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LIFE - This humpback whale is one example of a magnificent
animal that is at the mercy of human
activity. Humans are for the most part unaware of the harm their fast-lane
lifestyles are causing. We aim to change that by doing all we
can to promote ocean literacy.
According to a 2013 report, temperatures in
the shallowest waters of our oceans rose by more than 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18 degree Fahrenheit) each decade between 1970 and 2010.
are just five ways that warmer temperatures are affecting our
1. Coral bleaching
As early as 1990, coral reef expert Tom Goreau and I pointed out that mass coral bleaching events observed during the 1980’s were probably due to anomalously warm temperatures related to
Mass coral bleaching results in the starvation, shrinkage and death of the corals that support the thousands of species that live on
2. Fish migration
In addition, many fish species have moved toward the poles in response to ocean warming, disrupting fisheries around the world.
3. Drowning wetlands
Rising sea levels, partly the result of heat absorbed by the ocean, is also “drowning” wetlands. Wetlands normally grow vertically fast enough to keep up with sea level rise, but recently the sea has been rising too fast for wetlands to keep their blades above
Coral reefs and sea grass meadows are also in danger of “drowning” since they can only photosynthesize in relatively shallow water.
4. Ocean acidification
The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide humans have sent into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution – some 150 billion tons.
However, this great service, which has substantially slowed global warming, has been accomplished at great cost: The trend in ocean acidification is about 30 times greater than natural variation, and average surface ocean pH, the standard measure of acidity, has dropped by 0.1 unit - a highly significant increase in
This is damaging many ocean species that use calcium carbonate to form their skeletons and shells. Studies have shown that calcium carbonate formation is disrupted if water becomes too acidic.
Ocean acidification also appears to be affecting whole ecosystems, such as coral reefs, which depend on the formation of calcium carbonate to build reef structure, which in turn provides homes for reef organisms.
5. A disastrous positive feedback loop
Finally, acidification also appears to be reducing the amount of sulfur flowing out of the ocean into the atmosphere. This reduces reflection of solar radiation back into space, resulting in even more warming.
This is the kind of positive feedback loop that could result in run-away climate change – and of course, even more disastrous effects on the ocean.
DAILY JUNE 28 2017 - TURNING THE CLIMATE TIDE BY 2020
The climate math is brutally clear
"The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can't be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020," concludes Hans Joachim Schellnhuber from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, co-author of both the Nature comment and the Science article. Action by 2020 is necessary, but clearly not sufficient
- it needs to set the course for halving CO2 emissions every other decade. In analogy to the legendary Moore's Law, which states that computer processors double in power about every two years, the 'carbon law' can become a self-fulfilling prophecy mobilizing innovations and market forces, says Schellnhuber. "This will be unstoppable
- yet only if we propel the world into action now."
The opportunity given to us over the next three years is unique in history
"We stand at the doorway of being able to bend the GHG emissions curve downwards by 2020, as science demands, in protection of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular the eradication of extreme poverty," Christiana Figueres says, lead-author of the Nature comment and former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). "This monumental challenge coincides with an unprecedented openness to self-challenge on the part of sub-national governments inside the
US, governments at all levels outside the US, and of the private sector in general. The opportunity given to us over the next three years is unique in history." Figueres is the convener of Mission 2020, a broad-based campaign calling for urgent action now to make sure that carbon emissions begin an inexorable fall by 2020.
The authors and co-signatories to the Nature article comprise over 60 scientists, business and policy leaders, economists, analysts and influencers, including Gail Whiteman from Lancaster University; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation; Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever plc; Anthony Hobley, Chief Executive of Carbon Tracker; Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Statkraft; and Jonathan Bamber, President of the European Geosciences Union.
ECONOMIC TIMES 26 JUNE 2017
When people think of climate change, pictures of melting glaciers, sweltering heat in summers and flooding of coastal areas predominate. Often lost in the imagery is the role the world's oceans play in countering the worst effects of global warming.
Although oceans and seas cover more than two-thirds of the earth's surface, they are taken for granted most of the time. People and governments forget that they are rich in resources and provide us with
food, energy and minerals. It is a truism to say that since the high seas belong to no nation, they are the most exploited by everyone.
It is thus important to remember that oceans are crucial for the stability of the planetary climate and local weather. But due to
overfishing, loss of biodiversity and ocean pollution, the future of this unique ecosystem faces a grave threat today.
It is well known that global warming is mainly caused by the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. Since
industrialization in the 19th century, the amount of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere has risen by as much as 40%.
If not for the oceans, temperatures would be even higher than they are now because they absorb a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the air. When the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, oceans absorb more to restore the balance. The colder the seawater is, the more effectively the process works.
It is in this context that mapping of the oceans on various parameters that affect human life assumes importance. To illustrate the important role played by the ocean and its ecosystems, Germany's Heinrich Böll Foundation has recently released the latest in a series of global environmental reference works called the Ocean Atlas: Facts and Figures on the Threats to Our Marine Ecosystems 2017.
The atlas aims to give a current insight of the state of the seas and the threats to them. "We hope to stimulate a broader social and political discussion about the meaning of the ocean as an important system and the possibilities for protecting it," the foundation said while launching the atlas.
The atlas clearly explains the role oceans play in battling climate
change. In the Labrador Sea and Greenland Sea as well as in regions near the
Antarctic coast, large quantities of surface water sink into the deep sea where carbon dioxide is stored for a long time. The lion's share of the stored greenhouse gas since the start of the Industrial Revolution will take centuries to return to the surface of the
ocean again. Part of it will remain fixed in the sediment of the sea floor. That is how the ocean significantly slows down climate change.
However, the ability of the oceans to sequester carbon dioxide is not unlimited. For example, while carbon dioxide absorption in the Southern Ocean declined between 1980 and 2000, it has increased in the years since, according to the atlas. The ocean does more than absorb a considerable amount of the greenhouse gas. It also soaks up nearly all the additional warmth resulting from the manmade greenhouse effect.
According to the atlas, oceans have absorbed an astounding 93% of the excess heat over the past 40 years. Increased atmospheric temperatures are attributable to just 3% of this additional thermal energy and would be much greater if not for the oceans. The extra warmth is essentially hidden in the ocean, where it slowly spreads through the depths. Because of this, the surface temperature only increases at a snail's pace.
All of this comes at a price. Absorbing excess carbon dioxide leads to a progressive acidification of the ocean water, while absorbing excess heat contributes to rising sea levels and troubling changes in marine ecosystems. The warming of the oceans also contains dangerous feedback loops. When the rate of evaporation on the ocean surface increases, it produces more water vapor -- a potent greenhouse gas -- which in turn causes temperatures to rise, which causes the rate of evaporation to increase.
These feedback loops can accelerate global warming in ways that are difficult to predict, one more reason not to further burden the ocean system, the atlas warns. For this reason, meeting the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees agreed upon at the
Paris Climate Conference is essential.
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