Polar Oceans: Acidification, Warming and Freshening at COP26

Nov. 6 (Saturday): Polar Oceans: Acidification, Warming and Freshening

10:00 Antarctic Marine Ecosystems Under Pressure

The first Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO, 2021) has shown significant changes in these ecosystems, driven by global climate change and direct human impacts. MEASO highlights the Southern Ocean’s importance as a major sink for CO2, and its role in supporting iconic ice-dependent and migratory species, largely sustained by Antarctic krill, which also support global food security. Without emissions reductions and climate recovery, Southern Ocean ecosystems are at severe risk of irreversible deterioration, with associated loss of the myriad societal benefits from this vast ocean region.

Organized by the Southern Ocean Observing System and MASEO Steering Committee

Speakers: Sian Henley, University of Edinburgh; Nadine Johnston, British Antarctic Survey (BAS); Jilda Caccavo, Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI); Susie Grant, British Antarctic Survey (BAS); Andrew Constable, University of Tasmania; CSIRO.

11:30 Into The Dark: Will the Arctic Warm or Cool?

This session will start with a showing of the award-winning environmental film “Into The Dark” (2020). The film describes a warming Arctic experiencing increasing “Atlantification,” with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning circulation (AMOC) feeding warm water directly from the Atlantic. IPCC AR6 expresses only “medium confidence” that the AMOC will not collapse abruptly before 2100. New evidence since AR6 suggests the AMOC may be substantially less stable. If the AMOC were to collapse, there may be abrupt shifts in Arctic weather and sea level, with uncertain impacts on Arctic and northern communities; and on the entire globe.

Organized by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Marine Scotland Science, Strathclyde University.

Speakers: Mark Inall, SAMS; Finlo Cottier, SAMS; Bee Berx, Marine Scotland; Stuart Cunningham, SAMS; Clare Johnson, SAMS; David McKee, Strathclyde University; Michael Snyder, Director, “Into the Dark”.

13:00 Tale of Two Oceans

The Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean are crucial components of the Earth’s systems, and play key roles in regulating climate. They are home to unique ecosystems under serious threat from climate change impacts such as warming, acidification and freshening. These polar oceans are already experiencing large changes in their chemistry and through continued warming will see more non-polar species moving into them resulting in altered ecosystem function, and knock-on consequences for food webs, fisheries, and climate regulation.

Organized by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)

Speakers: Libby Jewett, NOAA; Richard Bellerby, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Norway; SKLEC-NIVA Centre for Marine and Coastal Research at ECNU, China; UCSI, Malaysia; Angus Atkinson, PML; Henry Burgess, NERC Arctic Office, British Antarctic Survey; Helen Findlay, PML; Adrianne Sutton, NOAA; Rolf Rødvan, AMAP

14:30 Ocean Acidification in the Polar Regions: Poles Apart, but Not Polar Opposites

Oceans are important sinks for carbon dioxide (CO2), absorbing about 25% of the CO2 that has been released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. This service comes at a cost: the absorbed CO2 lowers seawater pH and changes the carbonate system (a process termed ocean acidification), which has severe consequences for a wide range of marine life. Polar oceans are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification because of their chemical properties, freshwater influence, and colder water. This session will highlight what changing pH and carbonate chemistry really means for the Polar regions, species, ecosystems and communities, emphasizing what a 1.5°C world looks like compared to a world of 2°C+.

Organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Speakers: Libby Jewett, NOAA; Nadja Steiner, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Ocean Sciences; Helen Findlay, Plymouth Marine Laboratory; Thomas Hurst, NOAA; Richard Bellerby, NIVA; Elizabeth Shadwick, CSIRO; Agneta Fransson, Norwegian Polar Institute, Dr. Kumiko Azetsu, Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

16:00 Indigenous Peoples´ food systems and climate change in the Polar Oceans.

Climate change is affecting Indigenous peoples’ food systems worldwide, and the Arctic region, the Arctic Ocean and its coastal seas are no exception. Ocean warming and acidification are expected to disrupt current practices, from resource distribution, and abundance, to timing and locations for hunting, fishing, harvesting, landing sites, food preparation and preservation, and even now allocation of fishing quotas among competing interests.

Organized by FAO

Speakers: Anne Nuorgam, Chair UNPFII , René Castro Salazar, Special Advisor Office of the Director General , FAO, Gunn-Britt Retter, Head of the Arctic and Environmental Unit of the Saami Council,  Brian Keane, Chair, Board of Directors, Land is life, Dalee Sambo, Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), U.S.; Viacheslav Shadrin, Institute of Humanities and North Minority Peoples’ Problems, Russia, Nicole Franz, Fisheries Division, FAO; Adelaine Ahmasuk, ICC Alaska; Rodion Sulyandziga, Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CSIPN); Chad Tudenggongbu, Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, UNFCCC, Joanna Petrasek MacDonald, UNFCCC; Yon Fernández-de-Larrinoa Chief, Indigenous Peoples Unit, FAO      

18:00 Triple Threat to Polar Oceans

The Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean play a key role in regulating climate, but are under serious threat from CO2 emissions cuasing three main and linked impacts: warming, acidification and freshening; with more non-polar invasive species moving into them; with consequences for food webs, fisheries, and climate regulation. This summary session will highlight the latest scientific findings on this “triple threat.” It will discuss the wider environmental and societal impacts, links to policy and showcase the need for raising ambition for reducing emissions.

Organized by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)

Speakers: Carol Turley, PML; Bee Berx, Marine Scotland, Government of Scotland; Helen Findlay, PML; Sian Henley, University of Edinburgh; Rolf Rødven, AMAP; Anne Nuorgam, Sámi people, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)