World’s oceans facing catastrophe

The world’s oceans are facing ‘unprecedented’ challenges due to climate change, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The report, which includes contributions from over 100 scientists, from 86 countries and referencing over 7,000 scientific publications, highlights the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems and carefully managing natural resources to save oceans from catastrophe.

The report discusses the effects of rising temperatures, noting that temperatures have already reached 1°C above the pre-industrial level, due to both past and present greenhouse gas emissions.

The report also discusses the effects of rising sea levels. Sea levels have risen globally by around 15cm in the 20th century and they are continuing to rise more than twice as fast.

Scientists say sea levels are rising at a much faster pace because glaciers in mountain regions are melting into a warmer ocean, which is also more acidic and less productive than ever before.

Unless urgent action is taken, scientists believe extreme weather events that would happen once a century, could happen once a year in some of the most at risk regions.

University of Liverpool scientist, Prof A. Tagliabue, a lead author of the report, said: ‘This report is a landmark in that it focuses specifically across oceans and ice systems and seeks to link physical sciences with policymakers throughout.’

‘We have highlighted observed trends demonstrating ocean warming, sea level, ocean acidity, and sea ice and oxygen contents and the fact that the ocean is undergoing a transition towards unprecedented conditions, raising risks for key marine ecosystems like coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves and fisheries.

‘Most importantly, we found that many of these emerging threats may be strongly diminished by rapid cuts in fossil fuel emissions.’

Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC added: ‘The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people.

‘But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways -for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.’

Earlier this year, scientists found that climate change may be weakening the ocean’s ability to soak up CO2, removing what scientists call a ‘powerful brake’ on the greenhouse effect.

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