Ocean could hold the best solutions to climate change

    sea or ocean underwater life with sunset sky/catedralonline

    The ocean is the Earth’s natural climate moderator – regulating climate and influencing weather patterns around the globe and affecting every one of us, even if we don’t live by the coast.

    • Absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, the ocean has so far lessened the effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Global warming means warmer seas, reduced oxygen levels and acidification – all of which threaten marine ecosystems, coastal communities, and people around the world.
    • Solutions to some of these problems could lie within the ocean itself. As human activities have significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions, the ocean has moderated the effects, absorbing more than 90% of excess heat and approximately 30% of excess carbon emissions, sparing us from the extreme impacts we would otherwise experience on Earth.

      Despite this moderation, changes have still been felt around the world with warmer seas linked to increasing droughts in Central Africa, changing precipitation patterns in the Midwestern US and more intense flooding in South-East Asia.

      Climate change is affecting the ocean – and us

      While the ocean has been a buffer to humans on land from the full consequences of our emissions, the excess heat and carbon absorbed by the ocean are changing marine ecosystems to the detriment of the animals and plants in these systems and the people who rely on them.

      Ocean acidification
      As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, the pH of the water decreases, making it more acidic and hindering the ability of marine organisms to make the shell and skeleton structures on which they rely for survival. This affects plankton, coral reefs, oysters, sea urchins, clams and more. Ocean acidification thereby undermines the base of the food web, critical fish habitats, commercial fisheries and the coastal ecosystems that protect our shorelines.

      Reduced oxygen levels
      Warmer ocean surface waters result in increased ocean stratification, which means there is less ocean mixing, which would normally help deliver oxygen from surface waters to the deep. This intensified physical barrier in surface and deep waters has contributed to reduced oxygen levels in the ocean, suffocating many marine species in deeper waters or causing them to relocate. Species affected include ones that we eat or depend on for livelihood.

      Marine heatwaves
      Although less immediately apparent to us than the heatwaves we experience on land, marine heatwaves can be just as disruptive to underwater ecosystems, since the temperature shift happens quickly, with little time for marine organisms to adapt or respond. As ocean temperatures increase, we’re seeing an increase in marine heatwaves, as well.

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