International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Ocean
Please join me on a short, imaginary trip.
Try to see yourself standing on an endless, white surface on a crisp and clear morning. The world around you is completely covered in snow and ice. Everything is white. You are in the middle of a vast ice cap. The horizon ends in a light blue line, slowly transforming into the bluest shade imaginable.
The spring sun is shining – around the clock, as it does this far north in the spring. It is cold, minus 20. The silence is total, only interrupted by gusts of wind. And this is cold. You are absorbed by nature.
I have been lucky enough to be there.
In May last year, I had the opportunity to join an expedition on Greenland, organized by The Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø. We were seven participants, travelling from lulissat to Daneborg on the east side. The purpose of the expedition was to spread awareness about polar history and the important research being conducted in the Arctic.
I could also take you inside our crowded tents. We had no alternative but to get along. Where we woke up on freezing mornings, a little bit sore from the day before. I could try to describe the stiffness in my arms, or especially in may hands.
Still, what I remember most vividly is the feeling of being alone, embraced by this gigantic, enormous nature. Knowing that under my skis there were three kilometers – 3000 meters – of ice.
I am sure that many of you have similar experiences – with the ice and the snow, with the cold, with harsh environments, in the Arctic or Antarctic. Many of you have perhaps felt the powerful presence of wildlife – either on land, on ice or in the ocean. The feeling of being surrounded by nature, of something that feels endless.
Yet it is not. It is possible to cross Greenland in two weeks by skis and kites. The enormous mass of ice is not infinite, as we know. It is melting.
And I imagine that all of you, like me, are afraid to lose the feeling of nature’s magnitude. The feeling of connection when you immerse yourself into nature. For me, being in the wild – at sea, in the snow, in the forest and mountains – is existential. It is the feeling of being at home.
These are defining times where we need science more than ever.
We need the knowledge, the numbers, and the thorough studies.
We need wise and concerned scientists in our collective search for truth.
I am glad you decided to organize this conference here in the city of Bergen, at the vital west coast of Norway.
Norwegians have for centuries been a nation living by, and off the ocean – and Bergen was and is a natural hub for everything connected to the sea.
“Effects of Climate Change on the World's Ocean” – or ECCWO – is the fifth symposium in a series. Your name – and the conference’s theme – has never been more essential.
It is impressive to gather over 500 scientists and participants from almost 70 countries. It says something about the importance and scope of the conference. My congratulations go to the organizers, and especially to the Norwegian Institute of maritime research.
Climate change has a wide range of effects on the ocean. Here are but some of the major findings related to our near waters:
The Barents Sea is one of the ocean areas most heavily affected by global warming, and research shows a marked reduction in ice cover. There is an increase in the production of phytoplankton, due to the decreased ice cover and a marked northward distribution of a range of fish species – including cod.
Further south, the cod stock in the North Sea and along the Norwegian coast is declining as the temperature is getting too high and sub-optimal for the reproduction.
The sugar kelp forests outside southern Norway are already strongly affected with dramatic die off due to warming. In the last IPCC report, kelp forests were among the most at-risk ecosystem types, only surpassed by warm water corals. This illustrates the great span in the challenge – that climate change affects both the tropics and the polar ecosystems.
Knowledge and research must be at the core of how we deal with climate change. You, our researchers, make the critical knowledge accessible. Your work enables us to create a sustainable future because you give us the means to make the right decisions.
Having forums such as this symposium is central to ensure the dialogue between scientists and inspire great science in the years to come – and I am glad to see that there are many young scientists here today.
Your conference is also an important part of the larger One Ocean Week here in Bergen. More than ever, we need meeting places like this – where science meets politics, business, public administration, and culture.
Settings like this week in beautiful Bergen is a perfect arena for creating enthusiasm and hope.
Over the last years, I have met many of your colleagues and I am often impressed by scientists. Your passion and your commitment to nature – and thereby to all of us as a global community. Your creativity, dedication and persistence always inspire me.
Thank you for your hard work!
I wish you all a fruitful symposium.