Our oceans play a larger role in supporting human life than most people know. Rising temperatures have a detrimental impact on the oceans, and this detriment will inevitably doom our planet if action is not taken.
But how exactly does the health of our oceans impact the environment? How does climate change endanger said health? Let's look at a few of the important roles the oceans have in relation to the climate and understand how their declining state is extremely dangerous.
The oceans control our climate
This article by NASA explains that "The oceans influence climate by absorbing solar radiation and releasing heat needed to drive the atmospheric circulation, by releasing aerosols that influence cloud cover, by emitting most of the water that falls on the land as rain, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it for years to millions of years."
The flow of currents directly impacts the climate of several places, and the warming of ocean water due to melting ice caps could drastically impact temperatures and climate. It is essential that we take steps toward preventing the permanent damage that rising water temperatures could cause, as oceans are directly responsible for the climate around the globe.
Coral bleaching is a process in which corals turn white in colour due to various environmental factors, climate change and increasing water temperatures being a primary ones. The steady rise of temperatures has led to a massive portion of corals bleaching and dying, directly impacting reef ecosystems and the sustenance of marine life.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reported that "more than 75 per cent of Earth’s tropical reefs experienced bleaching-level heat stress between 2014 and 2017, and at nearly 30 per cent of reefs, it reached mortality level."
Once coral reefs bleach, they hardly ever come back to life, taking the lives of huge ecosystems and biodiversity with them. Corals are also essential to humans, providing protection against waves and the strength of ocean water by disrupting its velocity. Reefs are also home to marine ecosystems that many indigenous populations are dependent on for their livelihood. Rising temperatures have a lethal impact on the health of reefs.
Rising sea levels
Another grave danger posed by rising temperatures is the rising of seawater levels. With ice caps and glaciers melting, water levels are rising increasingly fast, putting several coastal areas in danger of sinking, flooding, tsunamis, and other natural disasters.
This article projects that the "average sea level rise for the contiguous United States could be 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) by 2100 and 3.9 meters (13 feet) by 2150."
Rising sea levels can also have a detrimental economic impact. With several major cities being coastal, the infrastructures of these cities are put at risk and the lives and jobs of the population, which are dependent on the existence and maintenance of these infrastructures, are similarly in danger. With temperatures rising, the dangers posed by high sea levels are more real than ever.
The oceans absorb carbon
Our oceans quite literally control global climate by being huge vessels of absorption for carbon. Scientists estimate that the oceans actually absorb nearly a quarter of carbon produced by humans.
This post on CarbonBrief explains that "The ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere because, as the atmospheric concentration increases, more is dissolved in the surface water. This water may then mix down, or sink as it is cooled, into the deep sea where the absorbed CO2 can stay locked up for hundreds of years as it slowly moves through the deep interior ocean and back to the atmosphere."
The health of our oceans is largely important as they play a huge role in protecting human life by basically being a carbon sink. It's also important to remember that excessive carbon absorption can lead to a dangerous phenomenon called acidification, which can put marine plants and animals in great danger. It's necessary to control carbon production in order to prevent large portions of ocean water from becoming acidic.
It's essential that we keep the importance of oceans in mind when we consider the fight against climate change. The impact climate change has on marine biodiversity, sea levels, and carbon content is impossible to ignore in the large conversation.