Throughout history, the Earth’s climate has been changing. However, today climate change has contributed in melting ice sheets and glaciers, supercharged storms, and rising sea levels. A much lesser known fact is that the effects of climate change are also seeping down into the ocean’s chemistry. A new UN report warns that the oceans have sponged up about a quarter of the total atmospheric carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels since the 1980 s. The report says that it has been changing the chemistry of the ocean at different depths, creating dangerously acidic and oxygen-depleted conditions for marine life. It also states that the ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the extra heat generated since the 1970s.
Kathleen Lotterhos is a professor of marine and environmental sciences at the Northeastern University. According to her, the rapid changes in composition and temperature have worsened the spread of invasive species and a disease that hinders the ability of shelled species might grow their shells. Another report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that overheating the ocean will threaten fish stocks and power even rainier superstorms. Lotterhos believes that in the current climate, it is important to think about how organisms such as plankton, fish, and oysters can evolve and genetically adapt to their changing environment.
Daniel Douglass is an associate teaching professor of marine and environmental sciences at the Northeastern University. He believes that since the glaciers and oceans are so vast, they react to changes slowly over decades. He gives the example of Greenland and Antarctica where the warming occurred in a decade ago with rising seas.
Again, the UN report says that the observed ocean warming and mass ice sheet losses are practically irreversible. To this Douglass comments, “The large amounts of inertia associated with the ocean mean that even if we waved a magical wand and got global greenhouse emissions down to zero today, we would still continue to see changes in these systems for a long period of time.”
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman