Unchecked global warming will have devastating effects on marine life


In yet another example of how we have brought about a drastic change in the make of our atmosphere through greenhouse gas emissions and how it will prove to be catastrophic for marine animals, a new research has warned that if we don’t meet with climate goals, fish will be forced to migrate away from current habitats and look for more cooler waters and if they don’t succeed they will perish.

An international team of researchers with the Ocean 2015 Initiative compared the future of the oceans under two climate change scenarios.

In the first scenario, the researchers limited the atmospheric warming to two degrees by 2100, as outlined by the Copenhagen accord. In the second scenario, they let the current trend continue – i.e. five-degree increase in atmospheric temperatures.

Based on the their findings, researchers warn that if global warming continues unchecked, fish will migrate away from their current habitats 65 per cent faster, resulting in changes to biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

The research, published in journal Science, clearly points out the need to limit emissions to help reduce the impact of rising atmospheric temperatures and acidifying oceans. The findings are intended to inform discussions at the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

“All the species and services we get from the ocean will be impacted and everyone, including Canadians, who benefit from these goods and services are vulnerable,” said William Cheung, associate professor and co-director of the Nereus Program at University of British Columbia. “On a positive note, we still have options to substantially reduce these impacts now but the longer we wait the fewer and fewer options we have.”

This study was completed by the Oceans 2015 Initiative, an international team of researchers from Europe, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Cheung and his colleague Rashid Sumaila, co-authors of the study, examined the impact of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems, ocean chemistry, tourism, and human health.

Researchers specifically analyzed how warming will impact fisheries and the global economic gains we receive from these fisheries.

“From looking at the surface of the ocean, you can’t tell much is changing,” said Sumaila, director of UBC’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit. “The oceans are closely tied to human systems and we’re putting communities at high risk.”

The researchers suggest taking action to protect marine ecosystems and to help communities adapt by providing education and training opportunities to diversify livelihood options. They also say it’s important to make every effort now to limit emissions.

“While some regions will see increases in some fish biomass, these gains may be only temporary if carbon dioxide emissions continues,” said Sumaila.