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Many people do not realise the crucial role that the oceans play in global temperature regulation, carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, weather patterns, nutrient cycling, waste elimination, and many other services that healthy oceans provide naturally. Without the oceans and ecosystem services, life on earth as we know it would not be possible.
It makes the problems the oceans are facing as a result of climate change all the more critical and urgent. Oceans are incredibly complex systems, not isolated entities. The effects of climate change on the oceans are far-reaching and about so much more than rising sea levels, melting glaciers and an increase in global surface temperatures. Climate change is changing the way the planet functions and is far beyond IPCC scenarios.
Humans are now changing the oceans at such a rate that it is only comparable with the massive changes observed in the geologic record. Ocean pH has changed more in the last 250 years than the previous 650,000. The rate, pace and intensity of ocean change in a relatively short period of time is shocking. The results of change to the chemical make-up of the oceans are drastically different to the results of similar change to local habitat levels. We are nearing planetary tipping points and collapse, from which there may not be a short-term fix or eventual return.
The notion that we can and should engineer our way out of the climate change crisis is worthy of debate. However, there are always unintended consequences, actions and reactions any time we attempt to tamper with nature.
There is no perfect solution, but whatever it is, changing our behaviour will be part of it.
Nature does an amazing job of adapting and cleaning-up after human interventions when given enough time to recover and when stressors are reduced or eliminated. Coral reefs, for example, are much more resilient to increased temperatures and bleaching events if they are not subjected to overfishing, cyanide poisoning and human waste from adjacent coastal areas.
We must change the way we live, the way we eat, the way we travel, and the way we view the oceans. We must protect thriving ecosystems and restore those in peril.