Unit # 1
Impact of Modern Day Life on Oceans
This unit explores the different impacts that modern day practices are having on the ocean. Topics covered include coral bleaching, ocean acidification and fish migration.
Unit # 2
This unit investigates potential solutions and mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
Impacts of Climate Change on the Oceans Course
Climate change has undeniably become the defining issue of our time with effects spanning the global scale.
From shifting weather patterns threatening food production, to sea level rise threatening coastal communities passing through the increase sea surface temperature affecting the behaviour and physiology of marine life, no habitat or environment is left unscarred.
This course examines the subject and explores possible solutions and strategies for how to reduce the impacts of climate change on our oceans.
Impacts of Climate Change
While the earth’s climate has been witnessing change since the beginning of the Earth’s history, these changes which were responsible, for example, for the different ice ages and retreat cycles, can be attributed to physical drivers. When the earth’s orbit changes even very slightly, it effects the amount of solar energy our planet receives, thus causing the earth to undergo periods of warming and cooling. Additionally, volcanic eruptions have also been classed as physical drivers of changes in climate as the solids and gasses released during an eruption can influence the climate over a period of a few years. During those years the affected area’s climate registers a period of cooling as the suspended particles block out the sunlight. However, in more recent years, since the mid 20th century, our planet’s climate has been witnessing an alarming warming period which is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. Distinguishing this current change in climate from the past episodes that the Earth has witnessed is the driver pushing said changes. Indeed, the current warming trend is a result of the emission of greenhouse gases from intense human activities.
When the heat coming from the sun strikes the Earth, gases like carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide and ozone known as greenhouse gases, trap the heat in the atmosphere as the glass roofing of a greenhouse keeps the heat from escaping. The radiation coming from the sun which enters the atmosphere is converted in thermal radiation on the Earth’s surface, and a portion of that energy is re-radiated back into the atmosphere. Here however, the greenhouse gases will reflect, once again, the thermal energy back to the Earth’s surface, thus causing a warming effect. The more greenhouse gases there are the more thermal energy is reflected back to the Earth, the more intense the warming effect. Since the 1950s the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is directly correlated to the earth’s temperature has increased from 280ppm to 392ppm in 2011. It is a vicious cycle that humans have started with the start of modern human society and the mass scale exploitation of our planet’s resources.
Excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have made the world’s oceans warmer, more acidic, less able to hold oxygen and less productive. The impact of these changes is being seen in severe coral bleaching, sea level rise, rapid Arctic ice loss, extreme storms. Without action, the IPCC is warning, these impacts will get much worse, threatening the future of everyone – but particularly the most vulnerable people living in small island nations and along densely populated coastlines.
A recent report, the first of its kind, has shown that the ocean is much more than a victim of climate change. It is also a powerful source of solutions. It has the potential to deliver more than one fifth (21%) of the emission cuts needed by 2050 in order to keep global average temperature rise to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 C, the equivalent of closing all of the world’s coal-fired power plants. This intergovernmental report commissioned for the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy highlighted 5 potential actions that could help mitigate climate change, develop a sustainable ocean economy, protect coastal communities from storms, provide jobs and improve food security.