Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is climate change doing to our oceans?

Oceans are massively important for all life on our planet but rising greenhouse gas emission are doing great damage to them which will likely result in great damage to many marine ecosystems and breaking down the entire food chain. The worst fact is that once these changes occur they will be irreversible meaning that we could be well on the way for yet another great extinction event.

Due to the increased levels of greenhouse gases (most notably carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere our oceans are rapidly warming becoming more acidic in the process because they are absorbing much larger quantities of greenhouse gases. This has led to altered water circulations and creation of many ocean dead zones that look to be constantly expanding.

Oceans currently absorb around 30% of man-made carbon emissions but further strengthening of climate change impact will in years to come likely significantly disrupt this ability of theirs.

For many thousands of years climate on our planet was pretty much stable but in the last 100 years or so man-made greenhouse gas emissions have changed this stability forcing everything on this planet to adapt to these rapid changes. We still do not know how will oceans cope with this need for rapid changes but first signs are not very good (ocean dead zones, ocean acidification, huge damage to marine ecosystems).

Marine scientist John F. Bruno at the University of North Carolina recently said that "we are becoming increasingly certain that the world's marine ecosystems are approaching tipping points and these tipping points are where change accelerates and causes unrelated impacts on other systems".

It is estimated that today more than 3 billion people depend upon the ocean for their primary source of food, and by the year 2050 this number could even reach the 10 billion mark.

It is of vital importance that world responds to these problems and does everything what it takes to protect our oceans. We need our oceans much more than they need us because without the continuation of services they provide it will be very difficult to survive.

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