Planet Earth is teetering on the verge of disaster. Too much carbon is cooking the world, causing it to heat up. This process, also known as global warming or climate change, has already wreaked havoc for years. If this environmental downslide is allowed to continue, things could get much worse and even threaten life on Earth as we know it. Scientists are hard at work to find safe ways to remove the carbon from the air. Some options, like planting a lot of trees, can help but not fast enough. Other methods have a speed advantage but would cause irreparable damage to the environment.
Enter those lovely mammals of the ocean. Whales. Recently, it was discovered that the giants are carbon-storing powerhouses. In fact, this was the reason why people started to hunt whales in the first place. Their carbon-dense oil proved to be a good fuel. But now, this ability to pull carbon from the air and into their bodies not only helps the planet but it could also save the whales.
An organization called the International Monetary Fund (IMF) studied the financial worth of the marine mammals. The value factor was hinged on how much they could help to fight climate change. Remarkably, the IMF calculated that each whale was worth around $2 million. This counted only for as long as they stayed alive. Indeed, no meat market could match the price.
But how do whales do it? They help Earth just by staying alive in the oceans. These mammals absorb carbon into their bodies throughout their lives and luckily for those fighting climate change; whales have long lifespans. When they pass away naturally, their bodies sink to the bottom of the seafloor. The carbon they collected while alive remains trapped there for hundreds of years. Safely tucked out of the way, the stored carbon cannot add to the global warming crisis.
That’s not the end of it. Whales also encourage other species to do the same. When they poop, whales provide food for tiny creatures called phytoplankton. These goobers are carbon-eating superstars. They’re also the prey of krill, which in turn, is eaten by whales. This process, that starts and ends with whales, locks carbon in a cycle where it can do no harm. The cycle is so valuable that the IMF wants policymakers to protect it as a means to fight global warming.
The $2 million price tag could also carry enough weight to sway the ever-controversial whale hunting laws in the mammals’ favor. The IMF told National Geographic that whales are the full package. They’re appealing, smart, mop up huge amounts of carbon and they also do all the work. The only thing people need to do is to stop killing them. Allowing the whale population to recover to around 5 million animals, which was their pre-industrial hunting level, would establish an effortless means to stop Earth from overheating. At the moment, the IMF estimated that there are just 1.3 million whales in the oceans.