By Christian Cotroneo / The Huffington Post Canada / October 4, 2013
Last month, a UN-sponsored panel expressed “extreme confidence” that the world is in the throes of climate change — a situation that sees oceans bear much of the brunt.
And now, a review from an international team of the world’s leading scientists suggests emerging dead zones may be stirring up mass extinctions in the world’s oceans.
“We have been taking the ocean for granted,” a study from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) claims. “It has been shielding us from the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
“Whilst terrestrial temperature increases may be experiencing a pause, the ocean continues to warm regardless.”
The alleged culprit?
More specifically, the report’s authors — a non-governmental group of scientists — suggest the burning of fossil fuels has ramped up carbon dioxide emissions. By heating the atmosphere, these greenhouse gases have continued to heat the oceans, while boosting acidity to unprecedented levels. In doing so, the IPSO report suggests, commercial fish stocks are being pushed to the Earth’s poles, while other marine species face extinction.
“The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought,” Alex Rogers, a professor in the UK and IPSO’s scientific director said.
“We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”
As reported in National Geographic, heat-trapping carbon dioxide has raised the average global temperature by 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past century — a rate that oceans have not kept pace with. Instead, the world’s seas have heated by 0.1 degrees Celsius — a change mostly affecting areas from the surface to a depth of some 700 metres.
In other words, where marine life typically flourishes.
In its review, IPSO pointed out several areas of imminent concern:
- The oceans are running out of air. By 2100, researchers predict oxygen content will dwindle by anywhere from 1 per cent to seven percent — a deadly combination of global warming and runoff from sewage and agriculture. In fact, Scientific American points out dead zones — stretches of water that don’t have enough oxygen to support fish — is likely caused by surges in chemical nutrients (read: agricultural run-offs). These added nutrients spike algae blooms, which in turn soak up all the oxygen.
- Acid levels are surging. Carbon dioxide concentrations are expected to rise over the next 30 to 50 years with grave consequences for ocean life. In fact, the IPSO report states ocean acidity has reached a 300-million-year high.
- Ocean warming will abide. In fact, it shoulders much of the burden that is global warming. And that spells ebbing ice levels, even less oxygen and increasingly unlivable conditions for sea life.
- Oh, and thanks for all the over-fishing. Really. The report stressed that the world governments have severely mismanaged this issue to the point where species that are vital to the ocean’s food chain may be in irreversible decline
“What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses,” Dan Laffoley, a professor and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the worldest largest and oldest environmental organization.
“The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm — but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.”