Chairwoman Castor, Ranking Member Graves, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the importance of protecting our ocean and its significance in the climate crisis. My name is Monica Medina, and I am the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the Department of State. Our Bureau leads U.S. efforts to conserve and protect the global environment, including the ocean, for the prosperity, peace, health, and security of this and future generations.
The ocean bears the brunt of climate change, with tremendous implications for U.S. economic interests and global security. Communities are already being strained by the effects of climate change on our ocean – including food shortages, drought, severe storms, coastal inundation, growing ocean dead zones, and escalating conflicts around shifting or dwindling ocean resources. Climate change is happening today and exacerbating every other challenge we face.
Leaders I have talked to around the world want to work with the U.S. to address their climate challenges. These are existential threats, and though they seem localized, the ripple effects are felt worldwide, from food shortages to mass migrations.
And, these countries are being aggressively wooed by our competitors. But our competitors do not offer these countries the sustainable solutions they need. By contrast, the United States is deploying our expertise from across the government to build the capacity of our international partners to deal with the climate challenges they face. We can – and must – do more to help our friends and allies prosper amid a changing ocean and to build a more secure, climate-resilient world. We are the partner of choice for these nations — and the more we work with them, the stronger we will be as a nation.
In my testimony today, I would like to highlight ways in which the United States has the capacity to combat the ocean-climate crisis, and the implications of how we deploy that capacity for our security.
First, the United States is a global leader in climate forecasting and observing. We support capacity building efforts around the world to help other countries improve their ocean observing systems, and support scientists in the collection of globally shared data. This vast data collection effort – undertaken largely through the work of our colleagues at NOAA – has informed the development of climate and ocean models that are helping better predict and prepare for how a changing climate will impact communities.
Next, the United States has enormous technical expertise in climate and ocean resilience. Sharing this expertise can strengthen our alliances and help build a better world. Supporting international partners as they adapt and build resilience will be critical for promoting security and stability at home and abroad. The President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, PREPARE, seeks to help more than 500 million people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of severe storms, droughts and sea level rise. We are also working to protect the health and productivity of marine ecosystems by taking action to promote maritime security and stop IUU fishing. And we plan to increase our collaborations with our Atlantic and Pacific neighbors to solve common challenges and seize opportunities to develop sustainable blue economies.
Finally, the United States is taking an active role in galvanizing ocean-based climate solutions. These include protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems, expanding offshore renewable energy, and decarbonizing the shipping sector. As the co-hosts of the Our Ocean Conference in April, the United States showcased our leadership in advancing ocean-based climate solutions. Taking these steps to advance ocean-based climate solutions in the United States and support other nations with the resources to do the same is key to security worldwide.
In sum, the steps we take today to address and adapt to climate change are critical to American security and global stability for generations to come. This is the year to turn the tide on oceans — to tackle challenges and make the investments needed to ensure that oceans are central to solving the climate crisis.
From the Our Ocean Conference, to the upcoming UN Ocean Conference, Convention on Biological Diversity meeting, and COP27, the United States has many opportunities this year to position ourselves as a global leader on ocean-climate issues, support our partners as they seek sustainable solutions to ocean challenges, and pursue bold steps needed to reverse the decline of our ocean. This is our chance to work together with our partners around the world to build a future for our children and grandchildren that is in harmony with the ocean and free from conflict. If we act now, we can achieve a healthy ocean that will continue to meet their needs – surely a future we all wish to see.