Ocean warming

"Here's what it looks like."


If you want to slow the rise in ocean temperature and sea levels, you should probably stop using plastics immediately and cut down on eating meat and agricultural products that consume plenty of water to produce, like rice. And you might have to reduce your travels too.

The use of plastics, meat consumption, and travel contribute to the production of greenhouse gases—the main reason why the world’s temperature is rising.

The burning of fossil fuels for energy and animal agriculture are two of the biggest contributors to global warming, along with deforestation.  

Globally, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 64 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, with deforestation at about 18 percent, and animal agriculture between 13 percent and 18 percent (estimates from the World Resources Institute, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Pitesky et al. 2009).

According to CarbonBrief, tourism accounts for 8 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

The ocean is warming more rapidly, becoming more acidic, and losing oxygen. These trends harm living things under the sea and will impact adversely on food, water, and other benefits from the ocean. Global warming is to blame.

The seas now absorb much of human-generated carbon dioxide, which then affects temperature change. The oceans store 93 percent of that energy which helps keep the planet livable by moderating temperatures.

A higher amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to higher global temperatures, which then results in thermal expansion of seawater and melting of glaciers and ice sheets, says Wikipedia.

The rise in sea levels will affect more than two billion people who live on shorelines, about 800 million of whom live on land that is less than ten meters above sea level. That includes majority of 100-million Filipinos.

Showing a rapid rise in sea level during the past two decades are the western tropical Pacific and the United States northeastern seaboard. The Philippines is in the Pacific Ocean. With a sea level rise within the next century of 50 cm (20 inches), the US would lose 38 percent to 61 percent of its existing coastal wetlands.

A rise in sea level will have a negative impact not only on coastal property and economy but on mankind’s supply of fresh water.

According to the US EPA, “rising sea level increases the salinity of both surface water and ground water through salt water intrusion.”

An increase in salinity would threaten aquatic animals and plants that cannot tolerate high levels of salinity.

The New York Times report of Sept. 25 points out that “for decades, the oceans have served as a crucial buffer against global warming, soaking up roughly a quarter of the carbon dioxide that humans emit from power plants, factories and cars, and absorbing more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped on Earth by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Without that protection, the land would be heating much more rapidly.”

“Climate change is heating the oceans and altering their chemistry so dramatically that it is threatening seafood supplies, fueling cyclones and floods and posing profound risks to the hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts,” reports the Times.

NYT quoted the UN report as concluding: “The world’s oceans and ice sheets are under such severe stress that the fallout could prove difficult for humans to contain without steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Fish populations are already declining in many regions as warming waters throw marine ecosystems into disarray.”

The September 2019 UN report on warming ocean was prepared by a panel of 100 experts under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates that the upper ocean (surface to 750 m deep) has warmed by 0.09 to 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade over the past 40 years.

Other processes important in influencing global sea level include changes to groundwater storage including dams and reservoirs.

Global warming also has an enormous impact with respect to melting glaciers and ice sheets. Higher global temperatures melt glaciers such as the one in Greenland, which flow into the oceans, adding to the amount of seawater.

Meanwhile, billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. At current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050, warns the Center for Biological Diversity.

“In the first decade of this century, we made more plastic than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000. And every year, billions of pounds of more plastic end up in the world's oceans. There are now 15 to 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans. Not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution,” says the Center for Biological Diversity. Thousands of animals, from small finches to blue whales, die grisly deaths from eating and getting caught in plastic.

When exposed to sunlight, common plastics produce greenhouse gases methane and ethylene.

Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal injury and death and transfers plastic up the food chain to bigger fish, marine mammals and human seafood eaters. A recent study found that a quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic in their guts, mostly in the form of plastic microfibers.

Temperature analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows that the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.

“A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much. In the past, a one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago,” according to NASA.

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Topics: Center for Biological Diversity , World Resources Institute , UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Ocean

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