by Professor Ann Powers
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a comprehensive report on 2 December 2010 during the Cancún Climate Negotiations, detailing the manner in which rising CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere are having a devastating impact on the health of our oceans, particularly in the form of acidification. The report comes to the disturbing conclusion that oceanic chemistry is being altered at rates not seen for 65 million years, and that based on present trends the ocean will acidify by 150% by 2100. If such levels of acidification and temperature continue to increaseas projected, a widespread collapse in coral formations , valuable fisheries, and whole ecosystems is expected over the next several years. Combine this trend with unsustainable fishing quotas, toxic contamination, dead zones, and pervasive pollution, and we are surely facing a future of compromised marine health.
As the UNFCCC conference pushes on into its final days, and legal processes and instruments are debated, reports such as these serve as a sobering reminder of exactly what is at stake. While humans engage in political battles of wills, our natural environment is slowly crumbling, and our oceans have been bearing the brunt of this burden. Indeed, over 80% of the added global warmth resulting from rising GHG emission concentrations is absorbed by the oceans. Hopefully, reports such as this one will motivate our leaders to push for the change that is necessary to protect our natural resources for the years ahead.