Climate change is affecting large areas of our planet, from the air quality of cities to the habitats of forest animals. The oceans are one of the most heavily impacted areas in the wake of climate change. Oceans provide people with a source of food and enjoyment, animals with a home, and the atmosphere with about half of its oxygen composition. As a result, it’s more important than ever that the oceans be protected in the wake of climate change and its effects. Using renewable energy in our daily lives can help reverse some of the devastating effects that climate change has had on the oceans, ensuring that we can continue to reap their benefits for years to come. Here are some of the ways that climate change is damaging the oceans and what you can do to prevent further problems.
Coral is a living thing that is highly sensitive to stress. When ocean waters become significantly warmer or cooler, coral begins to expel the algae that lives within its tissues. This causes the coral to turn completely white, or bleach. While corals can survive bleaching, this phenomenon is a sign of deep stress and makes the coral more susceptible to dying. Coral depend on those algae to provide them with food and oxygen, and when the algae are removed from the coral system, it weakens significantly. Reefs are home to many types of fish and sea creatures, and as they die, these organisms are left without protection, food, and other necessary resources. Luckily, coral bleaching can be reversed if water temperatures remain stable.
Rising ocean temperatures are also causing changes in fish migrations. Species that typically thrive in tropical climates, when faced with warmer-than-usual waters, have begun migrating to cooler areas instead to find the correct level of oxygenation and food for their needs. Not only does this damage ecosystems, it also brings up concerns related to sustainability and food sources. As fish begin migrating deeper into the ocean, economies built on fishing will see their fortunes fall due to the loss in proximity to their former source of income. Flounder, blue crab, mussels, and even lobsters have been shown to move up to 500 miles away from their former homes in order to find ideal water conditions, leaving coastal communities reeling.
Melting Polar Ice Caps
The state of polar ice caps has long been a concern. As temperatures around the world change, polar ice caps have begun melting. This development can be devastating to the planet. It has already caused sea levels to rise, leaving coastal communities around the world to deal with the often catastrophic effects. Wetlands are also suffering as a result of rising sea levels, and entire habitats have been submerged. Because ice caps are made of fresh water, they decrease the salinity of the ocean when they melt. This, in turn, can damage fish and other ocean organisms that are accustomed to a particular level of salinity. Finally, the decrease in surface area as a result of melting can actually contribute to global warming at the same time that it is caused by it. Ice caps act as large mirrors that reflect warm light back into space. As their surface area decreases, more warmth is allowed to enter the atmosphere, speeding up global warming.
As humanity has increased its consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen. When sea water absorbs this excess carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic and loses carbonate ions. These ions are essential to the development and maintenance of shells for oysters, clams, corals, and certain types of plankton, making it difficult for them to survive. Even fish that do not need shells to survive can have their ability to detect predators lowered in acidic waters. As each of these organisms struggles to survive, the entire food web for their ecosystem can be damaged in the process.
How Renewable Energy Can Help
Burning fossil fuels is one of the primary causes of climate change. It is therefore imperative that humanity as a whole begin shifting away from oil, gas, and coal in favor of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy. By decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, we can begin reversing the damage that has been done to the oceans and prevent further problems for this valuable component of life on Earth.
Consider reading more about climate change, its effects on oceans, and renewable energy to stay up to date about changes in this area. Doing so can make you a more informed consumer of energy, allowing you to make educated decisions that can help reverse climate change and protect the oceans. You can make small changes, like switching your electricity provider to one that uses renewable resources, or larger ones, like purchasing an electric vehicle the next time you need a new car. These steps can encourage others in your community to do the same, multiplying your own efforts for a bigger positive impact on the planet.