Marine species flee to cooler waters – A third could be at risk of extinction, according to Daily Editorials

Some of the worst damage being done today by human-caused climate change is happening in environments that humans never see. A new report warns that hundreds of marine species could disappear in the future as rising water temperatures cause oxygen to be leached from Earth’s oceans. Readers can be forgiven for being jaded as scientific report after scientific report sounds global warming alarms—but the alarms are real.

The study, recently published in the journal Science, reports that with current trends of rising human emissions of greenhouse gases, a third of all marine life could disappear in the next 300 years. This may sound so far in the future as to be irrelevant, but the impact in the here and now is just as clear. Temperature changes have already led to ‘extinction’ – the mass movement of species from their previous habitats to cooler waters.

Most of the excess heat generated by humans is absorbed in the oceans. After remaining constant for most of human history, sea temperatures have warmed by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the relatively short time since the beginning of the Industrial Age. Warmer water does not retain oxygen as well as colder water, posing a direct threat to marine life.

To those who would note that these sorts of somber pronouncements seem to be coming out of the scientific community with numbing regularity lately: What else would scientists do when they know the data, they see where it’s going, they have no reason to misrepresent it – and yet politicians and much of society are still not listening? In truth, these frequent, increasingly urgent warnings are exactly what one would reasonably expect from those who constantly grapple with these issues.

And contrary to what some of the misinformation purveyors of the industry sector and elsewhere would claim, the science has been overwhelmingly validated in the last generation and beyond. Experts began to seriously warn of the dire future effects of greenhouse gases in the 1980s. Since then, each decade has been hotter than the previous one, with the hottest seven years on record occurring since 2015. Extreme weather events such as droughts and hurricanes have increased significantly. Sea ice is melting to the point that new Arctic shipping routes are literally changing the face of global trade – good for the shipping industry, bad for polar bears, Arctic marine life and the planet.

Long gone are the days when industrialists and conservative ideologues could bluntly argue that human-caused climate change is a myth. It’s here, in real time, with undeniable impact. Fundamental changes in society – including moving away from coal and other fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – should no longer be an ideological or partisan debate. It is no exaggeration to say that the survival of the planet is at stake.


Photo credit: extra brand at Pixabay

About Christine Geisler

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