Quantcast

'Oceans Are Sending Us so Many Warning Signals': New UN Climate Change Report

Oceans
'Sunset in the Oil Belt' in Claxton Bay, Trinidad, West Indies. Leslie-Ann Boisselle / World Meteorological Organization

It's time for low-level coastal communities to head for the hills. Once-in-a-hundred-years sea level events will be an annual occurrence by 2050.


The oceans will rise three feet by 2100, fish will struggle to survive, ocean currents will weaken, snow and ice will start to vanish, and we will need to brace for stronger and wetter hurricanes and harsher El Niño weather systems, according to a new UN report released Tuesday, as the AP reported.

The report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking, warns that warming seas are contributing to a drop in fish populations, and ocean oxygen levels are dropping while acidity levels are starting to spike, which threatens fragile marine ecosystems. The warming waters are also fueling wetter and more intense hurricanes and cyclones, as The New York Times reported. The fact is ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for about the past 25 years, they've been warming twice as fast.

"The oceans are sending us so many warning signals that we need to get emissions under control," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and a lead author of the report, to The New York Times. "Ecosystems are changing, food webs are changing, fish stocks are changing, and this turmoil is affecting humans."

The IPCC's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate includes contributions from more than 100 scientists from 36 different countries. It highlights the bleak state of the most remote parts of the world, where rapid thawing of ice sheets and glaciers is changing the landscape of the polar regions and will affect people and animals all around the globe for decades.

This report is unique because for the first time ever, the IPCC has produced an in-depth report examining the furthest corners of the earth — from the highest mountains in remote polar regions to the deepest oceans," said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC, as CNN reported. "We've found that even and especially in these places, human-caused climate change is evident."

Half of the world's largest cities and nearly 2 billion people around the world live on the coasts. If global heating is restricted to just 2 degrees Celsius, scientists still predict $7 trillion in damage every year and millions of migrants, according to a new study published last week, as The Guardian reported.

"The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak," said Jonathan Bamber at Bristol University in the UK, who is not one of the report's authors, to The Guardian. "But the consequences will be felt by all of us. There is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report."

The report found that of the major ice sheets, Greenland is melting the fastest. When it melts completely, it can add 17-23 feet to sea levels, according to a NASA study published earlier this year. The report found that Greenland has averaged an annual ice loss of 275 gigatons from 2006 to 2015. The Anatarctic ice sheet also saw its ice loss mass triple from 2007 to 2016 compared to the previous decade, as CNN reported.

The IPCC scientists say that changes they see in parts of Antarctica could be the first signs the ice sheet there has reached a point of no return, but they warn that more research is needed.

"If this is true, then there is a chance of a multi-meter sea level rise within the next two to three centuries," said Regine Hock, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a coordinating lead author on chapter two of this IPCC report, as CNN reported. "That is very substantial."

The IPCC report does have suggestions that leaders should take to slow ocean warming and sea level rise. Not surprisingly, the scientists called on world leaders to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, which is the main culprit in the climate crisis. The scientists said the global economy must shift dramatically to reduce emissions, as NPR reported.

The report does say that if greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed immediately, some impacts of ocean acidification could be avoided, according to NPR.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.