The first comprehensive synthesis on the effects of climate change on the world's oceans has found they are now changing at a rate not seen for several million years.
In an article published today in Science magazine, scientists reveal the growing atmospheric concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases are driving irreversible and dramatic changes to the way the ocean functions, with potentially dire impacts for hundreds of millions of people across the planet.
The findings of the report, "The impact of climate change on the world's marine ecosystems" emerged from a synthesis of recent research on the world's oceans, carried out by two of the world's leading marine scientists, one from The University of Queensland in Australia, and one from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the USA.
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the report and Director of The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute, says the findings have enormous implications for mankind, particularly if the trend continues.
He said that the Earth's ocean, which produces half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 30% of human-generated CO2, is equivalent to its heart and lungs. "Quite plainly, the Earth cannot do without its ocean. This study, however, shows worrying signs of ill health.
"It's as if the Earth has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day!"
He went on to say, "We are entering a period in which the very ocean services upon which humanity depends are undergoing massive change and in some cases beginning to fail", says Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg. "Further degradation will continue to create enormous challenges and costs for societies worldwide."
He warned that we may soon see "sudden, unexpected changes that have serious ramifications for the overall well-being of humans," including the capacity of the planet to support people. "This is further evidence that we are well on the way to th
|Contact: Rob Mackay-Wood|
Global Change Institute