Skip to Global Futures Initiative Full Site Menu Skip to main content
September 28, 2016

Responding To: Climate Change and the Oceans: Challenges Ahead

Understanding our Oceans

Monica Mahal

On Friday, September 16, hundreds of Hoyas and visitors alike gathered in Gaston Hall to hear Secretary of State John Kerry deliver his take on the state of our ocean. A day before his visit to the Hilltop, Secretary Kerry also spoke at the “Our Oceans” conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The essence of the topic “our ocean” represents the multifaceted nature of global environmentalism. Oceans pertain to not one but many prominent environmental issues, including climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion. Secretary Kerry took this expansive topic and broke it down into four basic categories: the importance of the ocean, its status, current political action, and further potential for progress.

Like a typical Georgetown student, my ears perked up at the discussion of political action and the role the United States plays in leading the ocean initiatives. “This is not a question of what do we do,” Secretary Kerry stated. “This is a question of the willpower to do what we know we can do.” I would challenge that statement further, and say that we should acknowledge what we do not know yet, and dedicate resources towards changing that. Solving these complex problems requires pushing the frontier of innovation, and hearing his words made me think of the importance of funding research and development. The ocean is one of the least understood areas in environmental science, and therefore calls for intense further study. Funding research and development can lead to innovative solutions to many problems that our ocean faces. This could include cost effectively generating electricity from ocean currents, reducing the quantity of garbage and pollution, and potentially discovering additional algal biomass.

“We have to think big and we have to think small at the same time.” Secretary Kerry provided examples of the progress made under the Obama administration and during the Paris COP21 agreements. Adding to this, funding R&D is critical in conjuring the big ideas that have the potential to be the best solutions towards the challenges our ocean faces.

Like Secretary Kerry says, “saving our ocean isn’t just an option or a priority, it’s an absolute necessity.” If we lead with this mindset, and focus on funding research and development, the United States can lead the global community in protecting and preserving our ocean.

Monica Mahal is a senior in the College, majoring in government and minoring in economics and environmental studies. She has interned for Georgetown’s Office of Sustainability for the past two years and works on sustainability outreach on campus.

Other Responses