Tag Archives: ocean acidification

Ocean acidification may turn on the lights for some glow-in-the-dark species

Credit: Pixnio.

The oceans are becoming increasingly acidic as humans dump more carbon into the atmosphere, with potentially devastating consequences for marine life. We know, for instance, that water with low pH bleaches coral, potentially destroying beloved reefs. But some of the consequences of ocean acidity can be wildly unpredictable. Case in point, a new study found some bioluminescent marine creatures may glow brighter, while others may have their lights dimmed as a result of increasing acidity.

Most people are familiar with fireflies, which are perhaps the most famous bioluminescent creatures in the animal kingdom. However, bioluminescence — which is the production of cold light by animals through a series of chemical reactions or host bacteria that do so — is actually most common in the ocean.

In fact, in the ocean, glowing is the norm. A staggering 76% of all ocean animals are bioluminescent, which shouldn’t be consumed with biofluorescence, the process by which blue light hitting the surface of a creature is reemitted as a different color, such as orange, red, or green.

These animals use their luminescence like built-in flashlights to attract or find food. Some species also use it in order to communicate to predators that they should stay away because they are poisonous — or it might just be a bluff, but will the predator take the chance?

You know that a trait is definitely prized by evolution if it can enhance survival — and bioluminescence has appeared more than 90 times in different species. It has evolved 27 times among ray-finned fishes alone, which represent a huge group that makes up half of all vertebrate species alive today.

However, not all species glow in the same way. Some marine plankton can really put on a light show. For instance, dinoflagellates are known to cluster in the millions and create a stunning shimmering effect, turning the undulating water blue under the moonlight.

But as average ocean pH levels are expected to drop from 8.1 to 7.7 by 2100, scientists wanted to know how bioluminescence may be affected. Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa performed a review of 49 studies on bioluminescence that involved animals across nine different phyla, including Bacteria, Dinoflagellata, Cnidaria, Mollusca, Arthropoda, Ctenophora, and Chordata.

The findings suggest that bioluminescence is indeed affected by ocean acidity, but not necessarily in one particular way. For some species, such as the sea pansy (Renilla reniformis), the pH drop expected by the end of the century should lead to a twofold increase in light production. Other species like the firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans) may experience the opposite effect, as scientists expect a 70% decrease in light production.

Because marine life uses bioluminescence for a wide variety of purposes, the impact increasing acidity will have is difficult to gauge. What’s certain is that it will be felt and may negatively affect certain species. “The rapid (in an evolutionary timescale) increase in light intensity would have a multitude of knock-on effects for the sensory ecology of marine communities,” the authors wrote in the abstract of their study, which was presented at The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting.

The oceans are getting more acidic. Kelp may help revert this

Carbon dioxide from industrial activities doesn’t just accumulate in the air, it has also seeped into ocean waters since the industrial revolution, boosting ocean acidity by 30%. This is known to have negative impacts on marine organisms, especially those that build their skeletons out of calcium.

Now, researchers have found a way to tackle this problem — using nature itself.

Image credit: The researchers

Researchers have long been exploring the idea that seagrasses, kelps, and shell beds might be able to counteract the rising ocean acidity in local hot spots, but kelp has remained understudied until now. That’s why an interdisciplinary team from California decided to take a closer look at their acidification mitigation potential.

“We talk about kelp forests protecting the coastal environment from ocean acidification, but under what circumstances is that true and to what extent?” Heidi Hirsh, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. “These kinds of questions are important to investigate before trying to implement this as an ocean acidification mitigation strategy.”

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is a critical foundation species in the coastal environment, and California subtidal kelp forests have some of the most extensive surface canopies of M. pyrifera in the world. It can grow remarkably fast, especially in the upper canopy, and provide seasonal carbon storage.

California has recently made it a priority for scientists to research how sea plants such as kelp might serve as refuges for marine wildlife as waters acidify. In 2016, the state passed a bill commissioning scientific research on the ability of kelp and seagrasses to reduce ocean acidification locally, which has led to different reports.

In their study, the researchers found that near the ocean’s surface, the water’s pH was slightly higher, or less acidic, which suggests kelp reduces acidity. Nevertheless, the effects didn’t extend to the ocean floor, where sensitive cold-water corals, urchins, and shellfish dwell, and the most acidification has occurred.

“It’s this very complicated story of disentangling where the benefit is coming from—if there is a benefit—and assessing it on a site-by-site basis, because the conditions that we observe in southern Monterey Bay may not apply to other kelp forests,” Hirsh said in a statement, highlighting the potential limitations of the study.

Hirsh and the other members of the team set up operations at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, a marine laboratory in Pacific Grove, California. They gathered data offshore from the facility in a 300-foot-wide kelp forest, installing pH sensors to understand chemical and physical changes in conjunction with water sampling.

This allowed them to distinguish patterns in the seawater chemistry around the kelp forest. They observed that the water was less acidic at night compared to measurements taken during the day. This could be due to the upwelling of acidic, low oxygen water during the day, they argue in their conclusions.

“It was wild to see the pH climb during the night when we were expecting increased acidity as a function of kelp respiration,” Hirsh said in a statement. “That was an early indicator of how important the physical environment was for driving the local biogeochemical signal.”

The researchers found an overall less acidic environment within the kelp forest compared to outside of it. But the mitigation potential didn’t reach those organisms on the seafloor. This means those that live in the canopy or move into it are more likely to benefit from the kelp’s ocean acidification relief, the researchers CONCLUDE.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

This is what ocean acidification is doing to creatures in the Arctic

As we emit more and more carbon dioxide, the effects are being felt not just above ground, but also underwater.

 A marine snail shows damage to its shell (jagged line radiating from center) due to acidic ocean waters. Image credits: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA

Ocean acidification is often regarded as the unseen twin of climate warming. It’s unseen because we humans don’t spend much of our time underwater, but for the creatures that do, it’s a catastrophe.

When carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, a part of it gets absorbed by the oceans, producing carbonic acid. This acid essentially dissolves the shell of marine creatures such as mollusks, sea urchins, starfish, and corals, making it difficult or impossible for them to survive. Researchers have already identified this process, as well as the way ripples it down the entire oceanic food chain.

But according to a new study, it’s even worse than we thought. The study results show that the Arctic Ocean, the smallest of the seven seas will take up 20% more CO2 over the 21st century than previously expected.

“This leads to substantially enhanced ocean acidification, particularly between 200 and 1000 meters” — a crucial depth where many marine organisms live, explains Jens Terhaar, member of the group for ocean modeling at the Oeschger-Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern.

The pteropod, or “sea butterfly”, is a tiny sea creature about the size of a small pea. Pteropods are eaten by organisms ranging in size from tiny krill to whales. This pterapod shell dissolved over the course of 45 days in seawater adjusted to an ocean chemistry projected for the year 2100. Image Credits: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, David Liittschwager

The problem with ocean acidification is you can’t really do anything about it other than try to reduce carbon emissions — and once a certain level is reached, the shells of marine creatures become unstable and start to dissolve.

By 2100, the study found, Arctic waters may be too acidic for many shelled creatures, and according to the model produced by the researchers, if greenhouse gases continue to develop according to existing projections, it’s bad news for the marine environment.

“Our results suggest that it will be more difficult for Arctic organisms to adapt to ocean acidification than previously expected,” says co-author Lester Kwiatkowski.

Limiting global warming to below 2 °C, as mandated by the Paris Agreement, would significantly help reduce the acidification pressure on marine creatures.

The study has been published in Nature.

Global warming is literally dissolving the ocean’s plankton

Ocean acidification is wreaking havoc on the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants, and the entire ocean is likely feeling the effects.

The color scale shows shell thickness. Old plankton had thicker, healthier shells than modern samples. Image from Fox et al / Scientific Reports (2020).

As a geology student, many things can be unusual. You start to think about time in millions of years, which is completely counterintuitive. You start to realize just how intricate (and beautiful) the processes that shape our planet are, and you also start to understand that there are firm physical laws governing how our planet looks like. There’s a reason why mountains on Earth don’t grow forever and why the continents move about the way they do — the laws of physics constrain geology, and they constrain nature.

What does this have to do with plankton, one might ask, and the oceans in general?

Well, many of the ocean’s inhabitants have soft bodies protected by hard shells. Clams, oysters, and sea snails have them, as do multiple other types of mollusks and plankton. These seashells are almost always made of calcium carbonate — which, under most conditions, is fine. The ocean water is well-suited to support calcium carbonate under normal conditions. But here, too, there is a physical rule that allows this.

Seawater is slightly basic (meaning pH > 7). When we increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we emit, not all of it goes into the atmosphere. Much of it, in fact, is absorbed by the oceans. As oceans absorb CO2, their chemistry starts to change, and they become more acidic.

When there is too much carbon dioxide in the oceans, it makes for acidic waters that don’t support seashells. If current emission trends continue, it might spell disaster for many of the ocean’s inhabitants. Image credits: Elisajans / Wikipedia.

When the acidity reaches a certain threshold, animals can no longer build and maintain seashells, and they can’t survive anymore.

This is already happening, a new study shows.

Plankton old, plankton new

The new study started in a museum.

When it comes to comparing our current environment with that of the past, museums can provide a trove of information. The museum is not just what you see when you visit it — museums have additional storage rooms, where they sometimes keep thousands upon thousands of samples gathered by researchers. In this case, Lyndsey Fox, a researcher from Kingston University in London, analyzed plankton fossils gathered by the 1872–76 expedition of the HMS Challenger.

Studying micro-fossils is never an easy task. Analyzing how thick their shells are and then using a tomography scanner to create 3D models of their shells (which are less than 1 millimeter in diameter) is an even trickier job. But Fox and colleagues succeeded, and built stunning reconstructions of this century-old plankton. They then did the same thing for plankton gathered from a 2011 expedition to the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean called Tara.

The results were striking.

All modern plankton had much thinner shells — up to 76% thinner. In some cases, the shells were so thin that the team wasn’t even able to image them.

No matter where researchers looked, modern plankton had thinner, more vulnerable shells. Image credits: Fox et al / Scientific Reports (2020).

It’s a shocking result. Researchers were well aware that ocean acidification was taking a toll, but the extent to which this was observed is concerning.

Stress on all sides

Some species seem to handle it better than others, presumably due to biological differences among species (though researchers did not attempt to explain this).

“Whilst all specimens analyzed showed some reduction in shell thickness, the degree to which different species responded varied greatly,” the authors of the study write.

There are plenty of old samples in museums, and researchers want to look at more species from different areas of the ocean and study the differences and peculiarities — but the elephant in the room is clear. As we pump more and more carbon dioxide, much of it will end up in our oceans, with long-lasting consequences for the entire ecosystem. We are reaching a point where some organisms are already struggling to maintain their shells, the study highlights.

“Oceanic carbonate ion concentrations decrease as a consequence of increased atmospheric CO2 levels, which, in turn, has a negative effect on the capacity for calcifying organisms (such as molluscs, crustaceans, corals, and foraminifera) to form their essential skeletal or shell material out of calcium carbonate,” the study continues.

It’s not just microscopic creatures, either. A recent study found that ocean acidification is also destroying the shells of crabs, and while some creatures might take it better than others, no creature is spared from its effects. When the plankton suffers, the entire food chain on Earth suffers.

The evil twin of global warming, as ocean acidification is often referred to, is even more insidious than its sibling. We don’t see when plankton is being dissolved in the ocean. We hardly know how many creatures are unable to maintain their shells due to it. We may not know the full scale of the problem, but we know the cause, and we know that if we want to address it, reducing our emissions is key.

To make matters even worse, ocean acidification doesn’t act in a vacuum. The oceans are getting warmer, and as the oceans gather more carbon, they have less available oxygen — which creatures also need. This is a one-two punch which, many creatures are struggling to withstand.

“Ocean acidification is not the only stressor faced by the world’s oceans in the coming decades and over the time period studied here. Rising temperatures and deoxygenation are also likely to have a substantial impact on marine ecosystems, and eastern boundary upwelling systems are likely to be strongly affected by all three stressors,” the study concludes.

We might not see it, but it just goes to show how insidious the effects of global warming really are.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Antarctic Ocean Sucks Down More and More Greenhouse Gases, But It’s Still Not Enough

The Antarctic Ocean has been sucking more and more carbon dioxide – and this is both good news and bad news. For the Ocean’s inhabitants it’s bad news because it increases acidity, which is extremely harmful; for everyone else, it’s good news, because it mitigates the effects of climate change. It’s unclear for how much more this will continue to last though.

Image via Wikipedia

The Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, absorbs vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere – up to 25% of the entire planet’s intake. But a new study found that in recent years, it’s been doing even more work, with absorption growing to 1.2 billion tonnes in 2011 – as much as the entire European Union emits in one year.

“It’s good news, for the moment” for efforts to slow man-made global warming, Nicolas Gruber, an author of the study at Swiss university ETH Zurich, told Reuters.

However, he also said that it’s unclear how long this sink will continue to last.

“The Southern Ocean is much more variable than we thought,” he said of the report by an international team in the journal Science and based on 2.6 million measurements by ships over three decades.

Some scientists proposed that the sink might have begun to fill up since 2005, but that was proven wrong by further research – the sink has in fact grown. But it’s important to note that even with this growth, the CO2 that’s in our atmosphere has grown more and more.

Image via Phys Org.

Co-author Dorothee Bakker, of the University of East Anglia added:

“The seas around Antarctica absorb significantly more CO2 than they release. And importantly, they remove a large part of the CO2 that is put into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels.”

Since 1870, the oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels, according to Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. The Antarctic Ocean alone is responsible for 40% of oceanic intake. Gruber told the Guardian:

“One has to recognize that despite this remarkable increase in the Southern Ocean carbon sink, emissions have gone up even more. A strong carbon sink in the Southern Ocean helps to mitigate climate change for the moment, as otherwise even more CO2 would have stayed in the atmosphere, but we cannot conclude that this will continue for ever.”

Unfortunately, future predictions cannot be made accurately because there are many factors we don’t understand and can’t account for. For example, it’s unclear how large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña play into the equation. It seems reasonable to predict that local weather will affect the carbon intake though.

Journal Reference: “The reinvigoration of the Southern Ocean carbon sink,” by P. Landschützer et al. Science, www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.aab2620

 

ocean global warming

Dangers of global warming to marine life and ecosystems reiterated in new report

A team led by scientists at University of British Columbia highlighted the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans and marine life. Two scenarios were analyzed. One followed the changes that would arise if the world banded together to significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions; the other summarized impacts 100 years from now if we’d go on with business as usual. The report outlines the consequences under each scenario and found immediate action is required if we’re to avert at a catastrophic outcome, particularly regarding the planet’s oceans.

Clogging the planetary sink

ocean global warming

Credit: Getty Images

The seas and oceans of the world act like a carbon sink. Since industrial times, the oceans have absorbed 90% of the excess heat emitted in the atmosphere and about 28% of the carbon pollution. Sea surface temperature increased over the 20th century and continues to rise. From 1901 through 2014, temperatures rose at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade. Sea surface temperatures have been higher during the past three decades than at any other time since reliable observations began in 1880.

“There is a strong relationship between CO2 in the atmosphere and CO2 in the ocean and the consequence of that is the ocean becomes more acidic,” said co-author William Cheung, a marine biologist.

Total amount of heat from global warming that has accumulated in Earth's climate system from 1962 to 2008, from Church et al. (2011). Also see this graphic that shows the ocean heating in two layers, 0-700 meters and 700-2000 meters deep.

Total amount of heat from global warming that has accumulated in Earth’s climate system from 1962 to 2008, from Church et al. (2011). Also see this graphic that shows the ocean heating in two layers, 0-700 meters and 700-2000 meters deep. Credit: Church et al. (2011)

With this in mind, it becomes clear that ocean ecosystems, where thousands of marine species are intertwined in a complicated dependency web, are particularly vulnerable – more so than terrestrial species. Besides increased temperatures, global warming also causes the oceans to become more acidic.

The first ocean life impact scenario assumed the the changes required to limit temperature rise at  2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, as advised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year.  In the second scenario, no further efforts are assumed and emissions are modeled based on current rising trends. During this scenario, average global temperatures rise by 5°C by the end of the century. Between now and 2100, the latter scenario involves 6 times more global carbon pollution emitted by humans, the authors conclude in the paper published in Science.

Here’s what the report found: the 5°C warming scenario would cause oceans to rise 30 cm higher, oxygen content nearly 2% lower, ocean acidity 70% higher, and sea surface temperatures about 2°C hotter than in 2°C warming scenario. Once this dangerous threshold is reached, there’s little we can do to turn back. The change is irreversible and the carbon traps heat for centuries before breaking down.

“In summary, the carbon that we emit today will change the Earth System irreversibly for many generations to come. The ocean’s content of carbon, acidity, and heat as well as sea level will continue to increase long after atmospheric CO2 is stabilized. These irreversible changes increase with increasing emissions, underscoring the urgency of near-term carbon emission reduction if ocean warming and acidification are to be kept at moderate levels.”

global warming oceans

One of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the face of this major global shift are coral reefs. These comprise the habitat for around a quarter of the species in the oceans, and are important source of revenue from tourism for a lot of countries in the world. The acidic waters bleach the corals and kill them, while the higher temperatures might cause biotic diseases to spread.

Rising waters could threaten 0.2 to 4.6% of the global population with annual severe floods. The economic damage is calculated to sit between 0.3 to 9.3% of global GDP.

The rising temperatures and ocean acidification is also changing the global migration pattern of fish. Economically, this could bear significant disadvantages to the fishing sector.

“Recent studies strongly reiterate that many species—including various invertebrates, commercially important fish species and marine mammals—are undergoing phenological and geographical shifts of up to 400 km per decade as a result of warming,” the authors write.

“We can already see that fish in equatorial waters are moving toward the poles seeking cooler water,” said Cheung.

The report comes as the United Nations prepares to host a global summit on carbon dioxide emissions in Paris later this year.

“Until now the oceans have not been a big part of this discussion,” said Cheung.

“Oceans provide important economic support for human societies and profoundly affect weather patterns,” said economist and co-author Rashid Sumaila.

 

Carbon emissions threaten to destroy pink salmon population

The effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are great and long reaching – a new study has found that pink salmon in the Pacific Ocean are threatened by increasing ocean acidification.

When we emit carbon dioxide, it doesn’t all go to the atmosphere; an estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, but also rivers and lakes, where it increases the acidity of the water. This phenomenon is called acidification and it has a range of possibly harmful consequences, such as depressing metabolic rates and immune responses in some organisms, and causing coral bleaching. It also causes decreasing oxygen levels as it kills off algae. Now, University of British Columbia researchers added another problem related to freshwater acidification: it’s wiping off pink salmon.

Pink salmon is the smallest and most common salmon species in the Pacific. In 2010, the total harvest was some 260 million fish, corresponding to 400,000 tonnes. The researchers examined the fish for 10 weeks, from when they were inside the eggs, in fresh water, until they migrated in the open ocean. They split the fish into two groups, one which was raised in water like the one we have today, and one which lived in water containing levels which could be present in freshwater sources a century from today. They found that the salmon raised in acidic water (today’s water) were not able to smell their surroundings as well as those in the control group, which means they had a much harder time avoiding predators and finding their way in the water.

This is likely happening across all salmon species, biologists note.

“Damage done by acidification in fresh water in pink salmon could occur in all other salmonids”, Colin Brauner, a co-author at the University of British Columbia, told Reuters. The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The problem is that we don’t really understand freshwater acidification that well, and we haven’t even studied it properly – most efforts were focused on oceans.

“Most of the work on acidification has been in the ocean, yet 40 percent of all fish are freshwater. We need to think about how carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater species. We found that freshwater acidification affects pink salmon and may impact their ability to survive and ultimately return to their freshwater spawning grounds,” Colin Brauner from the University of British Columbia said.

Journal Reference: Michelle Ou et al – Responses of pink salmon to CO2-induced aquatic acidification. Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate269

Coral breeding may help reefs survive global warming

20141127_5172_DxO_tonemapped copie

Coral reefs are as important to oceanic ecosystems as they are vulnerable to global warming and ocean acidification. Coral reefs are being destroyed around the world, not only because of risint temperatures, but also due to coral mining, agricultural and urban runoff, pollution (organic and inorganic), overfishing, blast fishing, disease, and the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are localized threats to coral ecosystems. Now, biologists experimenting with coral breeding report some success in maintaining coral populations.

“Coral larvae with parents from the north, where waters were about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) warmer, were up to 10 times as likely to survive heat stress, compared with those with parents from the south,” scientists report.

Corals that naturally thrive in hot, tropical waters can be bred with those that enjoy colder waters to enable the latter to survive rising temperatures. Tests of corals in warm waters on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef found they were able to survive higher temperature rises than those in cooler waters – you basically breed the more vulnerable corals into adaptation and give evolution a slight nudge. The study, conducted by US and Australian researchers gives new hope to dwindling coral populations.

“These mutations are already there, they just need to be spread out,” said Mikhail Matz, an author of the study and a professor of biology at the University of Texas.

[Also Read: Coral Reefs can be saved – but immediate action is necessary]

Corals, despite what most people think, are animals and not plants. They are marine invertebrates that typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. Human impact on coral reefs is significant, and a 2008 study indicated that 19% of the existing area of coral reefs has already been lost, and that a further 17% is likely to be lost over the subsequent 10–20 years. Only 46% of the world’s reefs could be currently regarded as in good health. About 60% of the world’s reefs may be at risk due to destructive, human-related activities. The threat to the health of reefs is particularly strong in Southeast Asia, where 80% of reefs are endangered. By the 2030s, 90% of reefs are expected to be at risk from both human activities and climate change; by 2050, all coral reefs will be in danger. Any idea that might increase their resilience is welcome, but if we truly want to protect coral reefs, we have to come up with a global strategy and limit the damage that we are doing. In the meantime, scientists are doing what they can.

“What I think is the most viable strategy is simply to transplant adult corals – we make a reef and let then cross with the natural corals,” Mikhail Matz, a co-author at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a press release.

But even if they become able to deal with increasing water temperatures, corals still have many other problems to deal with – heat tolerance is not the silver bullet; there is no silver bullet.

Journal Reference: Genomic determinants of coral heat tolerance across latitudes. Groves B. Dixon et al, Science 26 June 2015. DOI: 10.1126/science.1261224

Ocean Acidification Threatens to Destroy Shellfish Populations

Mollusks such as oysters, clams and scallops are highly vulnerable to the increasing acidification of the world’s oceans. A new study concluded that the acidification is so intense that the mollusks aren’t able to properly produce a hard shell, putting them in peril.

Image via Seattle Mag.

Water, Acid, and carbon emissions

Mollusks are the largest phyllum of invertebrate marine animas; 1 in 4 marine animals is a mollusk. Mollusks like oysters generate a calcium carbonate shell which surrounds and protects their bodies. Under normal conditions, they don’t dissolve – well, technically speaking they do, but slow enough so that oysters can continuously generate enough calcium carbonate. But here’s when you add carbon dioxide (CO2) to the water (H2O) and calcium carbonate(CaCO3), they simply aren’t able to form their hard shell. Here’s what happens from a chemical point of view:

The calcum starts to dissolve, and therefore the oysters’ shells start to dissolve. So When we’re spewing out greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, we’re making our oceans more acidic, and this is destorying marine wildlife. In other words, ocean acidification makes it harder and harder for shellfish to form hard structures, making them vulnerable, especially in their larval stages.

Today, the world’s oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide at an unprecedented rate and the resulting acidification is reaching alarming levels – that’s the conclusion of a study published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change. The study analyzed the situation in shellfisheries across the US.

Image via Pangea Shellfisheries.

According to the study, previous models, which stated that acidification caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will not affect the local oyster crop until 2100 are wrong – they haven’t taken into consideration river runoffs and algae blooms – and those are significant factors. It’s also not only carbon we have to worry about – other greenhouse gases can have significant negative effects too.

“Messages from global models to date are that the Gulf will experience changes later on, but with these other local factors enhancing it, things can be moving at a much shorter timeline than that,” said Sarah Cooley, the Ocean Conservancy acidification program’s science outreach manager and a co-author of the study.

This is the first nationwide vulnerability assessment, and aside for the environmental damage, the economic damage is also huge – millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs are lost every year due to ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification has already cost the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly $110 million and jeopardized about 3,200 jobs,” said Julie Ekstrom, who was lead author on the study while with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is now at the University of California at Davis.

Scientists reviewed data from multiple fields, and managed to identify which are the most vulnerable areas in the US:

shellfish

  • The Pacific Northwest. Oregon and Washington coasts seem to be affected by a multitude of factors which favorize acidification, including including cold waters, upwelling currents that bring corrosive waters closer to the surface, corrosive rivers, and nutrient pollution from land runoff.
  • New England. The product ports of Maine and southern New Hampshire are the main drivers here; they feature poorly buffered rivers running into cold New England waters which are especially rich in carbon dioxide.
  • Mid-Atlantic. Nitrogen pollution (mostly from agriculture) is the main issue there.
  • Gulf of Mexico. The conditions in this area are not particularly difficult, but some communities in the area rely greatly on shellfish, and are highly vulnerable. Should this source of income disappear or be reduced, they would be left with very little alternatives.

The study shows just how vulnerable marine wildlife really is – and as we continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases, the oceans will become more and more acidic, and the problem may spiral out of control. This is a problem we have to deal with, and deal with fast.

“There’s not a lot of room for error,” said Mike Rice, professor of fisheries and aquaculture at the University of Rhode Island, who was not associated with the report.

However, no matter how much we improve our resilience and how many adaptation strategies we implement, the bottom line is the same – as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, the problem is only going to get worse. From an economic point of view, the situation is even more acute – 95 percent of the U.S. shellfish revenue comes from only 10 species, and we don’t know how those species will react to the new conditions.

“We need a fuller understanding of those species to understand the economic impact,” Ekstrom concluded.

You can read the full scientific article, for free, from the link below.

Journal Reference: Julia A. Ekstrom et al. Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification.

 

Map of Ocean Acidification Paints Dire Picture

Pollution talks are often about the atmopshere, but we tend to foger that the most part of the pollution goes into the oceans. About a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans ends up in the seas, which causes them to become more acidic, significantly altering the oceanic environment on which corals, fish, and ultimately, we depend on.

A global look at ocean pH reveals that the water is more alkaline (basic) in the open ocean than in many coastal regions. The more alkaline the water is, the better poised it is to resist ocean acidification.
Credit: Ifremer/ESA/CNES

Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes. Unfortunately, that type of pollution is easier to miss, because we live on land – not in the ocean.

You might tend to think that the CO2 spreads evenly throughout the oceans, but that’s not really true. Ocean acidification is not even, and it can be quite hard to measure and map it. In 2014, Taro Takahashi, a geochemist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory published global acidification maps and showed that we are causing huge damage to the planetary oceans. He also established a standard for future measurements.

“We have established a global standard for future changes to be measured,” said Takahashi, who published the maps with his colleagues in the August issue of the journal Marine Chemistry. The maps provide a monthly look at how ocean acidity rises and falls by season and geographic location, along with saturation levels of calcium carbonate minerals used by shell-building organisms.

Five years of global sea-surface salinity from space. (Image by European Space Agency)

Now, researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom have tried a different approach – measuring the ocean acidification via satellite measurements. Previous measurements relied mostly on in-situ measurements – taking samples from several areas in the world and interpolating the data. Analyzing the samples and operating the vessels for acquiring the samples is very expensive.

“We are pioneering these techniques so that we can monitor large areas of the Earth’s oceans, allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from the increasing acidification,” study leader Jamie Shutler, a senior lecturer in ocean science at the University of Exeter, said in a statement.

This new approach also allows relatively easy measurements of areas which are hard to access. This technology has the potential to become the easiest and most efficient way of quantifying oceanic acidity – especially as satellite sensors continue to develop. Dr Jamie Shutler from Geography at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall who is leading the research said:

“Satellites are likely to become increasingly important for monitoring ocean acidification, especially in remote waters. We are pioneering this data fusion approach so that we can observe large areas of Earth’s oceans, allowing us to quickly and easily identify those areas most at risk from increasing acidification.”

The results of the study are pretty dire: the pH at the ocean’s surface become 30 percent more acidic since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Open regions of the ocean show this resilience, while many coastal regions appear less alkaline. The northeastern United States looks particularly vulnerable – a finding which confirms previous studies.

 

Northern shrimp hauled aboard a shrimp boat. Credit: Wikimedia

Shrimps become less tastier as a result of climate change

The effects of climate change on food stock quality is well documented, yet a new study suggests that climate change might not only affect survival rates of marine life, but also how it tastes too. The findings came after an international team of researchers sought to see how high water acidity affects the sensory quality of shrimp.

Northern shrimp hauled aboard a shrimp boat. Credit: Wikimedia

Northern shrimp hauled aboard a shrimp boat. Credit: Wikimedia

Carbon is stored not only in trees, but also in the world’s oceans and sea which act like huge carbon sinks. As more and more carbon is being absorbed, this causes the water to become more acidic, a process called ocean acidification. Marine animals  interact in complex food webs that may be disrupted by ocean acidification due to losses in key species that will have trouble creating calcium carbonate shells in acidified waters. Some species of calcifying plankton that are threatened by ocean acidification form the base of marine food chains and are important sources of prey to many larger organisms. With coral and plankton gone, most marine species will follow, thus acidification is a huge concern. But if you’re not that interested in the fate of marine life, maybe you’d be more considerate of how it tastes.

The researchers put hundreds of northern shrimps (Pandalus borealis) into tanks that mimic a projected 2100 ocean acidification level of pH 7.5, while a control group was put in tanks of pH 8.0, the current average level in the waters. In addition, the water was heated to 11 degrees Centigrade, or roughly the extreme of the shrimps’ temperature tolerance, so that the animals would be more stressed and make acidification stand out more. After three weeks, the shrimps were put out of the tanks and served to 30 connoisseurs for a taste test.

Shrimp from less acidic waters were 3.4 times as likely to be judged the tastiest, while those from more acidic waters were 2.6 times as likely to be rated the worst tasting, according to the paper published in the Journal of Shellfish Research. Not to be neglected is that decreased pH increased mortality significantly, by 63%. Does this mean that the shrimp industry is doomed? It’s hard to tell, but what the study shows is that the effects of climate change extend well beyond food supply, but also quality. I’ve yet to find something similar, but it may be likely that the same might be said about other marine food stocks, like tuna.

Regarding terrestrial food, a University of California, Davis study found that  rising CO2 levels are inhibits plants’ ability to assimilate nitrates into nutrients, altering their quality for the worse. Thus, it’s expected that crops in the future will contain less nutrients than they do today.

 

By 2100, Our Oceans Will Be Twice as Acidic as They Were in Preindustrial Times

When we think of CO2 emissions, we generally tend to think of air pollution and global warming; we tend to ignore the fact that a huge part of all the CO2 emissions is absorbed by the oceans, and the oceans are becoming more and more acidic. The process is just getting started, and it’s gonna get worse – fast.

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Ellen Thomas/Yale University)

Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Out of the total CO2 released by humans, 30-40% is absorbed by the oceans. A new study has analyzed sea floor sediments drilled off the coast of Japan and has concluded that ocean acidification has soared in the past decades, and the process is just starting – by 2100, our oceans will be twice as acidic as they should be (read: as they were before the industrial revolution).

Studying the paleoclimate is essential for making climate predictions. Paleoclimatologists often look to a period called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period when huge quantities of CO2 were emitted. The cause of that emission is unknown.

“We are dumping carbon in the atmosphere and ocean at a much higher rate today—within centuries,” said study coauthor Richard Zeebe, a paleoceanographer at the University of Hawaii. “If we continue on the emissions path we are on right now, acidification of the surface ocean will be way more dramatic than during the PETM.”

Ocean acidification is already affecting numerous sea dwelling creatures, as shown by this partially dissolved gastropode shell. (Nina Bednaršek/NOAA)

The study also showed that the acidification caused during the PETM lasted for 70.000 years.

“It didn’t bounce back right away,” said Timothy Bralower, a researcher at Penn State who was not involved in the study. “It took tens of thousands of years to recover.”

But even this massive process (the PETM) was nowhere near what we are doing now.

“This could be the closest geological analog to modern ocean acidification,” study coauthor Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia, said in a statement. “As massive as it was, it still happened about 10 times more slowly than what we are doing today.”

This acidification will have dramatic effects, and in 100 years, the marine ecosystems might look entirely different from now.

In other words, what we are doing to the planet is unprecedented. It’s not that there wasn’t CO2 in the atmosphere and in the oceans, it’s not that this rise is unprecedented – but the rate at which it is happening is. This is not a natural process, we are causing it. It’s high time we man up and start taking responsibility for this, before the consequences become unbearable.

Journal Reference: Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. DOI: 10.1002/2014PA002621

Artist impression of how the landscape must have looked like during the end-Permian extinction. Photo: JOSÉ-LUIS OLIVARES/MIT

The most devastating mass extinction in Earth’s history happened much faster

Some 252 million years ago,  96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of life on land became extinct following a yet unconfirmed series of cataclysmic events. Around this time, billions and billions of organisms were killed and life on Earth faced its most dire moments. This is known as the end-Permian extinction, and many theories have been devised trying to explain what triggered this massive die-off. A new geological analysis by scientists at MIT provides a refined time frame during which the extinction took place. Apparently, the extinction happened much faster than previously believed. Moreover, armed with this information, scientists may now test some of the leading hypotheses that try to explain the extinction.

Artist impression of how the landscape must have looked like during the end-Permian extinction. Photo: JOSÉ-LUIS OLIVARES/MIT

Artist impression of how the landscape must have looked like during the end-Permian extinction. Photo: JOSÉ-LUIS OLIVARES/MIT

Sam Bowring, the Robert R. Shrock Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at MIT, and team first traveled to Meishan, China in 2006. Here, geologists from all over the world have made various trips since the area holds invaluable clues  in its layers of sedimentary rock. On section of rock, in particular, is thought to delineate the end of the Permian, and the beginning of the Triassic, based on evidence such as the number of fossils found in surrounding rock layers.

A massive die-off

Their first sample analysis suggested that the  end-Permian likely lasted less than 200,000 years, as reported in 2011. Using a more refined technique, Bowring now says that they’ve reached a more accurate time-frame.  Rock samples collected from five volcanic ash beds at the Permian-Triassic boundary were pulverized, so that  tiny zircon crystals containing a mix of uranium and lead could be gathered. The researchers then separated the the lead from the uranium  and measured the ratios of both isotopes to determine the age of each rock sample.

The new measurements reveal a more precise age model for the end-Permian extinction. It likely lasted for  60,000 years — with an uncertainty of 48,000 years . In geological terms, this is nothing more than the blink of an eye. Apparently, this was too fast for most life on Earth to adapt. The samples also confirmed what was known for a while: the extinction was preceded by a sharp increase in carbon dioxide in the oceans.

What’s the killer?

Some  10,000 years before the die-off, a massive and sudden influx of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere, poisoning life on land and acidifying the world’s oceans. Most of the carbon was absorbed by the oceans which act like huge heat-sinks, increasing sea temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Celsius – too hot for anything to survive. It took life on Earth ten million years to recover from this event. It’s important to note that ocean acidification is happening today at a growing rate due to global warming and man-made carbon emissions.

[ANOTHER THEORY] Permian extinction caused by ‘lemon juice’ acid rain [?]

What triggered this dramatic cataclysm? The leading theory is that it was caused by long-lasting volcanic eruptions from the Siberian Traps, a region of Russia whose steplike hills are a result of repeated eruptions of magma. The eruption  released volatile chemicals, including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere and oceans, covering an estimated five million cubic kilometers.

The new refined timeline adds weight to this theory, but it’s still too early to tell for sure. Next, Bowring plan to determine an equally precise timeline for the Siberian Traps eruptions. If the eruptions and the eruption timeline overlap, than scientists can infer with a degree of confidence that indeed that’s what caused the extinction.

“We’ve refined our approach, and now we have higher accuracy and precision,” Bowring says. “You can think of it as slowly spiraling in toward the truth.”

The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 

ocean_acidification

Ocean acidification could devastate the economy in the future

As if that would be our biggest concern in the first place, but it’s important to understand, especially for policy makers, that even though dumping CO2 as a byproduct of current energy production methods is a lot cheaper than “cleaner alternatives”, in the long run the balance of economics turn.

A new report  released today at the  Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World highlights the latest science, progress and projections for the future concerning ocean acidification as an effect of CO2 emissions. The report offers projections in best (dramatic cut of CO2 emissions in the world) and worse case scenarios (current growing trend of CO2 emissions), but either way it seems, ocean acidification will likely cause significant economic trouble.

Most of the CO2 released in the atmosphere doesn’t stay there, instead it gets absorbed by the world’s oceans which act like a sort of humongous carbon sink.  As more and more carbon gets absorbed, pH levels decrease accordingly with dramatic effects on the marine ecosystem. The full extent of possible damage is hard to estimate, however the report writes that ocean acidification could devastate coral reefs, shellfish, and even top predators such as tuna. This means that important tourism and food economic sources are at risk. In fact, the authors stress with “medium confidence” that at current trends the   damage from coral loss alone could amount to $1 trillion.

ocean_acidification

Modelled global sea-surface pH. (c) OCEAN ACIDIFICATION SUMMARY FOR POLICYMAKERS 2013

It’s yet unclear how much damage ocean acidification may pose on large marine life, like sharks, tuna, and other creatures. The report gives only a  “low confidence”  rating to the idea that top predators and fin fish catches will be reduced, even so  540 million people whose livelihoods depend on such fisheries are at risk.

[RELATED] Ocean life threatened by mass extinction as acidification rate nears 300 million year max

A “very high confidence” rating is given to the assumption that as the ocean increases in acidity level, it’s ability to absorb carbon will decrease. This means that more CO2 will accumulate in the atmosphere, where it acts as a greenhouse gas. With this in mind, this would mean that even more drastic cuts in emissions are required to curb global warming.

The report comes on the heels of a recent study which confirmed the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) conclusion that “with a certainty of 95%, climate change is man made”.  Although the new report was produced with a different methodology, it still represents one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date assessments of a major impact of CO2 emissions currently available. Hopefully, policymakers will take heed of both reports and take appropriate action.

Since the industrial revolution, surface ocean pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1, which might not seem like much, but you need to consider that first of all pH is logarithmic in scale and, second, even the most minute change in an environment can have dramatic effects on the ecosystem. Under the most pessimistic scenario,   surface ocean pH could drop by 0.32 by the turn of this century.  This scenario is not very unlikely considering that developing countries are feverishly growing, desperate to catch on to developed nations at a great deal of energy expense and, in turn, massive projected CO2  emissions.

The authors caution that extensive models and studies are required to assess whether or not marine animals and plants will be able to adapt to new acidity conditions and how.

via Nature

Past decade saw unprecedented warming in the deep ocean

From the 1950s, and especially from 1975, the global surface ocean has shown a significant and steady warming trend. However, since 2004, that warming seemed to stall. Researchers measuring the Earth’s total energy budget (the energy coming in from the Sun and the radiated heat) and they noticed that more heat was coming in then going out; but if the oceans weren’t warming, then where did the heat go?

globalwarming

A case of the missing heat

This was one of the main arguments of “climate change deniers”; the oceans aren’t warming, so everything’s ok, right? As usual, this kind of shallow thinking was wrong.

Magdalena Balmaseda and her team have conducted a series of ocean heat analysis, and their research was published in Geophysical Research Letters. They showed that while the shallow global waters, up to 700 meters had a constant temperature from 2004, the deep ocean was heating at an unprecedented rate.

This is not the first time it was suggested that the deep ocean was paying the price for anthropogenic global warming. In 2011, Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research presented more or less the same results, suggesting that extra energy entered the oceans, with deeper layers absorbing a disproportionate amount of heat due to changes in oceanic circulation (full article here).

Global warming is bad enough as it is – we see its effects more and more: drought, water shortage, change of seasons, sea level rise, and oh so many more. But why is the deep ocean so significant?

First of all, oceans are host to the largest biodiversity on our planet – by far. We may have mapped all but a sliver of Earth’s landmass, but the oceans are still mostly a mystery. Also, the difference in temperature between the deep ocean and the shallower dramatically affects the thermohaline circulation – the main driver of the global oceanic currents. Any change in the temperature will cause a change in the circulation, which can have dramatic, very hard to predict events.

Still, one thing’s for sure – this will not go without consequences.

carbon negative

Carbon negative: removing CO2 altogether from the atmosphere

As climate change and global warming become ever pressing issues on the desks of the world’s governments, so do the much awaited measures become more prevailing, albeit not nearly as thoughtfully as they should be addressed. Today, renewable energy sources like solar and wind have actually ceased to become regarded as “alternative”, since actually more capacity of renewable energy was added than other in both the United States and in Europe.

Whether you choose to believe in human induced climate change or not, the truth of the matter is, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, growing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere signify a grave peril to humanity, life on Earth and nature’s balance.

(c) http://bellona.org

(c) http://bellona.org

Efforts to curb emissions levels have gone a long way in the past few decades, and for this we can only be grateful to all the engineers, scientists, and not lastly government officials who had the vision and courage to listen and voice the right measures for the good of our planet and generations to come.

Still…with all this measure at play, in the year 2011 global greenhouse gas emissions reached a new record, since developing countries are burning fossil fuels at an alarming rate as they seek to level the game with other developed countries. It’s becoming clear than reducing emission isn’t enough.

Recently, Stanford University released a report in which it highlights solutions for cutting carbon emissions, as in removing them altogether, instead of simply reducing them, as part of the university’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP). These methods and solutions are commonly referred to as carbon-negative technologies, and some of them have been described in the report.

“To achieve the targeted cuts, we would need a scenario where, by the middle of the century, the global economy is transitioning from net positive to net negative CO2 emissions,” said report co-authorChris Field, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science at Stanford. “We need to start thinking about how to implement a negative-emissions energy strategy on a global scale.”

Negative carbon means a more positive environment

Negative carbon emission occurs when more carbon is sequestered than it is released in the atmosphere, and of the technologies that can allow this is s BECCS, or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Typically, BECCS converts woody biomass, grass and other vegetation into electricity, chemical products or fuels, such as ethanol. Where it shines however is in it capability of trapping carbon.

In a way, the system is very similar to how plants work. During photosynthesis plants absorb carbon dioxide and store it, before releasing it back in the atmosphere when the plants dies and decays. With BECCS however, the captured carbon doesn’t need to be released back, instead it can be stored underground.

In the GCEP Stanford report, a conclusive example is being given in the form of a Department of Energy sponsored corn ethanol production facility in Decatur, Ill. Here,  some 1,000 metric tons of CO2 emitted during ethanol fermentation are captured and stored in a sandstone formation some 7,000 feet underground. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to sequester 1 million metric tons of CO2 a year – the equivalent of removing 200,000 automobiles from the road.

Estimates show that by 2050, BECCS technologies could sequester 10 billion metric tons of industrial CO2emissions annually worldwide. This, of course, if the technology is backed up by solid investment.

 “To meet ambitious climate targets, a cost-effective policy would be to implement a carbon tax and to recycle the revenues to subsidize captured emissions from biomass,”  said Olivia Ricci of the University of Orléans in France.

Biochar and other carbon-negative technologies

Another carbon-negative technology, rather similar to BECCS but with distinct differences, is biochar. Similar to charcoal, biochar is the byproduct of plants, only it is produced through the heating of vegetation without oxygen, a process typically referred to as pyrolysis. Carbon-rich chunks of biochar are thus made that can be put in the soil trapping the carbon, while acting as a soil fertilizer at the same time.

Biochar systems can be net negative if the biochar is made from waste biomass, sustainably harvested crop residues or crops grown on abandoned land that has not reverted to forest. On a global scale, using biochar could result in the sequestration of billions of metric tons of carbon a year, however scientists warn that biochar instability might occur if concentrations are too great. I recommend reading my colleague’s piece on how biochar could save millions of lives, for more info on the subject.

 “Estimates of biochar half‐life vary greatly from 10 years to more than 100 years. The type of feedstock also contributes to stability, with wood being more stable than grasses and manure,” the authors of the report write.

Sequestrating carbon in the ocean has been a proposal for many years, and is also considered a viable solution discussed in the raport. Today, ocean acidification  is a matter of great concern, as an increased uptake of atmospheric COcauses seawater to become more acidic, putting the ecosystem at great peril. It is believed ocean acidification is reaching a 300 million year old peak, something that might trigger the extinction of massive amounts of marine life.

The authors cited research by David Keith of Harvard University suggesting that magnesium carbonate and other minerals could be added to the ocean to reduce acidity and sequester atmospheric CO2 absorbed in seawater in the process.

Like in the case of biochar, however, sequestrating immense amounts of carbon in the world’s oceans is a rather extreme measure and the full effects of such an endeavor are yet to be fully understood. “The associated risks to the marine environment need to be adequately assessed,” the authors concluded.

Other technologies discussed in the report, which can read in full here, are carbon-negative large agricultural systems and “artificial trees”.

source: Stanford.

World Bank worries about global warming

When the first major talks about global warming began, a top margin of 2 degrees was set for 2100, people slowly understood the globe is warming up much faster than previously expected, so the limit was pushed – first to 3 degrees, now to 4 degrees – and even this isn’t certain.

 

So heat waves and droughts should be expected throughout this century, and while banks may not be overly concerned about the wellbeing of the environment – they are extremely concerned about their money; and, as this report conducted by the World Bank concludes, if the environment suffers, the economy suffers.

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said as the organization released its new report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided” (pdf here). Kim, a physician and anthropologist and the former president of Dartmouth College, became the first scientist to lead the World Bank after he took office this past July. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

Quite thankfully, Kim has made global change one of the highlights of his speeches since he went in the office in June. He will meet with several world leaders in Qatar next week to discuss options which will reduce greenhouse gases and temperate global warming.

The research was conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics for the World Bank, and it predicts that the biggest damage will be made in the poorest areas – which will make it all but impossible for them to rise from this status.

“We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today,” Kim said in a call to the press on Friday.

Here are the main points discussed in the report:

Average monthly summer temperatures Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States could increase 6° C or more.

  • Sea levels could rise up to three feet or more, affecting coastal cities in Mexico, India, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Madagascar, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as small island nations, which could become uninhabitable.
  • Ocean acidification could cause coral reefs to stop growing or dissolve, threatening biodiversity as well as the income and food sources for humans.
  • Drought could affect 44% of global croplands, threatening the world’s food security.
  • Water sources for humans could become scarce in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

However, the report remains optimistic, claiming that if the world governments work together, the 2 degrees objective could be fulfilled; however, big steps have to be taken in this direction, starting with the redistribution of the subsidies given to fossil fuels towards renewable energy. Adding his own words to the report, Kim hopes it “shocks” the world into urgently taking action against climate change.

Source

Ocean Life Fading screaming for help

 

marine wild life

…and we refrain ourselves from doing anything. The reefs and marine creatures are dying slowly but certainly because of human activity – we are pretty well past the point of denying it. There are numerous ways to destroy it, be it through global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing, and so much more; many would say that there is little we can do to help it – but that would be wrong.

Education would be logic and it is the most useful thing but at the same time it is necesary to protect the oceans. Here are some things you can do.Stop throwing trash in the water. There are bins for that. Birds, sea turtles, and other marine mammals often mistake plastic as either food or something to play with. Stop releasing helium filled balloons into the air. They eventually come back to the earth and oceans where marine mammals can ingest them. When fishing take care. Some everyday choices that you make affect the ocean. That may be hard to believe but the world is connected. Recycling and making eco-conscious food and energy choices not just help the oceans but helps you save some money – definitely a win win situation.

For those who truly want to help our planet there is a number of voluntary projects you can easily join. The activities are fun and the people who join such programs are nice. Or you could give a sum of several pounds and adopt a marine creature. That means that the money you give goes to feeding or helping that creature in a way. There are numerous such programs you should not have any real difficulty in finding them.

For governments and big organizations an effective way to make a differece would be to create “national parks of the sea”. This could be huge in reversing trends that have left 76 percent of world fish stocks fully- or over-exploited and marine biodiversity at severe risk. This information is true according to Worldwatch Institute.

“The oceans cannot save themselves,” says Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute. “Collective commitments to thriving ecosystems are needed to save overfished species from being systematically depleted from compromised habitats.”. That makes sense; and just think that by destroying oceans we are destroying ourselves. This is a suicide act. Ignorance is not bliss.

Human-induced climate change is predicted to increase sea-surface temperature, raise sea levels, and reduce sea-ice cover. The polar ice is going to melt and the whole dynamic of the oceans is going to be affected. Pollution from chemical, radioactive, and nutrient sources and oil spills are deadly for the wonderful but fragile ecosystem. But the bad thing is that there is currently no mechanism under existing international agreements to create a global marine reserve network encompassing the high seas—areas beyond national jurisdiction. The report notes that “Current presumptions that favor freedom to fish and freedom of the seas will need to be replaced with the new concept of freedom for the seas,” so things could be a bit better. But you should not take that as a given as there are so many things that you can do to help the oceans. Just care a bit.