“I’m afraid it is going to take a major catastrophe in the developed world…”
GIJON, Spain, Jun 4 (IPS) – Warming seawater, melting sea ice and glaciers, sea level rise, storm intensification, changes in ocean currents, growing “dead zones”, and ocean acidification are just some of the signs that the oceans that cover 71 percent of our watery planet are changing.
Changes in the oceans also means major impacts on the land and the atmosphere. “Policy makers and the public do not realize that the oceans are the drivers of the climate system,” says Chris Reid, recently retired professor of oceanography at the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.
Reid will be producing a report this summer on the impacts the altered oceans are having and will have on the global climate.
IPS environment correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke to Reid at an international scientific symposium held late last month in Gijon, Spain on the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans.
CR: The oceans have absorbed 30 percent of all human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) since the start of the industrial age. There is now good evidence that the oceans are absorbing less carbon as a result of climate change. The warming of surface waters, glacial and sea ice meltwater, acidification and so on are inhibiting or slowing a number of the oceans’ mechanisms for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing them in the deep ocean.
IPS: How will that affect us?
CR: It means the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will rise much faster than has been previously projected by climate scientists. Human carbon emissions are already on pace for the worst case scenario as envisioned by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). These changes in the oceans means the rate of warming will increase, bringing even more severe hurricanes and cyclones, flooding events and so on.
IPS: Cyclones like the one that recently devastated Burma?
CR: Yes. Research presented at this meeting shows that South Korea and Japan are experiencing more powerful cyclones. While a single event can’t be precisely connected to climate change, the Burma cyclone fits what is expected with climate change. Continue reading