More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. About 97% of it exists in our oceans.
But the oceans aren’t just full of aquatic creatures and colorful coral that comprise the perfect snorkel scenery. Major problems lurk on top of, and especially beneath the surface — problems that need our attention. That’s why we need World Oceans Day.
Led by The Ocean Project, World Oceans Day is celebrated June 8 with the goal of drawing attention to the factors that threaten the health of our seas and our planet overall.
Our oceans are a major player in the environmental health of our world — after all, they generate much of the oxygen we breathe while absorbing a vast chunk of the carbon dioxide emissions from our power plants and cars. It’s about time we gave them the attention they deserve.
These seven threats to oceans need our attention and consideration on World Oceans Day — and every day.
1. We dump 19 billion pounds of plastics into the ocean every year.
Beach goers and sailers aren’t just finding sea glass and swirling shells in the sand anymore. They’re finding plastic, and lots of it. Plastic pollution is one of the main focus areas of World Oceans Day this year, but there are plenty of other types of pollution threatening our shining seas, such as pesticides, detergents and oils from marine shipping.
Gyres of marine debris, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, are composed of microscopic pieces of plastic, chemical sludge and other types of pollution. These debris collection areas can span for hundreds of thousands of miles in our oceans, and they’re growing larger with time. It’s estimated we dump 19 billion pounds of plastics into the ocean every year.
Some ways you can make a difference include cutting unnecessary plastic out of your routine, recycling the plastics you do use and cleaning up your local beaches. Plus, there’s a major case for supporting pesticide-free farming, natural detergents and advocating for more responsible ocean travel and transport policies.
2. Sea levels are set to rise by at least 3.3 feet during this century alone
Seas are rising at an increasing rate, even if you don’t notice a yearly change at your favorite beach. Oceans are rising about 3 millimeters per year — that may not seem like a big deal, but those tiny millimeters add up. By 2100, it’s expected that sea levels will have risen by an average of 39 inches compared to where they were at in the early 1990s. And that reality is going to cost us an estimated $1 trillion by the end of this century.
Already, storm surges in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. are affecting more homes and businesses than they used to because of the relatively small amount of sea level rise seen to date, and parts of Miami have been regularly flooding even on sunny days.
Rising sea levels are a direct result of our warming climate. Melting glaciers and ice caps are the biggest contributor now, but rising sea temperatures (more on that later) are causing an expansion in the volume of waters in our oceans, too.
So, what can you do about all this? Truthfully, we can’t entirely curb this trend. Our oceans will keep rising in the near future, there’s no changing that — but we can slow the rate that they do, and stabilize things before they get too high. Cutting our greenhouse gas emissions can help the situation, but we are already at a dire point.
Scientists have said that if emissions are not dramatically cut in the next one to two decades, it may be too late to stop some of the worst impacts of global warming, including the inundation of low-lying island states from sea level rise.
However, the scope of the challenge shouldn’t discourage you from doing your part to enact even a slight change. Using water efficiently and reducing your carbon footprint are all things to consider.
3. Sea surface temperatures rose 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century.
That’s actually a huge change. Increasing sea surface temperatures may seem appealing to any beach lover — who doesn’t want a nice, warm ocean to swim in? — warmer seas mean more powerful tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons. Over the last century, sea temperatures have risen about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even the slightest change in sea temperature can throw off the entire aquatic ecosystem, spurring a mad dash to cooler waters. Science shows this is already occurring in many areas. Once-excluded bacteria and other sea critters can suddenly thrive in environments they weren’t meant to live in, which disrupts native aquatic life.
The fix? Those pesky greenhouse gases I mentioned earlier really need to go. If you aren’t paying attention to your carbon footprint, start. For good measure, you can plant a tree to take in even a tiny bit of that CO2. For extra-good measure, be sure to factor in a political candidate’s views on the climate when you go into the voting booth.
4. More than 60% of fish stocks are now considered overfished.
[…] Read on the article on Mashable.com
Photos © Jason Childs