Used and abused, oceans key to fighting climate change

phys.org | 6/8/2019 | Staff
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Humanity must heal oceans made sick by climate change and pollution to protect marine life and to save itself, experts warned days before the release of a major UN report.

By absorbing a quarter of manmade CO2 and soaking up more than 90 percent of the heat generated by greenhouse gases, oceans keep the population alive—but at a terrible cost, according to a draft of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment seen by AFP.

Seas - Acidic - Capacity - CO2 - Warmer

Seas have grown acidic, potentially undermining their capacity to draw down CO2. Warmer surface water has expanded the force and range of deadly tropical storms. Marine heatwaves are wiping out coral reefs, and accelerating the melt-off of glaciers and ice sheets driving sea level rise.

"The last book of the Bible talks about the four horseman of the Apocalypse," said Dan Laffoley, strategic lead for ocean protection at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Oceans - Horseman - Warming - AFP - Others

"For the oceans, the lead horseman is surface warming," he told AFP. "The three others are ocean heating, loss of oxygen and acidification."

There are at least three types of actions humans can take to help repair the damage and ensure that oceans don't turn from friend to foe, scientists say.

Percent - Cover - Percent - Earth - Surface—benefit

Less than seven percent of oceans—which cover 70 percent of Earth's surface—benefit from some form of regional or national protection, often with minimal enforcement.

Ocean advocates and experts say the area safeguarded must be vastly expanded.

Percent - Ocean - Lisa - Speer - Director

"We need to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030," said Lisa Speer, director of the international oceans program at the National Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C.

"This cannot be achieved without a high seas agreement," she added.

UN - Negotiations - Treaty - Exploitation - Seas—waters

UN negotiations for a treaty to regulate exploitation of the high seas—waters beyond national jurisdiction covering nearly half the planet—began last fall, and could take years to complete.

At the same time,...
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