How is climate change affecting the big blue?

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The world’s oceans form 71% of the planet, serving as the world’s largest habitat and regulator of the global climate. For decades society has assumed it is too large to fail and that it can continue to absorb the rising levels of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The current threat of climate change means our oceans are circulating 83% of the global carbon cycle through its marine waters. This excessive amount of harmful toxicity is harming the ocean and its ecosystems in three significant ways: warming oceans, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification.

The greenhouse effect is not only warming the planet, but it is raising the temperatures of the world’s oceans year on year. The sea’s surface is warming up 24% faster than decades before putting marine life at risk, and in the past 30 years marine heatwaves have increased by 54%.

Melting ice caps and rising sea levels are one of the tell-tale signs that the water’s temperature is reaching an alarming high. Consequently, it is leaving polar bears and other arctic species without sustainable food resource and loss of habitat.

Warm temperatures also threaten delicate ocean life like coral reefs. Coral bleaching occurs when they become stressed by changes in conditions, like warming temperatures, light, or nutrients. When coral becomes stressed, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, making the once colourful marine reefs turn entirely white and sticky. Coral can survive these bleaching events, but with the rise in the ocean’s temperature, coral reefs are becoming more stressed, leading to their mortality.

The ocean plays a massive role in our global ecosystem regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing billions of metric tonnes yearly. In a recent study, scientists have found that the ocean’s ‘biological pump’ is capturing twice as much carbon dioxide as they initially believed.

The long-term damage of absorbing such a high level of emissions is an increase in ocean acidity, making it difficult for species like oysters, clams and corrals to form shells or skeletons. Eventually, this will have a knock-on effect for coral reefs and ocean biodiversity, with a disruption in the food chain causing species to potentially die out.

On the Great Barrier Reef, more than half of its corals have already died, meaning they are unable to support the hundreds of fish and other species that depend on the reef.

The only way we can hope to save our oceans is to reduce and combat climate change collectively. Sadly, it is already going to take decades for the current gases in the atmosphere to dissipate.

We can, however, take measures to decrease our carbon footprint by tacking action by donating and pooling resources to fund projects that make a significant difference.

If you want to make a positive difference to the climate crisis, join us in our mission to tackle climate change by donating today.

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