Oceans turning Acid, Lifeless faster than any time in 300 million Years from Human CO2 Emissions (Queally)

Jon Queally writes at Commondreams:

The latest audit by an international team of marine scientists at the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) found that the world's oceans and marine life are facing an unprecedented threat by combination of industrial pollution, human-driven global warming and climate change, and continued and rampant overfishing.

According to the report, The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals, the degradation of the ocean ecosystem means that its role as Earth’s ‘buffer’ is being seriously compromised. As a result, the authors of the report call for "urgent remedies" because the "rate, speed, and impacts of change in the global ocean are greater, faster, and more imminent than previously thought."

"[Last week's] UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it." -Prof. Dan Laffoley, IUCN

Driven by accumulations of carbon, the scientists found, the rate of acidification in the oceans is the highest its been in over 300 million years. Additionally, de-oxygenation–caused by both warming and industrial runoff–is stripping the ocean of its ability to support the plants and animals that live in it.

The combined stressors, according to the report, are "unprecedented in the Earth's known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun."

Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford, and Scientific Director of IPSO said: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Among the report's comprehensive findings, the panel identified the following areas as of greatest cause for concern:

De-oxygenation: the evidence is accumulating that the oxygen inventory of the ocean is progressively declining. Predictions for ocean oxygen content suggest a decline of between 1% and 7% by 2100. This is occurring in two ways: the broad trend of decreasing oxygen levels in tropical oceans and areas of the North Pacific over the last 50 years; and the dramatic increase in coastal hypoxia (low oxygen) associated with eutrophication. The former is caused by global warming, the second by increased nutrient runoff from agriculture and sewage.

Acidification: If current levels of CO2 release continue we can expect extremely serious consequences for ocean life, and in turn food and coastal protection; at CO2 concentrations of 450-500 ppm (projected in 2030-2050) erosion will exceed calcification in the coral reef building process, resulting in the extinction of some species and decline in biodiversity overall.

Warming: As made clear by the IPCC, the ocean is taking the brunt of warming in the climate system, with direct and well-documented physical and biogeochemical consequences. The impacts which continued warming is projected to have in the decades to 2050 include: reduced seasonal ice zones, including the disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice by ca. 2037; increasing stratification of ocean layers, leading to oxygen depletion; increased venting of the GHG methane from the Arctic seabed (a factor not considered by the IPCC); and increased incidence of anoxic and hypoxic (low oxygen) events.

The ‘deadly trio’ of the above three stressors – acidification, warming and deoxygenation – is seriously effecting how productive and efficient the ocean is, as temperatures, chemistry, surface stratification, nutrient and oxygen supply are all implicated, meaning that many organisms will find themselves in unsuitable environments. These impacts will have cascading consequences for marine biology, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens.

Continued overfishing is serving to further undermine the resilience of ocean systems, and contrary to some claims, despite some improvements largely in developed regions, fisheries management is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems on which marine life depends. In 2012 the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited, of which 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfished levels. A recent global assessment of compliance with Article 7 (fishery management) of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, awarded 60% of countries a “fail” grade, and saw no country identified as being overall “good”.

Regarding the urgency of the crisis, the marine scientists issued a stark warning to world governments, called on leaders to take immediate action, and offered the following steps they said "must" be taken:

Reduce global C02 emissions to limit temperature rise to less than 2oC, or below 450 CO2e. Current targets for carbon emission reductions are insufficient in terms of ensuring coral reef survival and other biological effects of acidification, especially as there is a time lag of several decades between atmospheric CO2 and CO2 dissolved in the ocean. Potential knock-on effects of climate change in the ocean, such as methane release from melting permafrost, and coral dieback, mean the consequences for human and ocean life could be even worse than presently calculated.

Ensure effective implementation of community- and ecosystem-based management, favouring small-scale fisheries. Examples of broad-scale measures include introducing true co-management with resource adjacent communities, eliminating harmful subsidies that drive overcapacity, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, banning the most destructive fishing gear, and combating IUU fishing.

Build a global infrastructure for high seas governance that is fit-for-purpose. Most importantly, secure a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the auspices of UNCLOS.

In response to the IPSO study that arrived just one week after the IPCC report on climate change which also highlighted the threat of global warming to the oceans, Professor Dan Laffoley, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses. The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it."

IPSO was tweeted comments and coverage regarding the report and its findings:

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Mirrored from Commondreams.org

2 Responses

  1. For UNCLOS to have teeth,
    wouldn’t the USA have to subscribe ?
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    The USA leads the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commisssion seemingly to exclude Chinese and Southeast Asian fishermen from that fishery.
    link to npafc.org
    As long as we reamin a law unto ourselves, nothing can rein in American excesses, nor can we garner international support for our initiatives.

  2. Judging by rate of increase, non linear increase of Methane anomalies in Arctic and forced increase of temperature there And that Methane accumulates in upper Stratosphere forcing temp rise on top of all other factors.. Judging by that and rate at which Methane from Methane Clathrate in continental shelf is decaying and capable of reaching the sky. Even CH4 from deep can reach sky.. Judging by this Earth is a gonner.
    The Oceans will become lifeless and the Earth will lose HZ..
    Earth and Sun grew up together with relative solar radiance.
    Sun 4.6 billion years old as Earth is but sun got hotter by approx 1%/100 million years or about 46% hotter while Earth distance from sun remained about the same. So when life began to assemble and create O2 rich atmosphere Earth was in rage of relative solar radiance for liquid water to exist.
    And the oceans filled with life to make the Sea and life spread to land as well and became open systems large which held even when actual solar radiance force moved Earth out of HZ on the hot side. Earth’s biome essentially held HZ.
    Now the magical #pH 8.23 for Aragonite saturation level for shell of Earth to Exist with balance of carbon runoff from land = Sea sediment.
    That exchange, the balance of life which held open system Nature is in accelerating collapse of open systems which kept Entropy rise at bay..
    Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics applies as 3rd body, the $ price on all will cause snap to Extinction line same as line Runaway heat increase will go to after a new settled order having triggered the scraping of life from Earth.. -Then the two will again balance but without life scrap left. Not a bit of it; and moist runaway will occur and great die will be but a tree with none to hear.. None to record and none to see..

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