WASHINGTON – Academy Award-winning actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio said the ocean can “no longer keep up with our rampant rate of carbon dioxide emissions” and encouraged the public to use a tool that monitors fishing activity.
“Oceans absorb about a third of the carbon that we pump into the atmosphere but we’ve pushed it way too far. The ocean can no longer keep up with our rampant rate of carbon dioxide emissions,” DiCaprio said at the State Department’s Our Ocean 2016 conference. “Today our seas are warmer and far more acidic, weakening the shelves of marine creators and destroying coral reefs that we all depend on for life. The only way we can revert this disaster is by scaling up innovative actions and solutions to these problems as quickly as possible.”
As a solution to combat global overfishing and illegal fishing, DiCaprio pitched a new platform called “Global Fishing Watch,” which is partially funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
“This innovative technology is a result of a powerful partnership that leverages the unique skills of each participating organization: Google’s ability to organize big data and inform and make it universally accessible, SkyTruth’s ability to use satellites to monitor threats to the planet and Oceana’s ability to execute winning campaigns to bring back fishery abundance. Today, this unprecedented technology is available to everyone in the world. I encourage everyone to go check it out,” he said.
“This platform will empower citizens across the globe to become powerful advocates for our oceans. With the data Global Fishing Watch provides governments, fishery management organizations researchers and the fishing industry can work together, rebuild fisheries and protect critical marine habitats. We encourage all of you to take advantage of this new technology and work together to effectively monitor and protect our seas,” he added.
DiCaprio also said “conservation efforts have failed to keep pace” as the markets for shark fin, liver oil, cartilage, leather and meat have surged.
“As a result, it is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually,” he said.
DiCaprio praised President Obama for creating a 4,900-square-mile “protected area” from commercial fishing in and around the northwest Hawaiian Islands.
“This is exactly the kind of bold leadership that we all need more of,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry called DiCaprio a “committed environmental activist” and said his foundation has donated to conservation efforts in over 40 countries over the years.
DiCaprio moderated a discussion on climate change at the White House’s South by South Lawn event on Monday evening with President Obama and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University.
“This moment is more important than ever. We must empower leaders that not only believe in climate change but are willing to do something about it. The scientific consensus is in and the argument is now over,” DiCaprio said. “If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts, or in science or empirical truths and therefore, in my humble opinion, should not be allowed to hold public office.”
DiCaprio praised Obama as a president who has “done more to create solutions for the climate crisis than any other in history.”
During the event, Obama announced that the U.S. will soon enter negotiations on an international aviation agreement where all airlines will “begin to figure out how they can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that they are emitting, which can make a big difference.”
Obama said climate change is happening even faster than the predictions would have told us 5 years ago or 10 years ago.
“What we’ve seeing is changes in climate patterns that are on the more pessimistic end of what was possible — the ranges that had been discerned or anticipated by our scientists, which really means we are in a race against time,” he said.
DiCaprio asked Obama how the federal government could get more companies to start moving toward clean energy. In response, Obama suggested a carbon tax and penalties for businesses who do not meet certain standards.
“The best way we can spur that kind of innovation is to either create regulations that say, figure it out, and if you don’t figure it out then you’re going to pay a penalty, or to create something like a carbon tax, which is an economic incentive for businesses to do this,” Obama said.
“Now, I’ll be honest with you. In the current environment in Congress, and certainly internationally, the likelihood of an immediate carbon tax is a ways away, but if you look at what we’re doing just with power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases, we put forward something called the Clean Power Plan, clean power rule, as a centerpiece of our climate change strategy and we did this under existing authorities under the Environmental Protection Act,” he added.
Obama told the audience he wanted them to leave the White House with a “sense of urgency” about climate change.
“This is not going to be something we can kind of mosey along about and put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long if in fact we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today,” he said.
Hayhoe said the U.S. can no longer “afford” to deal with climate change later.
“To fix the global issues that we all care about including environmental issues, including humanitarian issues, we can no longer leave climate change out of the picture because we will not be able to fix them without it,” she said.
A screening of DiCaprio’s National Geographic documentary, “Before the Flood,” followed the discussion with Obama and Hayhoe.