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October 09, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

IMF: Whales Can Help Solve Climate Crisis

IMF: Whales Can Help Solve Climate Crisis
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The tragedy of the humpback whale that died in the River Thames this week seems emblematic with an unusual report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that outlines a strategy to protect whales so they can limit greenhouse gases and global warming.

The report entitled, Nature's Solution to Climate Change, claims "When it comes to saving the planet, one whale is worth a thousand trees."

Scientific research clearly links the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere with climate change and global warming, to the degree that it now threatens our ecosystems and way of life.

The IMF report suggests that many proposed solutions to deal with climate change, such as, carbon capturing technology, are complex, untested and expensive. So they are now looking at "no-tech" whales to help. "Marine biologists have recently discovered that whales--especially the great whales--play a significant role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere".

"The carbon capture potential of whales is truly startling. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean; each great whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year."

Scientists also believe that whales can also help remove CO2 from our planet, as their faeces fertilise phytoplankton, which in turn capture carbon from the atmosphere. 

"Wherever whales, the largest living things on earth, are found, so are populations of some of the smallest, phytoplankton. These microscopic creatures not only contribute at least 50 percent of all oxygen to our atmosphere, they do so by capturing about 37 billion metric tons of CO2, an estimated 40 percent of all CO2 produced," the IMF reports.

"At a minimum, even a 1 percent increase in phytoplankton productivity thanks to whale activity would capture hundreds of millions of tons of additional CO2 a year, equivalent to the sudden appearance of 2 billion mature trees."

So the mass killing of whales becomes not only tragic but ironic as The Guardian points out. "In the 20th century, humans removed 3 million great whales from the oceans - their sublime beauty hunted, slaughtered, and processed."

Even though commercial whaling is drastically reduced, whales still face significant life-threatening hazards including ship strikes, entanglement in fishing nets, waterborne plastic waste, and noise pollution. With the international (if voluntary) moratorium on the hunting of great whales, implemented in 1986, some species of whales are starting to recover - slowly - though many are not.

The "earth-tech" approach to carbon sequestration, as the IMF describes it, may at least provide incentive to enhance the protection of whales from human-made dangers.

As the IMF states, "Nature has had millions of years to perfect her whale-based carbon sink technology. All we need to do is let the whales live."

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