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Save Our Oceans

Save Our Oceans….

Time for common-sense action and innovation plans

World leaders have rightly focused on carbon mitigation as our saviour from climate change, but it is now clear that this is not going to be enough, as there are other planetary boundaries which pose even greater threats, and these require other solutions.  Everyone knows that we cannot survive without nature on land and in our Oceans.  Our decades of work in managing some of the world’s largest marine life support systems, has being pointing us to the fact that all the oceans are in serious trouble.


Top of the list of troublemakers are, the declining pH or Ocean Acidification, and the 50% loss of biodiversity [1][2][3].  As the ocean decline continues[4], over the next 15- 30 years, we should expect to witness a domino effect: a trophic cascade failure of the oceanic marine ecosystem. There will be a regime shift in the populations of plants and animals, resulting in winners and losers.  The winners will be toxic dinoflagellates, jellyfish, and squid. The losers will be all the whales, seals, birds, and fish, [5] and with them the food supply for 2 to 3 billion people[6]. We will also lose the control mechanism that regulates our climate, and this means that, even if we achieve net zero carbon emissions[7], we could have catastrophic climate change unless we act now.  What is needed is to rewild and regenerate nature in our oceans, and on land too, coupled with an all-out international effort to transition to a non- toxic environment, with a transition away from using toxic chemicals, plastic [8] and dirty fuels.[9] [10][11]


Carbon mitigation on its own is not enough….  [12]

  1. Carbon dioxide and methane account for 25% of all Green House Gases (GHG), but the most important gas is water vapour, accounting for 75% of all GHG [13]. The academic community and IPCC have acted to control carbon dioxide to lower air temperature and reduce water vapour pressure, BUT carbon dioxide concentrations are still going up. Water vapour and temperature will therefore continue to increase, and we are locking into a self-reinforcing feedback loop[7][14].   Other solutions are therefore needed. At GOES, we took a step back and took two years to research and reconsider the climate change response. We went back to basics.  It is ocean planktonic plants and animals that created and have maintained our climate for last 300 million years. They have continued to produce up to 80% [15] of our oxygen and sequester carbon dioxide, but things have changed since the chemical revolution. Let’s walk you through what we’ve found:


  1. What’s being forecast for next 15 to 30 years

The graph on the right plots data from IPCC [4][5] and other respected Climate Change institutions.  It tells us that:

  • If the global community became carbon neutral by 2045, atmospheric carbon would still exceed 500ppm,
  • Oceanic pH will drop below pH7.95[4] and most carbonate-based (shells/bones) life forms will dissolve, including the worlds coral reefs and the additional 25% of all marine life that depend on coral for their survival.
  • The dissolution of carbonate-based phytoplankton and acid sensitive diatoms (plants) will be a key factor in the loss of a further 50% of all remaining marine life. Phytoplankton produce omega 3 oil that regulates surface water evaporation and energy transfer to the atmosphere. They produce dimethyl sulphide (DMS) which initiates cloud formation, and aerosols of plankton nucleate clouds that bring us rain.
  • Mapping the data gave us a timeline, for a 2045 trophic cascade collapse of the marine ecosystem. There is no adaptation of marine life to dissolution, nor the associated stress mediated disease that coral in the Caribbean is now experiencing.
  • Regime shifts or movement of species are already occurring in the oceans, hazardous cellulose based algal blooms (HABs)s of toxic dinoflagellate algae are increasing and are likely to become the predominate species. When airborne, they make the air that we breathe a hazard.

All life on earth depends upon healthy marine life in the oceans.  We’ve already destroyed 50% of ocean biodiversity since the 1940’s and negatively altered ocean chemistry.  This is not just from the burning of fossil fuels, but by our creation and discharge of: forever-toxic chemicals, pesticides, plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and black carbon, [8][11][9][16][5]it follows that that turning off the tap on these pollutants or, at the very least, stopping them from reaching the oceans, represents one of the biggest opportunities to rapidly mitigate climate change.  Some terrestrial ecosystems can take 60 years to double in biomass, take trees for example, but 60% of oceanic life is plankton, under 1 mm is size and take just 3 days to double their mass.  If we remove the toxic pollution burden the marine ecosystem, it has the potential to recover, super-fast.


At the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, June 2022, the opening speech highlighted that 80% of all sewage goes into the oceans untreated - addressing this ocean obscenity could therefore give humanity a fighting chance.  If we keep losing marine plants and biodiversity, the process of acidification will be accelerated, and we may reach the end point at an earlier date than predicted.  Achieving net zero will, unfortunately, have little impact on the 75% of GHG attributed to water vapour if we lose the lipid layer that helps regulate ocean evaporation and energy transfer to the atmosphere.  Couple this with the (i) impact of losing coral reef coastal defences, and (ii) the loss of food supply for almost half the planet, (iii) Hazardous Algal Blooms (HABS) [17]that result in an increasingly toxic atmosphere, we must match our efforts to mitigate carbon, and also bring a new focus to rewilding and regenerating ocean health.   


There are proposals for colossal geoengineering solutions, which range from machines to suck up and bury carbon, seeding oceans with iron, placing fibreoptic lamps at 300 metres below the surface to support 24-hour plankton growth, assigning hundreds of thousands of hectares for mussel and oyster growing – we get sent solutions almost every other day.  As academics and organisations leap to research or invest in the next ‘big thing’ – we consider that the answers to the most complex questions are often simple, we must Do No Harm to nature, on land or in the Oceans, indeed we must start rewilding and regenerating nature, and do more good, and less bad, and start asking the uncomfortable questions. [18]


In summary:

  • 80% of the world has no effluent treatment.
  • High income countries do not remove microplastic and toxic chemicals, and don’t treat all their wastewater. The UK reported 400,000 illegal discharge events in 2021.
  • Toxic black carbon soot from the combustion of fossil fuels, and very toxic black carbon from the combustion of 300million tonnes of bunker fuel oil by the shipping industry every year, represents 20% of the worlds pollution.
  • Fast fashion, agrichemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and many industries produce very toxic products. We need green chemistry and informed engineering, and effective water treatment to act as a firewall to protect nature.


Nature has not evolved to breakdown many of the forever chemicals that we use in our daily lives.  They are in our food, furniture, under our sinks and in our bathrooms.  A report out this week states that rain everywhere is now [19]. Too many toxic chemicals and particulates pass-through inadequate wastewater plants or are discharged directly into rivers, and then pass out into the oceans to continue their destruction of a narrowing spectrum of aquatic life. Please don’t think this is just a plankton matter, all whales and large sharks are now considered to be toxic: [20][21][22]


The GOES Response, what we are doing and want to expand

We have invested our time, energy and several million Euros, over the last decade from our own funds. It’s a drop in the ocean, and we have aimed to focus on what MUST and COULD be done.  Our 10 years in academia and 30 years of industry experience provide us with a unique and sometimes painful perspective of the aquatic environment. Our response has been to prioritise 2 things, and should you find the above compelling, we would propose that building on our initiatives would make a lot of sense and not reinvent any wheels. Scaling up these efforts requires clever minds, resources, and business to bring forward a strategy to create awareness and action internationally, secure investment, drive innovation, marketing, and key will be science communication.  Time is against us all, but together we can ramp up and accelerate the impact of the following initiatives to build back a global non-toxic environment.  One in which we do no harm to nature and start to repair and regenerate nature on land, and marine life in the oceans.


Response 1:

We are tired of hearing that tertiary treatment is too expensive for both urban and rural communities:


Our response:  We set up a 100% asset locked social enterprise Clean Water Wave (CIC) to innovate – the design brief: “build the most sustainable water treatment solution in the world for peri urban and rural communities that can be replicated, create jobs and training opportunities, while providing rural communities everywhere with safe, clean water, and lock out toxic, diffuse pollution. (  [23].  It is research orientated with links into universities around the globe.  We want these solutions to be available for open innovation and knowledge transfer.


Response 2:

We were frustrated by the almost total absence on accurate plankton productivity, microplastic and particle pollution data over areas of the Abyss. The Gold Standard of Plankton monitoring by the Plymouth CPR team does not measure, black carbon or sub 270um plankton accurately.[24] we need quantitative data in order to make informed decisions, and this is the purpose of GOES.


Our response:  Under our social enterprise, we established the Global Oceanic Environmental Survey GOES to bring forward our own research into the state of oceanic plankton, with a view of demonstrating that there is a biodiversity issue, and the reason for it points to pollution. Influencing funding calls takes years, and universities follow money.  Raising the funding to answer the research questions to convince policy makers is at the heart of GOES efforts. 


[1]              NASA | Earth’s Oceans Show Decline In Microscopic Plant Life, (Sep. 23, 2015). Accessed: Aug. 09, 2022. [Online Video]. Available:

[2]              D. G. Boyce, M. R. Lewis, and B. Worm, ‘Global phytoplankton decline over the past century’, Nature, vol. 466, no. 7306, Art. no. 7306, Jul. 2010, doi: 10.1038/nature09268.

[3]              M. Edwards et al., ‘North Atlantic warming over six decades drives decreases in krill abundance with no associated range shift’, Commun Biol, vol. 4, no. 1, Art. no. 1, May 2021, doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02159-1.

[4]              L.-Q. Jiang, B. R. Carter, R. A. Feely, S. K. Lauvset, and A. Olsen, ‘Surface ocean pH and buffer capacity: past, present and future’, Sci Rep, vol. 9, no. 1, Art. no. 1, Dec. 2019, doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-55039-4.

[5]              M. Landos, M. L. Smith, and J. Immig, ‘Aquatic Pollutants in Oceans and Fisheries’, p. 88.

[6]              ‘Sustainable Seafood | Industries | WWF’, World Wildlife Fund. (accessed Aug. 09, 2022).

[7]              J. Randers and U. Goluke, ‘An earth system model shows self-sustained thawing of permafrost even if all man-made GHG emissions stop in 2020’, Sci Rep, vol. 10, no. 1, Art. no. 1, Nov. 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-75481-z.

[8]              ‘ipen-beach-plastic-pellets-v1_4aw.pdf’. Accessed: Jul. 31, 2022. [Online]. Available:

[9]              H. Dryden and D. Duncan, ‘Climate regulating ocean plants and animals are being destroyed by toxic chemicals and plastics, accelerating our path towards ocean pH 7.95 in 25 years which will devastate humanity.’ Rochester, NY, Jun. 05, 2021. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3860950.

[10]            H. Dryden and D. Duncan, ‘GOES survey of the equatorial Atlantic and the next 25 years, are lipids a solution for climate change?. A GOES think piece’. Rochester, NY, Jul. 30, 2022. Accessed: Aug. 09, 2022. [Online]. Available:

[11]            ‘The Invisible Wave: Getting to zero chemical pollution Executive Summary’, Back to Blue - An initiative of Economist Impact and The Nippon Foundation. (accessed Jul. 31, 2022).

[12]            GOES at COP26 in association with Federated Hermes, (Nov. 11, 2021). Accessed: Aug. 09, 2022. [Online Video]. Available:

[13]            A. A. Lacis, J. E. Hansen, G. L. Russell, V. Oinas, and J. Jonas, ‘The role of long-lived greenhouse gases as principal LW control knob that governs the global surface temperature for past and future climate change’, Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, vol. 65, no. 1, p. 19734, Dec. 2013, doi: 10.3402/tellusb.v65i0.19734.

[14]            B. J. Soden and I. M. Held, ‘An Assessment of Climate Feedbacks in Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Models’, Journal of Climate, vol. 19, no. 14, pp. 3354–3360, Jul. 2006, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3799.1.

[15]            ‘How much oxygen comes from the ocean?’ (accessed Jul. 31, 2022).

[16]            S. G. Tetu et al., ‘Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria’, Commun Biol, vol. 2, no. 1, Art. no. 1, May 2019, doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0410-x.

[17]            S. S. U. H. Kazmi, N. Yapa, S. C. Karunarathna, and N. Suwannarach, ‘Perceived Intensification in Harmful Algal Blooms Is a Wave of Cumulative Threat to the Aquatic Ecosystems’, Biology, vol. 11, no. 6, Art. no. 6, Jun. 2022, doi: 10.3390/biology11060852.

[18]            ‘report on micro plastic and phytoplankton’, Goes Foundation. (accessed Aug. 09, 2022).

[19]            I. T. Cousins, J. H. Johansson, M. E. Salter, B. Sha, and M. Scheringer, ‘Outside the Safe Operating Space of a New Planetary Boundary for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)’, Environ. Sci. Technol., Aug. 2022, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.2c02765.

[20]            ‘“Shocking” levels of PCB chemicals in UK killer whale Lulu’, BBC News, May 02, 2017. Accessed: Aug. 09, 2022. [Online]. Available:

[21]            ‘Tumors in St. Lawrence Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) - S. De Guise, A. Lagacé, P. Béland, 1994’. (accessed Jul. 30, 2022).

[22]            ‘Frontiers | Anthropogenic Contaminants and Histopathological Findings in Stranded Cetaceans in the Southeastern United States, 2012–2018’. (accessed Jul. 30, 2022).

[23]            ‘Eden Cycle system’, Goes Foundation. (accessed Aug. 09, 2022).

[24]            J. W. Dippner and M. Krause, ‘Continuous plankton recorder underestimates zooplankton abundance’, Journal of Marine Systems, vol. 111–112, pp. 263–268, Feb. 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2012.09.009.

Life on earth depends upon healthy Oceans, we have 10 years to stop toxic chemical pollution, or life on earth may become impossible

Dr. Howard Dryden, CSO

Goes Foundation

Roslin Innovation Centre
The University of Edinburgh
Easter Bush Campus
Midlothian EH25 9RG