“If the oceans go down, it’s game over.” ~ Dr. Alex Rogers
The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) was established by scientists with the aim of saving the Earth and all life on it.
Every sea and ocean on our planet is part of one, global Ocean. This Ocean is like the earth’s circulatory system: it performs numerous vital functions which make the planet habitable and we cannot survive without it. Currently, the Ocean is in a critical state of health. If it continues to decline, it will reach a point where it can no longer function effectively and our planet will be unable to sustain the ecosystems that support humankind.
The Ocean has already absorbed more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system and around 33% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans. Ecosystems are collapsing as species are pushed to extinction and natural habitats are destroyed. Scientists believe that there is still time to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to our marine ecosystems but that this requires drastic action within a decade.
“We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years,” ~ Professor Hoegh-Guldberg
The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.
In a new report, they warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.
They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.
The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.
The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists…
“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.
“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.
“We’ve sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we’re seeing, and we’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years.”
These “accelerated” changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.
“The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia…
But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.
Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes…
Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently – but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.
“We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg told BBC News.
For all of the points raised in the report, this isn’t a question of ‘conservation for conservation’s sake’, but a fundamental necessity for the continued provision of vital life support for the population, of human and other living beings, that inhabit our ‘blue planet’. The oceans may have already passed breaking point; if that’s the case, we would never know – with scientific precision – until it is too late.
The report that the ocean is in trouble is no surprise. What is shocking is that it has taken so long for us to make the connection between the state of the ocean and everything we care about – the economy, health, security – and the existence of life itself…
…the greatest concern about destructive fishing activities of the past century, especially the past several decades, is the dismemberment of the fine-tuned ocean ecosystems that are, in effect, our life-support system.
Photosynthetic organisms in the sea yield most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, take up and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide, shape planetary chemistry, and hold the planet steady.
The ocean is a living system that makes our lives possible. Even if you never see the ocean, your life depends on its existence. With every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, you are connected to the sea.
- Website – StateoftheOcean.org
- Article – World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline, Richard Black, BBC
- Article – Oceans on brink of catastrophe, Michael McCarthy, The Independent
- Opinion – Oceans may have already passed breaking point, The Independent
- Opinion – If the sea is in trouble, we are all in trouble, S. Earle, Independent
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