Brussels Conference on the Ocean and Climate Change criticised by activists

The Brussels Times reports, 19th February 2019: Members of the citizen collective ‘Extinction Rebellion’ booed international leaders upon their arrival at the Palais d’Egmont palace. “They are preparing to sign a Declaration which in and of itself does not go far enough. We reject their lack of ambition for the sphere,” said one activist. 

The conference — organised by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, Marie Christine Marghem, and the Belgian Minister for the North Sea, Philippe De Backer — included attendees from countries directly affected by the health of our oceans. These include the Marshall Islands, among others. Senior officials of international organisations were also invited, as well as Prince Albert of Monaco.

During his opening speech, Prime Minister Charles Michel was briefly, and abruptly, interrupted by an activist who had infiltrated his way into the crowd of attendees. Standing on a chair, he shouted “Climate emergency” to some 500 participants, before being forcibly ejected from the building.

As part of the event, the representatives from the various states signed the “Brussels Declaration”, an inventory of political initiatives around climate change and the preservation of the oceans. The declaration stresses the significance of scientific research, calling for a reduction in shipping emissions, whilst also reaffirming the international commitments already undertaken within the field.

In the activists’ view, the text of the declaration is not “sufficiently ambitious”.


Source: The Brussels Times, 19th February 2019.  For further details, see:


Marinet observes: It is welcome that the Belgian Government hosted and organised this conference on the impact of global warming and climate change upon the ocean. That in itself is positive. If the conference had not taken place the opportunity for Extinction Rebellion to infiltrate and grandstand the event in the manner in which the organisation likes to do would not have occurred.

However one does have to ask, does Extinction Rebellion’s assertion of a lack of urgency — the emergency, in their language – not have some validity?

For example, in the Conference Declaration (see link in the above text) the Conference does not record the disturbing fact that but for the ocean being a sink for all the CO2 generated heat released into the planet’s atmosphere since fossil fuel burning began in earnest (early 1800s) then the temperature in the troposphere would have risen by 36°C (65°F), instead of approaching the 1.5°C which we are now experiencing. In other words, the game would already have been over and the sixth mass extinction would have occurred.

Nor does the Conference Declaration record that the temperature of ocean surface waters is now rising by 0.1°C each decade (regionally variable) and also that a large part of the extra heat in the ocean is buried deep underwater with 35% of the additional warmth found at depths below 700 metres.

What does this mean for the large-scale ocean currents that drive the planet’s climate system? The Conference does not appear to have entered into a consideration of this question, let alone a warning.

Nor does the Conference appear to have considered the question of the decline of the ocean’s alkalinity in terms that reflect the gravity of the situation. The ocean has absorbed around 30% of the excess carbon dioxide which has been released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning.  This absorption of CO2 converts into carbonic acid which, in turn, is reducing the alkalinity of the ocean (known as “acidification”).  Measurements have revealed that ocean alkalinity has fallen by 0.1 pH [equivalent to a 30% fall] since the early 1800s, with a further reduction of this magnitude and perhaps even greater (0.2 to 0.3 pH) being predicted by the end of the present century if current trends continue.

This is of serious concern because many organisms are very sensitive to seemingly small changes in pH.

For example, for humans a drop of 0.1 pH in human blood can cause profound health consequences including seizures, heart arrhythmia and even coma. Whilst in the case of marine organisms, many are very sensitive to a change of this magnitude (0.1 pH) because it can affect fundamental physiological processes such as respiration, calcification [shell/skeleton building], photosynthesis and reproduction which means that even tiny marine plants – phytoplanktonphytoplankton Microscopic marine plants, usually algae. These microscopic plants are at the base of the food chain, and are the food of zooplankton (microscopic marine animals). Note: phytoplankton are microscopic plants, and zooplankton are microscopic animals., which are single celled algae at the base of the food chain, many of which have calcareous shells – will also be affected.

Acidification of the ocean is therefore a profoundly disrupting phenomenon to marine ecosystems. This reduction in alkalinity of the ocean (acidification) is increasing and the origin of it all is mankind’s activities — namely, the increased CO2 levels we are releasing into the atmosphere.

All of the above facts reflect profound shifts in the chemical and physical parameters of the ocean, and it is this shift in these parameters which drives extinction events.

Marinet was not present at the Brussels Conference to assert categorically that these matters were not fully considered; and Extinction Rebellion activists will have been expelled from the proceedings and thus have been unable to make such observations to the governments and delegates.

Yet the fact remains that the Conference Declaration does not appear to reflect the full measure of this “emergency”. So if you were a member of Extinction Rebellion, would you conclude that government and associated participants have yet grasped the scale of the emergency (catastrophe) now confronting us?



Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Leave a comment