From the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to new rules on cutting shipping emissions, Angeli Mehta looks at the plethora of initiatives to relieve the unprecedented stresses on marine life
Our oceans give us life. They produce half the oxygen we need to breathe, and they soak up carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. They also provide us with food and recreation, and enable 90% of the world’s trade. But they’re under huge stress.
Climate change would be worse if it weren’t for the fact that the oceans take up about half the carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere. But the extra carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the oceans so they’re becoming more acidic.
Marine life has never experienced as fundamental a shift in ocean conditions this quickly.”
“The rate of acidification is unprecedented in the last 800,000 years,” says Sarah Cooley, director of the ocean acidification programme at the Ocean Conservancy. “Marine life has never experienced as fundamental a shift in ocean conditions this quickly.”
And acidification is just one challenge. She points out that marine life also has to contend with warming, disease, plastics pollution and over-fishing. In just 180 years, we have managed to change systems that took millennia to evolve.
The oceans will continue to take up carbon dioxide but it’s not clear how much – or for how long. “The sooner we can decrease...