Greenhouse emissions prepare ocean disaster

Given the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans are a closely interlinked natural complex, steeply rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are having dramatic impacts on the seas as well.

A marine emergency, to match the climate emergency, is now in the making. Massive and irretrievable damage to the ocean environment, scientists predict, could occur within decades rather than centuries as previously thought.

The seas of the future will be warmer, and their chemistry sharply different. The biological changes cannot be predicted so precisely, but it seems certain they will be drastic. Higher temperatures will sharply alter the populations of numerous marine creatures.

Oxygen levels will change, in some cases falling to the point where local ecosystems cannot survive. The oceans will also become increasingly acidic, as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere reacts with water. This could have devastating effects on numerous organisms that rely on the current ocean chemistry to allow them to form hard protective shells.

Among these creatures are various species of plankton — the drifting organisms, ranging from microscopic to fingernail-sized, that form the basis of marine food chains.

Renfrey Clarke, Green Left online, 8 November 2008. Article.

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