Climate change is the defining environmental issue of our time and our children’s time.
Into one crowded elevator go conservation of nature, human health, the prospects for agriculture, international stability, national security, and of course energy policy and technology.
Climate change reflects our intensifying presence on the surface of this planet. It wraps together everything from human population growth to our economy’s inability to value the future, to humanity’s inability to agree to solve problems that can more easily be kicked down the road.
Climate change is really many problems—including ocean warming and the acidification of the ocean—caused by too much carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.
Carbon is the key. From atmosphere to ocean, the carbon burden is the problem. There’s a third more carbon dioxide in the air than there was 200 years ago when the Industrial Revolution began, and more is constantly accumulating.
Most of the “new” carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans was locked into fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum millions of years ago. Burning these fuels—as we do to create electricity and to power vehicles—releases this carbon dioxide. It’s a harmless gas—except that it traps heat. This changes the climate. The carbon also mixes with ocean water. This creates acid that is dissolving corals and killing baby shellfish.
Our climate is driven by the world’s oceans. Although they are vast and resilient, the seas have begun to change due to global warming.
A warmer ocean affects the placement (distribution) and concentration (abundance and density) of tiny plants and animals called plankton that form the base of ocean food supplies for fish, whales, and everything else.
In the tropics, heat spikes have, since the late 1970s, killed corals in large areas. (Some have recovered; some have not.) Increasingly acidifying seawater is already slowing the growth of corals and killing baby shellfish in some places.
Melting polar ice is lost habitat for everything from plankton to seals and polar bears. And as land-ice melts, sea level rises.
The solutions? New energy from non-burning sources like wind; sun; tides; the heat of the earth (geothermal); and liquid fuels from specially grown algae that can replace petroleum. But that won’t happen unless we all demand the needed changes, and kick our fossil fuel addictions.
For insightful perspectives on climate change, check out Carl Safina’s recent blogs.
3 things you can do to fight climate change:
1. Unplug your appliances when not in use.
2. Ride your bike, walk or carpool.
3. Change all light bulbs in your home to compact fluorescent.
Other great ways you can make a difference.
LINKS & VIDEOS
Five Effects of Climate Change on the Oceans – Conserv. Int’l
Puny but Prevalent, Dartmouth University Journal of Science, 2012
Marine Sponges Bore Faster Due to Effects of Climate Change, The Safina Center (formerly Blue Ocean Institute)
Climate Saving Tips – Nature Conservancy
Global Warming and the Future of Agriculture – Carl’s Blog
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tool – EPA
Late Reigning Monarch Butterflies – Carl’s Blog
Tutorial: Coral Bleaching – Carl’s Blog
Climate Change – EPA
Climate Change 101 – New England Aquarium
Climate Reality Project
Scientific Consensus of Global Warming by Humans – Union of Concerned Scientists
Pacific Voices from a Rising Sea – Carl’s Blog
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Rolling Stone
Climate Change Resources - New England Aquarium
Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, explains how and why scientific consensus was reached on the issue of Climate Change.
Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming – 2008-04-29 – On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing examining the impact global warming is having on the earth’s oceans and ecosystems. Featuring renowned explorer Sylvia Earle and other ocean experts, the hearing discussed how carbon dioxide emissions and the effects from global warming are harming the earth’s coral reefs, increasing the acidity and sea-levels of oceans across the globe, and putting fish stocks at risk during an already burgeoning food crisis.
Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we’re reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we’re in for an exciting ride. While there’s a real risk that we’ll fall off a cliff, there’s still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future.