Blue water thinking | MIT Technology Review


The names of many companies and technologies created to combat the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems can provoke exciting acts of derring-do at high tide. WaveKiller uses compressed air systems to create “walls” of bubbles up to 50 meters thick, to protect against erosion and contain waste and oil spills. U beginner is a solar-powered barge set up by the Dutch non-governmental organization Ocean Cleanup along rivers in Southeast Asia to collect tons of waste before it hits the sea. saildrone and WasteShark build and deploy autonomous drone fleets to exploit the oceans, collecting meteorological and marine data in the first case and sweeping in the second.

This champion of (often threatening) technologies represents increasingly diverse approaches to combating marine degradation – diversity that is desperately needed, as climate change makes war on the health of the world’s oceans on many. fronts. Carbon emission levels warm air and water temperatures, which in turn are melting polar ice as fast as they can. NASA estimates that global sea levels will rise by half a centimeter a year by 2100.

Facing the challenges of warming, the growth of the seas is critical to global sustainability on more fronts, but both are particularly strong. One is coastal habitat: as the world’s coasts recede and degrade, the homes and livelihoods of one-third of the world’s people living along its shores will likely be irrevocably changed into this generation. The second is global food. In view of the economic return caused by the global covid-19 pandemic, the exponential growth of global trade and protein consumption has pushed ocean transport and commercial fishing to increasingly unsustainable levels.

Growing consumer demand and systemic failures to recycle and manage solid waste are also adding 8 million tons of plastic to the 150 million tons in our oceans today, according to the Ocean Conservation. Plastic ocean waste is both an immediate visceral sustainability challenge – impacting a variety of industries from aquaculture to tourism – and a perniciously long-term threat to global ecology, as ocean tides break down waste. of plastic in microplastics that seep into food chains. This is an area where a vast portfolio of technology-enabled responses is scaling up in response, from the aforementioned walls of bubbles and fleets of drones cheating waste, to the creation of new polymers that dissolve in seawater, to manage information and insight around maritime business activities through AI-enabled sensors and analytics.

But much more – more technology diffusion, more investment in innovation, more regulation and government surveillance – is needed to effectively mitigate the rise of ocean plastics, and the myriad of other threats to the Pacific Ocean. world.


In this context, MIT Technology Review Insights, the custom content division of MIT Technology Review, is undertaking a global research initiative to assess how new technologies and “blue economy” solutions have been employed to clean up our oceans, reduce carbon linked to sea emissions, and increase sustainability in the maritime industry. This project will culminate with the publication of the “Blue Technology Barometer”, which will quantify where, among the world’s coastal economies, technological and effective solutions have been created to address the challenges ranging from reducing carbon emissions in the container transport and port logistics to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated activities.

The Barometer will evaluate these efforts in more than 50 coastal countries and territories around the world, and classify them using an econometric model anchored in a vast set of data and forecasts from dozens of sources. This model and research methodology will be based on the work MIT Technology Review Insights has done to create the Green Future Index-Our fundamental global classification of the progress and potential of decarbonization – and will form an important complement to our expanding portfolio of holistic research projects examining the role of technology in advancing sustainable development.

The Barometer will also examine national and transnational efforts to implement technologies, regulations and trade solutions that both address climate change and are deployed to reverse the damage caused to the marine environment and the cryosphere. Through the assessment of this intersectionality of innovative thinking and action, the Barometer aims to highlight which coastal economies work most effectively to ensure a blue tomorrow.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editor of the MIT Technology Review.

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