Plastic in the ocean could triple between 2015 and 2025, according to a new report for the United Kingdom government. The Foresight Future of the Sea report said the marine environment faces “unprecedented change as a result of direct human activity and climate change,” and the authors are calling for further investigation. Professor Edward Hill of the UK National Oceanography Center told the BBC, “We really need a mission to planet ocean — it’s the last frontier.”
According to Hill, the ocean is “critical to our economic future. Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food. Yet we know so little of what’s down there. We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space — but there’s nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life.”
The report recommends reducing pollution by preventing plastic from entering the ocean, utilizing biodegradable plastic, or even creating public awareness campaigns for ocean protection. It also states that the ocean faces threats beyond simple plastic pollution. By 2100, the ocean could warm 1.2 to 3.2 degrees Celsius, depending on emissions — leading to coral bleaching and a slump for cold-water fish species. The report states that ocean warming “is likely to lead to new species in UK waters,” while marine biodiversity could take a hit from climate change and over-exploitation.
However, the global ocean economy could double to $3 trillion by 2030, with opportunities like deep-sea mining and offshore renewable energy. The report’s authors recommend developing “accurate and useful valuations of the marine environment through the goods and services it provides (including food, capturing carbon, mitigating flooding, and supporting human health) so that environmental externalities can be made clear and their value incorporated into decision making.”
Via the BBC