19 Mar How whales help in the fight against climate change
In the wonderful world of the ocean, whales and other marine life can play a key role in the race to slow global warming, scientists claim in a study. “A whale stores as much CO2 as three thousand trees,” the KNMI writes.
The whale is on the endangered species list because of the melting ice sheets, climate change and because (mainly Jappanners) hunt them. And all this while the whale can actually contribute to slowing climate change. The mammals provide a two-way absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The direct way is for the mammal to absorb CO2 in its body. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculated in 2019 that a whale absorbs an average of 33 tons of CO2. “This is the same as about 3,000 trees,” writes the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).
Whale droppings grow plankton
In addition, whales absorb CO2 in a different way, through their own feces. Whales dive deep to the bottom of the ocean where they look for animal plankton. Collecting food takes energy, so he does his feces when he is on the surface, where the whale breathes. That pooped animal plankton in turn causes the growth of vegetable plankton, which grows in the shallows of the ocean. These small plants then extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their own system.
When that vegetable plankton dies, it sinks to the bottom. There, after millions of years, carbon is squeezed together and eventually converted into fossil energy sources, such as oil, coal and gas. A so-called long cycle, because it takes millions of years.
Hunting the whale
However, whaling has reduced the number of whales compared to a few years ago. For example, there are several hundred thousand worldwide, but before whale hunting began, there were more than a million, writes the KNMI. A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that whales can absorb 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 each year if their numbers return to their original levels. By comparison, the international aviation sector was responsible for co2 emissions of more than 1 billion tonnes in 2019.
A growth in the whale population is therefore good for the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere. Fortunately, last October there was an increase in the humpback whale, the whale species that was almost extinct. According to the NIS, an estimated 30,000 humpback whales swam along Australia’s east coast. The humpback whale is doing well, but unfortunately not all whale species are recovering.