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STUDY: the oceans are dying, and if they die, we die

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Study finds dead zones are growing.

"If you can't breathe, nothing else matters," said Denise Breitbung in a study on ocean oxygen levels. Research recently published in the journal Science suggests that global warming is depleting oxygen in the ocean and causing dead zones to grow. Earth gets half of its oxygen from the oceans. 

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If the ocean dies, we die.

If the ocean dies, we die.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
1/9/2018 (3 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Oceans, dead zones, study, dying, oxygen, pollution

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A study has cited global warming as the reason why ocean dead zones are expanding. Since 1950, the number of dead zones in the ocean, places where few organisms can survive, has grown from 50 to 500 along the coasts. 

Dead zones are bad, especially along the coast, because they mean the end of fishing and other activities that human enjoy or rely upon for survival. The loss of species and biodiversity also impacts the local food chain and can cause harmful organisms to increase, such as algae followed by bacteria, which takes more oxygen out of the water. 

Lead author of the study, Denise Breitbung told the Associated Press, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters. As seas are losing oxygen, those areas are no longer habitable by many organisms."

What does this have to do with climate change? 

According to the study, warming surface waters in the open ocean makes it harder for oxygen to reach the interior. And as water warms, it holds less oxygen. Along the coast, the culprit is pollution running off into the sea. Pollution chokes out many organisms but algae flourishes. Alongside the algae come bacteria, which increase in number and deplete oxygen. 

The warming waters also bleach coral and cause habitats to shift. During El Nino events, tropical fish are often spotted in waters far outside their native ranges. 

The problem with global warming isn't so much that it is happening, but the speed at which it is happening. Earth has been much warmer in the past, and life still flourished. The problem is when the climate changes rapidly, natural selection and evolution cannot keep up. The result is mass extinction. 

In prehistoric times, sudden changes in climate caused by catastrophic events (supervolcanic eruptions, meteor impacts), have always resulted in mass extinctions. Life survives, but it can take millions of years to recover. There is concern that rapid climate change could eventually affect human life, causing harm to billions of people around the globe. In fact, climate scientists claim the harms are already happening in the form of sea level rise, the thawing of the permafrost, the loss of coastal villages, disease outbreaks, famines, and more extreme weather. 

There are benefits to global warming too, such as longer growing seasons in some areas, but these benefits are thought to be outweighed by the negative impacts. 

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A minority of scientists dispute the claim that human activity is warming the planet, arguing instead that warming is the result of poorly understood natural processes, or that the warming isn't happening at all. Some argue that the planet is actually cooling. However, the most comprehensive data we have, while still limited, suggests a warming trend is underway. And that trend is sharply rising, which suggests humans, not nature, are driving the trend. 

The oceans matter. half of our planet's oxygen comes from the ocean. We also rely on the sea to feed us and to regulate our weather. 

It is unclear what policy changes and changes in behavior we should undertake to reverse this trend, for that is a political discussion. We know that reducing carbon dioxide emissions as well as the emission of other pollutants is important. But we have not yet worked out a practical way to achieve this change in a manner that is economical, fair, and effective. In the short term, individuals can make changes to their habits, but individual changes are insignificant overall. However, if billions of people make the same changes, then a difference can be made. Coordinating that remains a challenege we are yet to overcome. 


 

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