Global Warming: More Serious Than You Think

Coral+reef+in+Fiji

Jeff Chanin

Coral reef in Fiji

Global warming is a serious debate all over the world. Although many people know it’s happening, not everyone knows the real impact that it has on the world’s largest environment: the oceans. The ocean absorbs a good deal of the heat created by greenhouse gases. Thus, as our atmosphere continues to heat up, the ocean continues to absorbs more and more of the heat. This eventually leads to the ocean’s temperatures rising at a significant rate. These rising temperatures consequentially cause many complications for every level of marine ecosystems. From the coral, to the animals, everything is harmed.

Coral reefs are one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world. They support over 25% of the ocean’s marine life. Although reefs only take up around 1% of the ocean, nearly nine million different species of ocean organisms live on the coral. The color in coral comes from zooxanthellae – an algae that lives on the coral structures. The coral structure itself is made up of the skeletons of the tiny animals called polyps that build the branches and mounds. The algae produce food for the polyps through photosynthesis. If the coral structures are stressed, they release the algae. Without the color and food provided by the zooxanthellae, the reef will become pale and the polyps will starve and die. This process is called coral bleaching, which is one of the most adverse causes of global warming. The decimation of coral devastates the entire ecosystem for miles around as coral is the main foundation that supports the rest of the species living in the area.

What coral reefs look like before and after bleaching happens.

Cardinal fish are an example of a species that is hit especially hard by rising ocean temperatures.

Changing climates also hurt marine animals directly; the ocean absorbs more and more carbon dioxide. This causes the level of acidity in the water to rise and makes it extremely difficult for animals with gills – like fish and squid – to filter out the dissolved oxygen from the water that is necessary for their survival. The acidification of the ocean also makes it tough for animals like crabs, shellfish, and lobsters to build up the calcium carbonate that makes up their shells; however, the consequence of global warming that affects the most species is the rising temperatures of the water. Many species are cold blooded, which means that they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperatures. The water that they live in is warming up to life threatening temperatures and could mean the end for many species.”We’re heading into uncharted territories. We’re already seeing species disappear from places they’ve been for generations and longer,” says Malin Pinsky, a lead author of a marine study published in the science journal Nature. As some species move to cooler waters, humans who depended on them for food, or income will experience a major shift in their standard of life.

While many people still live in denial about our world’s changing climate, it is impossible and irresponsible to ignore the major impact it is having on the planet. “We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” says Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, President of the United Nation’s General Assembly. “Climate justice is inter-generational justice.” This article only gives a diminutive view into the ways that global warming is harming nature. It’s only a matter of time until these effects become irreversible. We need to act now if we want to give future generations the opportunity to experience the beauty of our world- while we still have it.

Augusto Leoandro Stanzani
Our oceans hold beautiful and amazing creatures, but if we don’t do something we could lose them