Monday, June 20, 2011

Killing Off Our Oceans

In the coming decade we're in for a rude reminder of something we've forgotten - how dependent civilization is on our oceans.

A report will be released in a few days prepared by experts in a variety of scientific disciplines gathered to get an up to date look at the state of the world's oceans.  Their findings have been described as "shocking."

"The findings are shocking,  " said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

"As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years ."

These  "accelerated " changes include melting of Arctic sea ice and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed.

This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms - which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs - so much so that three-quarters of the world's reefs are at risk of severe decline.

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now - disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.

IPSO's immediate recommendations include:
  • stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
  • mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
  • making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently - but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

It makes no difference whether you're Liberal or NDP or Conservative.  If you're supporting a political party that won't put the environmental calamity that's setting in around our world at the very top of their priorities, you and your party are failing our country and our people.  "Business as usual" is no longer acceptable.   The time for that has run out.   We can no longer afford placeholder leadership.   As Einstein said, the thinking that got us into these problems is not the thinking that can get us out of them.


Steve said...

But will it affect property values?
Thats what will change behavior of the 1% that run the world. Or they may decide its more profitable to make an ark ship and sail away to another galaxy.

The Mound of Sound said...

As you probably know I share your cynicism about our people and our political leadership - of all stripes.

We are seeing impacts materializing today that just two or three years ago were forecast as possibilities for two, three or four decades hence.

The flood/drought cycle that has begun hitting "every" continent - Asia, Africa, Europe, America North and South, Australia - is still treated as something of a novelty by our news media and seemingly ignored by our political leadership. Connect the dots. The only continent not now plagued by this flood/drought scourge is Antarctica.