Our oceans are in trouble.
They can no longer absorb the damage inflicted by the 7 billion people on Earth. Over many decades, the human race has overfished key species to near extinction, and polluted them with CO2 emissions, toxic chemicals, garbage, and discarded plastics. A groundbreaking new study, recently published in Science, warned that our oceans are being irreparably damaged by human activity and could be on “the precipice of a major extinction event.” Coral reefs, home to a quarter of the ocean’s fish, have declined by 40% worldwide. Marine scientists say that if mankind does not dramatically change how it treats the oceans and their inhabitants, many marine species will become extinct – with catastrophic consequences for the food chain.  link  



  • General Information
  • Thermal Inertia
  • Acidification
  • Sea level rise
General Information

September 2018: UN begins talks on treaty to protect imperiled high seas. The long-awaited talks on a 2020 treaty to regulate the high seas will comprise four sessions of talks, each lasting two weeks, and planned to take place over two years, with the goal of protecting marine biodiversity and avoiding further pillaging of the oceans. link

Ocean circulation is slowing. Here’s why it matters. (May 2018) Scientists have found new evidence that the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation has slowed by about 15% since the middle of the last century. If it continues to slow, that could have profound consequences for Earth’s inhabitants. Studies suggest it would mean much colder winters and hotter summers in Europe, changing rainfall patterns in the tropics, and warmer water building up along the U.S. coast that can fuel sea level rise and destructive storms. link

UN: Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the ocean. link

January 2018: Ocean warming first indicator of climate change. In terms of understanding how fast the Earth is warming, the key is the oceans, and 2017 temperatures were the hottest ever recorded. Among scientists who work on climate change, perhaps the most anticipated information each year can only come from the oceans. The best way to interpret changes is to notice the steady rise in ocean heat over this long time period in the graph. link       July 2018: Slowing Gulf Stream current to boost warming for 20 years – link

January 2018: Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950. Areas starved of oxygen in open ocean and by coasts have soared in recent decades, risking dire consequences for marine life and humanity. The number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas. link

October 2017: The oceans hold the story of a planet warming as fossil fuels are burned. A new paper on ocean warming says this accrued heat is really the memory of past climate change. More than 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface. Their temperature is rising, too, and it tells a story of how humans are changing the planet. It’s not just the amount of warming that is significant, it’s also the pace. The rate at which the oceans are heating up has nearly doubled since 1992, and that heat is reaching ever deeper waters. link

February 2017: Oceans losing delicate oxygen. A research synthesis has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world, a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues. The paper found a decline of more than 2% in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate, unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish. link

April 2017: UN announces first-ever World Ocean Festival. With global leaders heading to the United Nations for a major conference in June on the protection and sustainable use of the planet’s oceans, the UN announced that the inaugural World Ocean Festival will kick off the week-long event, with activists and enthusiasts taking to the streets – and waterways – of New York City to raise their voices to reverse the declining health of our oceans. link

July 2016: Humans have caused world’s warmest seas to surge in temperature.
Greenhouse gas emissions have led to an increase in the size and temperature of the ‘Indo-Pacific Warm Pool’, the largest area of warm water in the world, scientists have warned. The pool stretches about 9,000 miles along the equator and 1,500 miles from north to south. It is defined as an area of ocean with an average temperature of more than 28C, but this can reach up to 30C in places. As water warms, it expands and the region has experienced the “world’s highest rates of sea-level rise” in recent years. link

January 2015: Ocean life faces mass extinction. A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. link

March 2017: “A Voice for the Planet” video. Oceans provide a home to countless life forms and give so much to our way of life. Unfortunately, they are struggling because of climate change, pollution and over fishing. Please watch to stay informed on what we can do to help protect and preserve the oceans. We need to take care of them – view

SeaWeb envisions a world where all people understand and act upon the knowledge that a healthy ocean is vital to all life and essential to a sustainable future. Seaweb.org . 

October 2014: Fish failing to adapt to rising CO2 levels in oceans. More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is soaked up by the oceans. Rising CO2 levels in oceans adversely change the behaviour of fish through generations, raising the possibility that marine species may never fully adapt to their changed environment. link

Global Partnership for Oceans.  February 2012. A powerful new coalition of governments, international organizations, civil society groups and private interests are joining together under the banner of Global Partnership for Oceans to confront widely documented problems of over-fishing, marine degradation, and habitat loss. World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said:  “The world’s oceans are in danger, and the enormity of the challenge is bigger than one country or organization. We need coordinated global action to restore our oceans to health.  Together we’ll build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them up.” link

June 2010: The world’s oceans are virtually choking on rising greenhouse gases. According to a 10-year study by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the world’s oceans are virtually choking on rising greenhouse gases, destroying marine ecosystems and breaking down the food chain.Hoegh-Guldberg says the oceans are the Earth’s heart and lungs, producing half the world’s oxygen and absorbing 30% of man-made CO2. He concludes, “We are well on the way to the next great extinction event.” link

January 2011: Warming oceans more of a threat than air temperature – link

Thermal Inertia

Thermal Inertia: The primary reasons the planet is not heating up faster include oceanic thermal inertia and industrial negative aerosol forcing. This is another two edged sword. Similar to the aerosol dilemma but different in its context. In the case of oceanic thermal inertia, the good news is that because the oceans are so large, and take so much time to absorb the thermal energy, we are warming more slowly than would otherwise occur. The bad news is that the oceans not only take up heat slowly, the also dissipate heat slowly. So even if we are able to reduce the greenhouse gases in the earth atmosphere to reasonable levels (closer to 300ppm CO2) the thermal inertial of the oceans will still take quite some time to respond and cooling down the earth will take considerable time. link 

December 2014: CO2 warming effects felt just a decade after being emitted. It takes just 10 years for a single emission of CO2 to have its maximum warming effects on the Earth. This is according to researchers at the Carnegie Institute for Science who have dispelled a common misconception that the main warming effects from a CO2 emission will not be felt for several decades. The results also confirm that warming can persist for more than a century and suggest that the benefits from emission reductions will be felt by those who have worked to curb the emissions and not just future generations. However, some of the bigger climate impacts from warming, such as sea-level rise, melting ice sheets and long-lasting damage to ecosystems, will have a much bigger time lag and may not occur for hundreds or thousands of years later, according to the researchers. link

March 2015: The time lag increases with the size of the emission. The recent estimate that the timing between an emission and the maximum temperature response is a decade on average, took into account uncertainties about the carbon cycle, the rate of ocean heat uptake and the climate sensitivity, but did not consider one important uncertainty: the size of the emission. Our results suggest that as CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere, the full warming effect of an emission may not be felt for several decades, if not centuries. Most of the warming, however, will emerge relatively quickly, implying that CO2 emission cuts will not only benefit subsequent generations but also the generation implementing those cuts. link

Implications of a 40-year delay – link
How much CO2 can the oceans take up?  link

 Ocean Acidification

October 2017: Ocean acidification is deadly threat to marine life. Ocean acidification is progressing rapidly around the world, and in combination with other threats to marine life is proving deadly. Many organisms that could withstand a certain amount of acidification are at risk of losing this adaptive ability owing to pollution from plastics, and the extra stress from global warming. The 8-year study into the effects of ocean acidification found our increasingly acid seas, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, are becoming more hostile to vital marine life. link

February 2016: Ocean acidification expected to cause skeletal deformities in 50% of juvenile corals. New research shows that as more atmospheric CO2 is absorbed in the ocean, corals develop deformed and porous exoskeletons, which does not provide the support required for a long and fruitful life. Research now shows that acidification causes the corals skeletal structure to be smaller, more fragile and oddly shaped. link

October 2013: Ocean acidification is at highest for 300 million years. The world’s oceans are more acidic now than they have been for at least 300 million years, due to CO2 emissions. A mass extinction of key species may already be almost inevitable as a result, leading marine scientists warned. IPSO (International Programme on the State of the Ocean) said: “This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.” link  (May 2013: The world’s oceans are about 30% more acidic than they were at the beginning
of the Industrial Revolution because of their absorption of human-generated carbon dioxide according to the federal government. link)

August 2012: Health of oceans now measured. Marine scientists have for the first time worked out a systematic way of scoring the health of the world’s oceans, in an attempt to assess how well they are coping with the pressures of overfishing, pollution and anything else that affects the well-being of the sea. The overall global score for the Earth’s coastal seas is 60 points out of a possible maximum of 100, showing there is still plenty of “room for improvement”, they concluded. link

June 2011: World’s oceans in ‘shocking decline’ – link 
November 2009: Oceans’ ability to sequester carbon diminishing
 –  link
October 2009: By 2100 entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic – link

 Sea level rise

April 2016: Clue to how far sea levels will rise this century. The temperatures in the Pliocene age, 3 million years ago, are similar to the 2C warming limit set by governments in Paris last year, making this time period very useful for understanding future sea levels. What is scary is that the best estimates for mid-Pliocene sea levels range from 10 to 40 meters above present.  In other words, the geologic record would say that this amount of warming would guarantee significant sea level rise. link

January 2015: Sea level rise accelerating. The acceleration in global sea level from the 20th century to the last two decades has been significantly larger than scientists previously thought, according to a new Harvard study. Eric Morrow from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences says: “sea-level acceleration over the past century has been greater than had been estimated by others. It’s a larger problem than we initially thought.” link

February 2016: The oceans are rising faster than at any point in the last 28 centuries, and human emissions of greenhouse gases are primarily responsible, scientists reported. They added that the flooding that is starting to make life miserable in many coastal towns – like Miami Beach, Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, S.C. – was largely a consequence of those emissions, and that it is likely to grow worse in coming years. link

See also editorials: 
The next 500 years of sea level rise
What rising sea-levels mean