13 February 2014
Prince Albert II of Monaco : The Tara teach us how to love the sea
In april 2006 His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco led an expedition to the north pole to raise public awareness about global warming.
How do you feel about global warming issues today? Do you think that people worldwide are sufficiently aware?
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco:
I am more concerned than ever about this vital issue. There is so much at stake and so much still remains to be done. The latest data on Arctic ice melt, from 2012, confirms the worst-case scenario. Yet at the same time our knowledge of climate change and its effects has improved no end. We now know a lot more about ocean acidification for example, which is something that my foundation is also working on. As far as raising awareness is concerned, we have made progress within civil society. However the 2009 Copenhagen Conference talks were unsuccessful and then there was the economic crisis. Many governments have placed environmental concerns after economic and social issues, although large towns have realized the importance of energy efficiency and have made an effort in that field. Awareness has greatly improved so it is all the more regrettable that recent debates on shale gas have masked the real climate warming problems by suggesting that there is a new source of cheap energy. Unfortunately it too produces greenhouse gases. These problems are currently underestimated so there is still a lot to do to convince the public and governments alike.
The Tara is celebrating her tenth anniversary, ten years of expeditions. How do you see the role of the polar schooner that your foundation supports?
Researchers aboard the Tara have breathed new life into scientific expeditions. Above all, because the schooner has explored completely new areas of ocean biology, such as gas transfers between oceans and the atmosphere, a topic that was first explored by Prince Albert I’s expeditions. The Tara has also highlighted the impact of plastic pollution in Antarctica and shown how ocean ecosystems work. The team also went on to prove that with a relatively small vessel it is possible to conduct a major scientific expedition with real professionalism. But the main contribution of Tara Oceans was to focus on plankton and this has opened up whole new avenues for science. It was a brilliant piece of forward-thinking! The Tara has used these expeditions as a way of raising awareness and passing on knowledge about the great complexity of marine ecosystems and the major role they play in regulating the climate. The Tara teaches us how to love the sea! The latest leg of her world tour, Tara Oceans Polar Circle, which involves circumnavigating the Arctic, is of particular interest. Scientific knowledge of this area of the globe, especially where marine biology is concerned, is very sparse. The findings of the Tara are therefore eagerly awaited.
As Prince of Monaco, how do you intend to pursue your efforts to make people mindful of global warming?
My government is more involved than ever in international negotiations on climate and biodiversity. At the Climate Conference to take place in Paris in 2015 we shall be drawing attention to the question of ocean acidification that I mentioned earlier. In the short term we shall also be working jointly with other countries looking to open negotiations on introducing legal instruments concerning the open sea, within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Back in Monaco the government is developing a proactive policy to improve energy and transport efficiency. My foundation plays a vital role in supporting innovative projects in the fields of climate, biodiversity and water. The Tara is a perfect illustration of that. And so is the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco which continues the work on education and public awareness instigated by my great-great-grandfather over a century ago.
Michel Temman, editor-in-chief of Tara’s journal “special 10 years”