By Raminder Chowdhary
Here is some news you may have missed: The Ocean & Climate 2015 Platform was launched on World Ocean Day (June 8) with the primary objective of placing our planet’s oceans at the heart of the climate change debate. Long overdue and quite rightly so!
The platform, an alliance between all stakeholders of civil society and the research community, is being launched ahead of the next Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP21), which will take place in Paris in November 2015.
In several different data analyses, the long-term trend shows that the oceans have become warmer since 1950s. The oceans heat content indicator describes trends in the amount of heat stored in the World’s oceans.We are aware that higher greenhouse gas concentrations are trapping more energy from the sun and our primer just taught us that changes in ocean systems occur over centuries. Stands to reason that the oceans have not yet warmed as much as the atmosphere and studies have shown that they have absorbed more than 90 percent of the Earth’s extra heat since 1950s.
Ocean surface temperatures are rising too: The surface temperature of the world’s oceans varies mainly with latitude, and as the oceans absorb more heat, sea surface temperatures will increase and the ocean circulation patterns that transport warm and cold water around the globe will change.
This can significantly alter marine ecosystems, impact species of plants, microbes and animals that are present in particular locations, alter migration and breeding patterns, threaten sensitive ocean life such as corals, etc. Over longer periods of time, rising surface temperatures slow down circulatory patterns critical to raising deep sea nutrients and impacting fish populations and with it our food supply and livelihood for nearly 1 billion people. Because of ocean surface interaction with atmosphere, rising temperatures will have a profound impact on climate.
Ocean acidity (the crucial variable): Guess what? That's, up too! As carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have risen, the oceans have absorbed more of it and played an important role in regulating the amount of heat trapping CO2 in the atmosphere. Studies have shown that nearly 30 percent of anthropogenic CO2 produced over the past 200 years has been absorbed by our oceans.
What has this meant for the oceans? Carbon dioxide reacts with sea water to produce carbonic acid resulting in increased acidity and a change in mineral balance of the ocean waters. This can lead to broader changes in the overall structure of ocean and coastal ecosystems, and can ultimately affect fish populations and the people who depend on them.
Now back to our COP21. The oceans of our planet must be an integral part of any climate debate and subsequent agreement. As Ocean and Climate are strongly interconnected systems, the debates conducted and the decisions taken at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference should deeply impact the marine environment as well as the millions of people who depend on it. We all must ensure that an ambitious climate Agreement is reached in Paris with the conservation and protection of oceans as one of its key outcomes.
Speak up NOW. It's time to give the oceans a voice.Raminder Chowdhary: After earning two Master’s Degrees in Economics and Business Admn., I worked around the World for various MNC’s for 20+ years as a supply chain specialist. It was time to change tracks and I set up One Earth Foundation - an NGO focusing on conservation of natural eco-systems, preservation of traditional wisdom and environmental education. I am a regular speaker on various regional and national forums promoting the need for higher levels of corporate participation in social and environmental issues facing us today. I have had the opportunity to initiate and successfully implement numerous projects in the sectors of TK & TCE preservation, special needs groups, Livelihood challenges for indigenous communities, water, large scale forest and lakes stewardship drives and engaging students in various ecological initiatives. Image credits: 1) Flickr/Mark Engelbrecht 2) Chart: NOAA/NESDIS/NODC Ocean Climate Laboratory 3) & 4) Data Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2013