The 2019 report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) paints a pretty sobering picture of the state of the global climate.
Record temperatures, thinning ice sheets, extreme weather events, and raging bush fires were just some of the findings in the comprehensive report. But some of the most concerning developments were regarding the ocean, which is struggling under the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels, warming temperatures, water acidification, and growing volumes of marine waste.
Some of the key findings of the WMO report were:
- The ocean absorbs around 90% atmospheric heat caused by rising greenhouse gasses.
- As the ocean is heating up, it is also expanding, which is causing sea levels to rise.
- Between 2009 and 2018, the ocean absorbed 23% of our annual Co2 emissions.
- Rising Co2 and plastic-waste levels are increasing the acidity of the ocean.
How Are the Oceans Affected by Climate Change?
The ocean covers around 70% of the planet and is one of the primary forces regulating global temperatures and absorbing Co2 from the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gasses affect the ocean in several different ways:
- Rising global temperatures are causing the ocean to absorb more heat.
- Heat makes seawater expand, which, combined with melting arctic regions, results in rising sea levels.
- The ocean is absorbing increasing amounts of Co2 from the atmosphere, which lowers the pH level of the seawater and makes it more acidic. This phenomenon is known as “acidification.”
- Higher sea temperatures are changing the behavior of natural ocean currents and weather patterns.
Ocean Waste Is a Major Health Risk to Humans and Animals
The majority of ocean waste is plastic, which, when exposed to sunlight and movement, gradually breaks down. The resulting debris can be very dangerous to marine animals such as seals, birds, and fish, who often mistake the plastic for food and become ill or die as a result.
“Every size of organism, every creature in the food web in the ocean, from the smallest filter feeders to the largest whales, is consuming plastic.” Charles Moore, Oceanographer
As ocean plastic breaks down, it also leaches harmful chemicals into the water, posing a danger to delicate marine ecosystems as well as aquatic animals and, therefore, the human food supply. While the effects of ingesting microplastics are not fully understood, research suggests that they can cause damage to immune systems and upset our intestinal balance.
With an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the sea, combined with rising acidity levels caused by greenhouse gasses, the ocean is at risk of losing its ability to sustain human, environmental, and animal life.
What Can We Do to Reverse the Damage?
According to the WMO report, two things are abundantly clear:
- Global action must be taken to reduce marine waste.
- The world needs cleaner sources of fuel that don’t add extra Co2 to the atmosphere.
SeaCleanse is a non-profit organization working hard to solve both of these problems. With teams of dedicated volunteers utilizing advanced equipment, SeaCleanse removes marine waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and converts it into clean-burning fuel.
If you would like to support our cause, you can either make a donation or volunteer your time to join one of our cleanup projects in the Pacific Ocean. To find out more about how you can play your part in ridding the ocean of waste, contact SeaCleanse.