UN Climate Change Report Projects Bleak Future For Ocean Health

Oct 4, 2019

A report recently released by the United Nations's International Panel on Climate Change finds that oceans around the world are in trouble.

More than 100 scientists from 36 countries worked on the report that shows carbon emissions from human activities are putting a dire strain on ocean health.

 

The findings have big implications for South Florida, where much of life revolves around the water.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson delved into the issue with WLRN’s environment reporter Jenny Staletovich and Dr. Martin Grosell, a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

MARTIN GROSELL: In South Florida, probably the biggest concern, well there's two factors. There's temperature and there's CO2 and they're related. So the elevated CO2 in the atmosphere will equilibrate with oceans, and that causes a reduction in pH.

TOM HUDSON: The chemistry of the ocean you're talking about here. In terms of pH and the acidification.

GROSELL: That's right. And that impacts the animals that are living it directly in the case of fish but also indirectly by affecting their habitat. It's a very complex situation. The direct impacts on fish are related to the change in chemistry within them. That's caused by the change in chemistry in the oceans. Some of the indirect impacts relate to the change in their habitat. So for example, coral reefs in Florida are under a lot of stress, and coral reefs serve as as a habitat for marine life, including a lot of fish species.

HUDSON: We've seen those reefs under stresses, and the stress is growing because of the acidification that the professor talks about. Water temperature is rising as well. With this U.N. report that looked at ocean health globally, think about it locally. What are the concerns that you see the environmental community really focused on here locally when it comes to ocean health?

JENNY STALETOVICH: Systems that are already under stress because of pollution, overdevelopment, when you add this extra level of climate change impacts, they're really suffering. For example, you have reefs that have been battling bleaching events, have battled increased boat trafficking and pollution. And suddenly you have increased ocean temperatures because of climate change or you have increased acidification .... They're less prepared; they're suffering even more. The second point is that this report noted that these changes were projected. What surprised [scientists] is that they're accelerating. They're happening faster than they expect.

WLRN TV has also premiered a new documentary, "Troubled Waters: A Turtle's Tale," that looks at the state of the environment through the eyes of sea turtles. Here's a schedule of future showings and a teacher's guide for students learning about climate change.