In fight against climate change, one whale is worth thousands of trees and can suck 33 tonnes of CO2 from atmosphere: Study
These mammals are naturally adept at removing and capturing carbon dioxide, and when they die, they sink deep into the ocean floor, taking with them their carbon reserves
Our best bet in the battle against climate change crisis are the stately mammals roaming the world’s oceans—whales.
According to an analysis from economists with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whales offer an effective and economical solution to the crisis.
These mammals are naturally adept at removing and capturing a major greenhouse gas from the atmosphere: carbon dioxide. And when they die, they sink deep into the ocean floor, taking with them their carbon reserves. This function makes whales worth millions of dollars over their lifetime, reveals the analysis of the report titled 'Nature’s Solution to Climate Change'.
According to the analysis, whales outdo other natural carbon capturing methods.
Earlier this year, scientists proposed that planting trees around the world could be one of the biggest and cheapest ways of getting rid of carbon dioxide.
An average tree absorbs about 20kg of carbon dioxide a year. In comparison, each of these mammals suck 33 tonnes of the gas from the atmosphere in its lifetime. "When it comes to saving the planet, one whale is worth thousands of trees," says the team of economists.
Other solutions to global warming—capturing carbon directly from the air and burying it deep in the earth—are complex, untested, and expensive, according to the IMF report.
Whales do more than just removing carbon dioxide from the air. These mammals indirectly boost the growth of another marine organism that could aid in the fight against climate change—albeit indirectly. By feeding on whales’ poop, these microscopic creatures called phytoplankton contribute at least 50% of all oxygen to our atmosphere and remove about 40% of all carbon dioxide.
Like whales, some dead phytoplankton sink, sending more captured carbon to the bottom of the sea. “To put things in perspective, we calculate that this is equivalent to the amount of CO2 captured by 1.70 trillion trees—four Amazon forests’ worth—or 70 times the amount absorbed by all the trees in the US Redwood National and State Parks each year. More phytoplankton means more carbon capture,” says the report.
However, there is one concern: a decline in whale population mainly due to whaling or hunting.
Though there is a drastic reduction in commercial whaling, whales still face other risks: ship strikes, entanglement in fishing nets, waterborne plastic waste, and noise pollution.
Not to mention, Japan has recently given the green signal to commercial whaling earlier this year.
Currently, there are about 1.3 million great whales in Earth’s oceans today. The economists estimate that if whales were allowed to return to their pre-whaling number of 4 to 5 million, the amount of phytoplankton in the oceans could soar, thereby increasing the carbon they capture each year.
“Unless new steps are taken, we estimate it would take over 30 years just to double the number of whales, and several generations to return them to their pre-whaling numbers. Society and our own survival can’t afford to wait this long,” says the report.