Climate change has a significant impact on the oceans, which has been studied for some time by scientists and experts and has acquired increasing prominence in the media.
The oceans play an important role in the hydrological cycle since they contain 97 percent of the earth’s water volume. Additionally, the oceans account for approximately 86 percent of global evaporation, making them responsible for supplying some of the water vapor present in the atmosphere. Furthermore, precipitation over the oceans accounts for 78 percent of total precipitation Part of the evaporated sea waters precipitates over the continents and eventually returns to the ocean; in this cycle, the ocean exchanges with the continents about 40,000 cubic kilometers of water per year, a flow more than six times greater than the discharge of the Amazon River.
In 2019, the average ocean temperature climbed for the third year in a row, with a warmer index of 0.075 °C. The data also shows that during the last six decades, the temperature has risen by 450 percent, resulting in a 46-millimeter rise in sea level.
The Earth’s climate is changing, and humans have a large portion of the blame. This is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report stated. The 1.5 Degree Celsius increase in Earth’s temperature is projected by 2040, with the effects of change seen in the aquatic ecosystem.
Impact of global warming on the oceans
This temperature rise has an effect on our waters. First, it causes warming of the ocean, which causes species to migrate from the south to the poles, as well as changes in general migration patterns. On the other hand, melting Arctic glaciers are causing sea level rise and the extinction of certain species such as polar bears, walruses, and seals.
Rising sea levels will result in the elimination of coastal settlements as well as mangroves, which serve as essential breeding grounds for marine species’ young. Furthermore, the circulation patterns of ocean currents and winds are shifting, resulting in intense storms and copious rainfall.
The ocean works as a sink, absorbing 30% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and absorbing 80% of the heat generated by greenhouse gases. This helps the atmosphere, but it also causes the ocean to warm and rise in level, as well as promoting a process known as acidification.
The rising concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide in saltwater causes ocean acidification. As a result, the reaction with calcium carbonate is favored, leading the ocean to acidify. The drop in the pH of the ocean creates a change in its chemical composition, which has a direct impact on the growth, reproduction, and other physiological phenomena of the species that live there.
Because dissolved calcium carbonate evaporates, hard corals, mollusks, and crustaceans that rely on it to build their structures and shells are unable to capture it. As a result, many species deteriorate and face extinction, jeopardizing the integrity of the food chains to which they belong.
How much will the sea level rise?
Currently, the average sea level is rising at a rate that triples the greatest values reported in our planet’s recent history. According to projections analyzed by the US National Research Council in 2010, sea level might increase by 56 to 200 cm during the twenty-first century.
These numbers vary significantly around the globe. As a result, the western Pacific’s sea level is rising four times faster than the global average.
As seawater flows inland, it can cause soil erosion, flooding of wetlands, contamination of agricultural soil and aquifers, and therefore habitat loss for fish, birds, and plants.
What can the government and society do to address the effects of climate change?
In general, four options for coping with climate change are explored for socio-ecological systems, i.e. the environment and humans: mitigate, enhance resilience, adapt, and repair.
These actions are not mutually incompatible; rather, the ideal is to perform more than one, and there is more to do than simply reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; for example, restoring degraded ecosystems and their ecosystem functionality.
Another action that the state can do is to develop public policies that lead to better practices for fishermen and/or others who work directly on the coast and in the ocean, in order to aid these sectors’ adaptation to climate change. Furthermore, at the local level, it is necessary to educate the population about climate change and its effects, for example, through the implementation of training programs for different strata of the population by public institutions, NGOs, guilds, companies, academic and school institutions, neighborhood councils, and so on.