Kyle Schaefer is worried that his days as a fishing guide are numbered.
He is one of the five witnesses that appeared in front of the Senate Banking Committee to discuss how climate change could threaten the “blue economies ,”, a term which encompasses all the ways the oceans are contributing to global economic growth.
” The climate trends present a substantial increase in risks and weakens my confidence that my small fishing business will prosper in the future,” Schaefer said, an American owner of a Bahamas-based company. “I may be forced to close my charter business within the next few seasons simply because there won’t be enough fish left.”
Climate scientists and economists have warned that climate change could do significant damage to the global economy in future decades — and that some of those changes are already happening now. A severe drought is hampering ships in the Mississippi River and global ocean temperatures reached record heights for nine straight months last year.
Sea level rise is somewhat counterintuitively also a risk, combining with more powerful storms to threaten crucial ports.
“Sea level rise impacts coastal ecosystems and infrastructure that underpin the blue economy including supply chains, real estate, infrastructure, agriculture, insurance markets, health costs and more,” Andrea Dutton, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the department of geoscience, told the hearing.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), chair of the Senate Budget Committee called for urgent action. His state counts ocean industries as a particularly important part of its economy.
” Ocean economies are at risk due to climate change, he stated during the hearing. “You’ve heard the warnings. You saw the witnesses. These were adults who knew their stuff. Early evidence that their predictions are coming true can be seen. It’s time to wake up.”
The blue economy is projected to grow faster than the global economy in the coming decades and reach $3 trillion by 2030, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 40% of people in the United States live on the coasts and are at higher risk of high-tide flooding, hurricanes, sea level rise, erosion and climate change.
Climate change — and most notably what to do about it — remain a highly politicized issue in Washington, though more Republicans have begun to embrace calls for urgent action.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) said that the U.S. must balance economic interest with climate action and push to hold China, and India, accountable for harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m not a climate change denier. I’m just not a climate change alarmist,” he said at the hearing.
Although no specifics were given on how government money can be spent in future bills to specifically aid the blue economy, witnesses and legislators all pointed to diminishing fossil fuel reliance as the core solution.
“Because humans are driving the rapid warming of our planet, that means that we are also the solution to this problem,” Dutton said. “Our climate future is not just a place that we get to go to, it is a place that we get to create together.”
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