A frightening new discovery could have tremendous implications for our own species.
Scientists are seeing something in the ocean that makes them very, very concerned: dangerously high temperatures that suggest our lives could be changing very quickly and much sooner than we think. A paper published by the International Union for the Onservation of Nature seeks to explain ocean warming and its consequences, and describes quickly warming seas as the “great hidden challenge of our generation.”
The study included 80 scientists from 12 different countires and predicts that mean global temperatures will rise by one to four degrees by the year 2100.
Why is this a problem? Such a drastic change would kill corals and marine leaf, decimating fisheries and devastating communities, for one thing. It could also lead to the disappearance of many creatures, like emperor penguins, which are seeing their population numbers cut in half. It could lead to the creation of more superstorms that would smash into human-populated cities. It would lead to more famines and intense heat. It could result in the faster spread of viruses like Zika and Malaria.
The way forward, IUCN says, is to push for lowering carbon pollution and creating larger protected marine areas to halt the decline. That said, there’s only so much that can be done, and now is the time to start planning for some of these devastating effects to local economies.
“Ocean warming may well turn out to be the greatest hidden challenge of our generation,” the paper states. “Whether ocean warming impacts a particular group of organisms, alters the structures of ecosystems such as coral reefs, changes the very essence of environmental conditions, or indeed influences weather, it impacts on everyone to some degree as we are an ocean planet. It has profound implications not just for ecosystems but also for the significant number of coastal communities and valuable economies that depend on a healthy ocean. Up to now, the ocean has shielded us from the worst impacts of climate change. The costs is that its chemistry has been altered as it absorbed significant amounts of the extra carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, but it has also warmed at an alarming rate in recent decades.”