Obama: Oceans are key in climate change fight

Obama: Oceans are key in climate change fight
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President Obama highlighted the world’s oceans Thursday as both a unique victim of climate change and a key resource in the fight against it.

Obama said that he created the Atlantic Ocean’s first national monument Thursday, off the coast of Massachusetts, in part to protect the ecosystem from the effects of climate change.

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“We cannot truly protect our planet without protecting our oceans,” Obama said at an international State Department conference on environmental protection for oceans.

He said that the central problem that humanity faces in protecting oceans is that “we are asking far too much of our ocean, in asking it to adapt to us.” 

“If we’re going to leave our children with oceans like the ones that were left to us, then we’re going to have to act. And we’re going to have to act boldly,” he said.

Obama frequently referenced his time growing up in Hawaii to demonstrate his close relationship to the ocean and his concern for it. Less than a month ago, he greatly expanded the Papahānaumokuākea monument, protecting a vast area of ocean northwest of Hawaii.

“Our conservation efforts and our obligations to prevent climate change in fact go hand in hand, because marine areas already have enough to worry about with overfishing and ship traffic and pollution,” Obama said.

“The more of those threats that we eliminate through conservation, the more resilient those ecosystems will be to the consequences of climate change.”

The new national monument created Thursday, dubbed the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is nearly 5,000 square miles, and protects unique ecosystems that host important coral and whales, among other vulnerable or endangered species.

The monument designation means that all commercial fishing will eventually be banned, along with any mineral extraction, but most other activities can resume.

“We’re helping make the oceans more resilient to climate change. And this will help fishermen better understand the changes that are taking place that will affect their livelihood,” Obama said. “And we’re doing so in a way that respects the fishing industry’s unique role in New England’s economy and history.”

The president called for optimism in fighting climate change and other environmental threats, recalling efforts to save the ozone layer and end acid rain as examples of seemingly impossible environmental tasks that were successful.

“These are problems we can solve,” he said, asking that conferences like the one Thursday become calls “to not give into hopelessness or to suggest that somehow these problems are just too big.”