Archis Ambulkar M'05The UN named Archis Ambulkar M'05 (environmental engineering) to a group of experts for its World Ocean Assessment initiative.

By Matt Hughes

Q: What is the United Nations World Ocean Assessment?

There has been no system to provide an integrated, worldwide view of what is happening to the oceans, seas and our uses of them. After the 2002 World Summit in South Africa, the UN set up a regular process to review the environmental, economic and social aspects of the world's oceans and seas. The output of the process will be a series of World Ocean Assessments (WOA), which aim to provide a sound, scientific basis for decisions at the global level on the world's oceans and seas as well as a framework for national and regional assessments and management decisions. A group of experts, representing all regions of the world, will carry out the assessments. The first WOA is expected by the end of 2014.

Q: How are the impacts of global warming apparent in the oceans?

Global warming impacts are evident from rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, record high temperatures and a mixture of severe rainstorms and droughts. Past research indicates that melting glaciers and polar ice caps are causing global sea levels to rise by 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year. A shift in the carbon cycle between land, oceans and atmosphere has also been observed. If these trends continue, rising ocean levels will pose a dire threat to low-lying countries, coastal areas and islands.

Q: Are there measures governments can take now to reverse or stem the tide of global warming?

There is no single solution, but some measures governments can take to abate the effects of global warming include using energy efficient systems, exploring renewable energy sources, improving the transportation sector with more efficient and lesser polluting vehicles, developing low carbon technologies and encouraging proper management of forests and agriculture.

Q: Do you feel that governments can cooperate to tackle challenges compromising ocean health?

There are several ongoing efforts by the UN, international organizations and governments for mutual cooperation and protection of ocean life in the form of acts and treaties. Obviously, as a citizen of Earth and a member of the scientific community, I am optimistic that governments will work together closely and find common grounds to overcome global challenges of climate change.

Q: What steps can individuals take to improve ocean health?

Individual efforts for reducing carbon emission, enhancing surrounding environmental conditions and spreading awareness within the community can go a long way toward improving ocean health and making Earth a better place to live.