As the world population balloons toward more than 9 billion people by 2050, nations will need new resources from a finite amount of space to meet soaring demand. And as more people move to coastal regions, their minds will inevitably be drawn to the sea. After all, more than two-thirds of our planet is covered with ocean, and the seas boast tremendous economic development, transportation corridors, sources of oil and gas, and cornucopias of seafood. Oceans also provide less-tangible benefits that are often difficult to quantify, including moderating the planet’s climate by absorbing roughly 90 percent of the heat trapped by a thickening atmospheric blanket of carbon pollution. They produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe. In coastal regions, healthy coral reefs and other wetlands ecosystems safeguard communities from storm surges and flooding events, sequester massive amounts of carbon, and filter out other pollution produced on land.
To sustain a 21st century population boom, we must balance marine economic development with protection of the ocean’s environmental services that have sustained life on our planet for millions of years. This report examines the different ways that two nations, China and the United States, are approaching this dilemma by promoting a concept known as the “Blue Economy.”
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