The oceans of our planet cover 71% of the surface and make up almost 95% of the total space available to life. The oceans also control the planet’s climate, they facilitate temperature and influence the weather. Rainfall, droughts, floods, wildfires are determined by how the ocean behaves and reacts at a particular time or situation. Some of the most important characteristics of the oceans have changed, and climate change has been the impelling issue.
Greenhouse gases have begun incrementally trapping more energy from the sun and the ocean is consequently absorbing more heat. It has increased the surface temperatures in the oceans and a corresponding rise in water levels.
Climate changes will alter climate patterns and ocean temperatures and this will cause extreme weather patterns both in the long term and short term. For instance, tropical storms will become more intense due to warmer waters and will severely affect coastal communities.
Ocean water has turned acidic, warmer, and holds less oxygen. The environment of the oceans has already been over-stressed by pollution and overuse of its resources. This all will combine to threaten the very existence of humans on this planet.
Climate Change Has Prompted Every Kind Of Natural Disaster, Both In Numbers And Intensity
Natural disasters around the world are directly linked to climate change. Humanity has seen numerous such instances. While hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and flooding have always been a part of our weather cycles, rapid climate changes have led to a rise in its intensity and the scale of devastation and destruction are there for all to see.
Tropical cyclones are becoming more intense and more frequent. There has been a 25% to 30% rise in category 4 and 5 hurricanes with every increase in global temperatures. Climate-related disasters have tripled in the last three decades. The rise in global sea levels has been 2.5 faster than for almost all of the 20th century. Around 20 million people are being driven from their homes as a result of climate change.
Natural disasters are followed by severe health care issues. Diseases across the spectrum strike the vulnerable survivors of a natural disaster. An upsurge in even mental and cardiovascular issues was reported after the destruction by Hurricane Katrina that led to 1,800 deaths.
Climate Changes Lead To Mass Displacement Of Human Population
The rising sea levels caused by the accelerating pace of climate change have threatened the homes and means of livelihood of tens of millions of people living along the coastlines of the world.
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The planet could lose 250,000 square kilometers of low-lying coastal areas to rising seas and storm surges by the end of this century. Millions more are expected to be at risk from regular flooding. Many coastal settlements will permanently go under the sea and the process is already being observed in many islands around the world. Noatak in Alaska is among the first community that has already begun the relocation process as thawing permafrost has wiped away a mile of the land.
Declining Sea Ice A Major Contributor To Rising Seas
The Arctic ice cover is shrinking at a rapid pace due to climate change. With a 13% loss, every decade, the average thickness has shrunk by as much as 1.75 meters. If all the ice cover in the polar regions were to melt, sea level would rise by a catastrophic 230 feet (70 meters).
Locally, the changing ice cover has affected harvest, increasing costs and bringing down produce.
Major Decline In Seafood Sourcing
The major source of nutrients for humans is shrinking rapidly. Once considered an infinite source of food, it is now feared that we could see completely fishless oceans by 2048. Climate change, along with habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing are expected to be the major reasons. But the ecosystem can recover if concerted and immediate action is taken.
The Role Of Toxins
The dumping of industrial chemicals and microplastics is polluting the oceans beyond a point of no return. Combined with the naturally occurring micro-organisms that are harmful to humans like cholera, flesh-eating bacteria, and other toxins, they can become more potent and dangerous with climate change. Any alteration in the chemistry of the oceans will cause mercury exposure, shellfish poisoning, and other sea-related illness.
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The link between climate change, its influence on the ocean, and its direct ability to harm human health has generally been ignored by governments around the world. Policies, plans, and management systems should be able to mitigate the effects. The climate change affecting the world’s oceans should be seen in a broader perspective of social equity and human health than it is seen as only an environmental issue