means for the well-being of all of us.

We’ll examine the state of the ocean, detail the threats, and offer potential solutions based on data, science, and traditional ways of knowing that are collaborative and achievable.

 

Challenges

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Our Ocean Is Choking on Plastic

A new analytical tool can show the main sources of plastic pollution and help governments determine how to best reduce the amount that is reaching the ocean.

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Our ocean—all 140 million square miles of it—has a plastic pollution problem. This is the case in places where one might expect it—from the waters lapping at megacities to the world’s most polluted river deltas—but also in areas that might surprise people, such as the deepest trenches in the sea and the world’s most remote coastlines.

 

After the Fact

In this new series, “Ocean, People, Planet,” we focus on the connection between the health of the ocean and the health of the planet. We’ll examine the state of our ocean, the challenges it faces, and offer potential solutions based on data, science, and traditional ways of knowing.

 

Preventing Ocean Plastic Pollution

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The Impacts of Climate Change

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Preventing Ocean Plastic Pollution

Stat: 11 million metric tons—the amount of plastic that enters the ocean each year.

Story: We continue our “Ocean, People, Planet” season with a discussion of one of the largest threats facing the ocean: plastic pollution. Winnie Lau, who is the project director of Pew’s preventing ocean plastics project, and Richard Bailey, professor of environmental systems at Oxford University, discuss ways to reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean and highlight a new analytical tool that nations can use to take action.

Learn more about "After the Fact."

The Impacts of Climate Change

Stat: 51% of Americans say the U.S. is doing a very bad or somewhat bad job of addressing climate change.

Story: Amid growing public concern about rising seas, extreme weather, and disappearing biodiversity, we speak with Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a longtime participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. He explains the science behind the planet’s changing environment, its effects on the ocean, and possible solutions to avoid “the climate danger zone.”

Robert Oppenheimer
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How We Can Avoid the 'Danger Zone' of Climate Change

Five questions with Michael Oppenheimer

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Michael Oppenheimer is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs and director of the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment at Princeton University. He is a longtime participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

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Ocean, People, Planet: Global Challenges 
Plastic pollution. Climate change. Rising sea levels. Our planet depends on a healthy ocean, and our ocean faces urgent challenges. Hear from ocean advocates, researchers, and experts about what's happening to our ocean—and innovative approaches for global problems.

 

A Wildlife Refuge On The Brink

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A Wildlife Refuge On The Brink

Stat: 2.1 feet—Scientists have forecast an increase of as much as 2.1 feet in the Chesapeake Bay by 2050.

Story: In this episode, we travel to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where the refuge is losing ground to climate change and rising sea levels. Through interviews with experts—including Joseph Gordon, project director for Pew’s work on conserving marine life in the U.S.; Marcia Pradines Long, manager of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge; Kristin Thomasgard,  program director with the Department of Defense; Julie M. Schablitsky, chief archaeologist at the Maryland Department of Transportation; and Kate Larson, a historian and author—we explore the threats facing this refuge because of the changing climate, and the path ahead for its environmental, cultural, and economic future.

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Saving Our Marsh: Protecting Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
On the shores of the Chesapeake sits Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, 32,000 acres of land that waterfowl and other migrating birds depend on. But more than 5,000 acres of land have disappeared due to sea level rise. Marcia Pradines Long is the Project Leader and Refuge Manager, and she shares how climate change has impacted this area and the species that call it home. 

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State of the Ocean

An illustration of the globe, centered on Antarctica.
An illustration of the globe, centered on Antarctica.
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The Global Ocean

The consequences of our taking resources from the sea were once limited to local scales. Today, exploitation, depletion, and loss affect us all.

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The consequences of our taking resources from the sea were once limited to local scales. Today, exploitation, depletion, and loss affect us all.

 

 

 

The State of Our Ocean With Callum Roberts

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The State of Our Ocean With Sheila (Siila) Watt-Cloutier

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The State of Our Ocean With Callum Roberts

Stat: 30%—More than 70 countries support the call to protect and conserve at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.

Story: The ocean is central to all life, providing oxygen, nutrition, and recreation, and supporting economic livelihoods for coastal communities around the globe. But this essential resource is facing multiple threats, including climate change, overfishing and illegal fishing, and plastics pollution.

In this first episode, we speak with Callum Roberts, marine biologist and oceanographer, about our human history with these waters and how we might chart a better course for our collective future.

Learn more about "After the Fact."

The State of Our Ocean With Sheila (Siila) Watt-Cloutier

Stat: 3 times: The Arctic is warming three times faster than the planet as a whole.

Story: The ocean is important for the health of the planet, and coastal communities around the world rely on it for their way of life.

In Part II of “The State of Our Ocean,” we speak with Sheila (Siila) Watt-Cloutier, an environmental, cultural, and human rights advocate, about the value of the ocean to the Inuit in the Arctic and how challenges such as climate change and rising tides affect her community and its traditional ways of life.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” says Watt-Cloutier. Many of the threats emerging in her people’s culture from climate change are reflected across the world in other coastal towns.

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Ocean, People, Planet: Why We Must Protect Our Ocean
The ocean has never needed more protection than it does now. But with solutions from data, science, and traditional knowledge, we can make a difference to safeguard this vital resource for generations to come.

Related Research

Trend Magazine Winter 2018

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Analysis of the facts, numbers, and trends shaping the world

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Analysis of the facts, numbers, and trends shaping the world

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After the Fact

After the Fact

A podcast from The Pew Charitable Trusts

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After the Fact

Welcome to “After the Fact,” a new podcast from The Pew Charitable Trusts that brings you data and analysis on the issues that matter to you. Experts from Pew and other special guests discuss the numbers and trends shaping some of society’s biggest challenges, then go beyond the facts with nonpartisan analysis and action.