In the fog over climate change
Every sailor knows that the relationship between weather and the world’s oceans is complex. Oceans modify weather which modifies oceans.
But sailors are often fixated on what weather does to the surface of the ocean, where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. But with the mediascape in turmoil over climate change, cruisers are becoming more aware of what’s happening beneath the waves as the air above is altered by human impacts.
Sailing is widely considered as a relatively carbon-neutral, ocean-friendly activity (an assumption that certainly needs testing). But just consider for a moment this thought experiment:
You are in the middle of making dinner in your galley. Suddenly you hear the approach of a small motorboat a loud-hailer announcing an unexpected visit of a SeaKeepers Auxilliary Squad. They’d like to do an environmental inspection of your boat. You invite them aboard, nervously.
A tall, young redheaded woman in green coveralls hops aboard carrying a green tote-bag bearing the SAS logo. Out comes a clipboard she hands over to you. Size and type of engine. Size of fuel tank, type of fuel. Other carbon-producing devices such as generators or compressors aboard? What about the BBQ? Type of bottom paint used - can we take a sample for analysis?
Painting topsides on the water
On and on you go through the list, nervous and defensive. It doesn’t help that she’s now poking around the head, its discharge hoses, the state of your bilge (ugh!), and moseying towards the locker where you store a variety of chemicals that will expose you as a heartless destroyer of the marine environment.
An hour later you are handed a report and a lecture from the young lass: green up or find your boat included in a public website of yachts that have been “SAS’d”. But you have a choice: make the changes, or pay an offset to ameliorate your carelessness.
Wow - good thing the SAS is just a thought experiment, no?
But it does clarify some things - and put your environmental stewardship and skipper responsibilities in the very same context that are now befuddling businesses of all sizes.
It’s not difficult to imagine that a carbon tax, or carbon “cap and trade” regime, might be imposed on the boating community. At some point it might be possible to invest in “carbon offsets” such as solar panels, the use of biofuels, or heads that reduce waste and produce clean fuels as a byproduct.
In fact, some skippers might want to become proactive and begin to do their own inventory. There are lots of ways to become engaged on the climate change front - and emerge from a fog of our own making. We’ll be exploring this in the future. In the meantime, I invite you to submit your own ideas below.