Voice of Blue
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Voice of Blue

Ocean warming: How hot is the ocean?

Out triumphant through the advancement of the sciences has provided humans with an unprecedented level of human betterment and well-being. Scientific analysis of the global climate system have provided us with the ability to understand the challenges created by rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, yet human race attempts nothing to overcome the crisis but to increase it. A warming ocean is one where changes to ecosystems, chemistry and processes are generating risks to human and other species dependent on the ocean. Hence, the relationship we have with the ocean matters more than ever and hope that humankind awakens at least now to put up hands together to care for the ocean.

Ocean warming is a crucially communicated topic and continues to be the greatest challenge for the coming generation. Whilst some may be aware of the risks of ocean warming presents to the coral reefs, few know about the other consequences this holds for the ocean. Whether ocean warming affects a particular group of organisms, alters the structures of ecosystems such as coral reefs, changes the essence of environmental conditions, or indeed influences weather, it influences everyone to at least some degrees; since the ocean ultimately sustains the biosphere. It would have profound impacts on the marine ecosystems, marine organisms, as well as coastal communities depending on a healthy ocean. More than 90% of the global ocean warming has been done by greenhouse effect and other human activities; where ocean has absorbed all the remnants of human race and now we all are talking about the consequences happening now. Scientists argue if the same amount of heat that has gone into the top 2000m of the ocean between 1955 and 2010 had gone into the lower 10km of the atmosphere, then the Earth would have seen a warming of 36oC. Luckily, ocean has been our ally and now she is doomed; putting the entire planet at risk. Ocean warming is the price we are now paying for the fact that ocean has been shielding us from more dramatic and faster climate change

Penguins in the Arctic suffers the effect of ocean warming

In 1956 the influential meteorologist Carl Gustav Rossby, speculated that over the course a few centuries vast amounts of heat must have been buried in the oceans or emerge, perhaps greatly affecting the planet’s climate. He warned ‘Tampering can be dangerous. Nature can be vengeful. We should have a great deal of respect of the planet we live’. His theory has been borne out as the consequences of increasing human activities have indeed injected immense amount of heat into the ocean, leading humanity into worst effects of climate change.

Scientist predict that there is likely to be an increase in mean global ocean temperature of 1–4oC by 2100. This is going to bring out worst impact on marine ecosystems, marine organisms and ultimately human; such as ice sheet melting, sea level rise, slowing ocean circulation coupled with ocean deoxygenation; which has its own impacts on ocean primary productivity. Whilst the warming signs are obvious to see in the bleaching of coral reefs around the world, but there is increasing confidence among activists that it could get worse by 2050, unless we act now. Unabated temperature increases will produce serious consequences for coral reef ecosystems and dependent communities.

The impacts of climate change on deep-sea faunal communities are not fully known. It is hypothesized that long term changes in surface productivity, because of warming ocean will lead to fundamental changes in the deep-sea community, as they are reliant on this flux f material reaching the sea floor. It should be understood that ocean warming and climate change are coupled, contributing to global homogenization of biodiversity, and putting the biosphere at risk.

Coral reef bleaching in Great Barrier Reef due to ocean warming

What could be possibly done?

1. Recognizing the severity: The human activities have brought an immense change in the global ocean and climate systems, and the consequences are clearly seen. So considering this as an awakening call human should understand the intensity and degree of the issue.

2. Achieving rapid and substantial cuts in greenhouse gases: Since GHG has been contributing more to the climate issues its mitigation at the global scale is the overarching solution that will determine the future of the ocean planet. Common belief of the scientific community is that as the atmospheric CO2 increases, the options of the ocean become fewer and less effective. Hence, actions should be taken to reduce GHG to close off the future prospects of climate change.

3. Focus on global partnership for emission reduction: We fail to appreciate the interconnectedness of the waters of the different ocean basins that form ‘one body of water, one global ocean’. United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge that global issues require global coordination for solutions. Actions must be taken in light of the findings on ocean warming to accelerate and dramatically scale up area based effective and full protection of marine ecosystems and to better implement sustainability measures across the entire ocean.

4. Closing the knowledge gap on climate change with science-based findings: There is a need to rapidly assess science, observing and modelling capacity and their needs in light of the widespread changes happening from ocean warming and other stressors.

5. Ensure comprehensive protection and management: It is required to follow the protocols on protection and conservation of High seas and sea bed, beyond the jurisdiction of any single country and expanding it to global arena across the world oceans to ensure widespread action is taken

The evidence for a human influence on climate is clear rand for a warming world “unequivocal” with many changes in Earth systems. This is not just a problem of ocean warming or acidification, as it is exacerbated by continuing human impacts such as over-exploitation of living resources, pollution and habitat destruction. The longer we wait to significantly reduce the emissions the fewer are the options available to adapt, protect and repair, let alone the escalating costs associated with making that happen. This in turn will have a knock-on effect on the ocean services that support all of us and how and whether they can be sustained in the future. That’s waking up to warming in the ocean discussions is a clear imperative.

(Adopted form the IUCN report on Ocean warming)

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