Conference Overview

Our oceans will undergo profound changes during the next 25-50 years as a result of overfishing and destructive fishing, habitat alteration, invasive species, land-based pollution, and overarching all of these are increasing concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that will cause climate change, acidification, and sea level rise.

Climate change will result in many physical and biological impacts, sea level will change as a result of ocean warming and melting glacial ice, and the acidification we are just beginning to observe will continue. Because of the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, these changes will continue through the next century. While the magnitude of the changes can be affected by reducing CO2 emissions, their impacts will need to be managed under whatever scenario materializes. We are faced with two major challenges from changes due to greenhouse gases:

  • understanding the changes and how they will interact with stresses from resource exploitation, land use change and other manageable human impacts
  • developing strategies to adapt to our changing oceans and to mitigate the impacts on society and economies
  • Bringing together leaders in ocean science, policy management and education with nonprofit and business interests, the 11th National Conference on Science Policy and the Environment will suggest strategies to meet these challenges. We will focus on eight key themes: the physical and chemical changes in the ocean and their impacts; feedbacks between climate change and ecosystems (including fish resources); the impact of ocean changes on the coastal ocean; the impact of ocean changes on non-coastal regions; ocean change and human health; tipping points; the white Arctic vs. a blue Arctic; and exploring and managing for changing oceans.

For each issue, the conference will have impact through:

  • sharing the most current state of the science;
  • linking science to policy where relevant;
  • communicating key messages; and reframing issues;
  • developing targeted and actionable recommendations; and,
  • catalyzing long-term collaborations and initiatives

In addition, the conference has the opportunity to highlight important ways that new management techniques like ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning will need to consider the changes that we will see during the next decades.

Targeted audiences for participation and communications:

  • Participation in the conference process (scale is 800-1200) will include leaders from federal, state and local agencies; policy, research educational institutions; businesses; the next generation of ocean leaders; and those who can significantly impact ocean and climate policy but do not yet recognize its impact on their communities.
  • Communication targets will include Congress, federal agencies, key stakeholder organizations and international bodies.

The conference will develop recommendations focused on achieving impact in the 12-16 months following the conference before the 2012 election cycle closes. Several of the eight conferences themes are directly related to priority objectives for planning by the newly established National Ocean Council (co-chaired by CEQ and OSTP), including climate change and ocean acidification. We hope to use the conference to provide important input to the planning process.

"Senator Graham and I welcome the National Council's day-long focus on offshore oil drilling. The day is packed with substantive discussions of many critical aspects of drilling - lessons we've learned from the BP disaster last April, remedies and regulatory fixes, future prospects, and more."

- Hon. William Reilly


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