The U.S. depends on the ocean for food, recreation, a stable climate, jobs, personal and community identity, and enjoyment. Yet much of the ocean remains largely unexplored. For example, it is estimated to harbor > 90% of the unknown biodiversity on the planet. The benefits it provides are threatened by the both climate change and biodiversity loss. But although the ocean is a victim of climate change, it is also a powerful source of solutions – such as renewable energy, green shipping, and conserved and restored areas that help address climate change while providing benefits for people, ocean life, and the economy. Sustainable management of ocean waters, and addressing the climate crisis through ocean-based solutions – key priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration – depend on sound science and strong partnerships inside and outside of government.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrated the keel-laying of a new vessel, and announced new priorities for ocean exploration and observing, novel findings about acidification of the ocean, and pioneering partnership opportunities. These cross-agency and public-private partnerships emphasize the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on the central role of the ocean in our lives.
- Celebrating a New Ocean Research Vessel. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is celebrating the keel-laying of a new ship, Discoverer, whichwill advance ocean surveys and discovery, including in areas never before explored. Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff is sponsoring this new ship to highlight the crucial role that the ocean plays in tackling the climate crisis and many other challenges.
- Pursuing New Frontiers in Ocean Exploration. Ocean exploration – with its emphasis on discovery – has long captured the public imagination and often resulted in new findings that completely change our understanding of the world. The U.S. Ocean Policy Committee, led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is today releasing the report Strategic Priorities for Ocean Exploration and Characterization of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, outlining federal priorities for ocean exploration and characterization to discover and to secure a healthy, safe, and prosperous future. This report, led by the Ocean Policy Committee’s National Ocean Mapping, Exploration, and Characterization Council, identifies high-priority focal areas and geographies to help us understand and characterize the ocean. These priorities will advance forecasting of seafloor hazards, improve understanding of ocean cultural heritage, and uncover new knowledge about previously underexplored habitats and ecosystems.
- Advancing Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring. Ocean waters are becoming more acidic because some of the excess carbon dioxide that humans have put into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. This additional carbon dioxide alters the chemistry of the ocean, often harming ocean life. The Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification of the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology is today releasing their Sixth Report on Federally Funded Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Activities. The report highlights a range of research activities, from understanding the impact of ocean and coastal acidification on ecosystems and communities, to identifying potential ocean-based climate solutions. This work included projects to advance observations and modeling of ocean carbon, test new technology developments, such as autonomous platforms and novel sensors, to studying potential socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification, and conducting public education and outreach, raising awareness about this phenomenon. Collectively, this research provides important insights that will enable managers and communities to better anticipate and respond to ocean acidification.
- Supporting Oceanographic Research through Partnerships. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program under the Ocean Policy Committee is the nation’s flagship program to facilitate ocean research partnerships across government and other sectors. The NOPP Interagency Working Group’s Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2021 describes key achievements in oceanographic research. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program facilitated seven new projects with support from six Federal agencies, benefitting from partnerships across government, universities, and the private sector. One major new NOPP effort is Predicting Hurricane Coastal Impacts, for which over $12 million will fund a suite of projects focused on modeling, sensing, measuring, and forecasting coastal impacts of hurricanes, information that is critical to preparedness and response in increasingly vulnerable communities. The NOPP also initiated an effort to map and explore the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, providing new information on a unique ocean environment. Looking ahead, the recent establishment of a new National Oceanographic Partnership Program Office and the upcoming reestablishment of the Ocean Research Advisory Board will further bolster the program’s work to build impactful partnerships for advancing ocean science and education.
The activities shared today represent notable advances in ocean science and technology. These efforts, and many others, are providing actionable information to support sustainable management of ocean waters, now and into the future.
“Today’s announcements exemplify the strong scientific partnerships that this Administration is advancing to better understand our ocean and develop informed solutions to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental justice,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment, OSTP.
“Environmental intelligence about the ocean, gained through exploration, research, and monitoring, is vital for tackling climate change and other challenges. Our new state-of-the-art research vessel Discoverer will enable us to gather much-needed ocean data, and we are honored to have Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff as the sponsor of this ship,” Dr. Rick Spinrad, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.