The oceans occupy 71 percent of Earth's surface and they account for over 95 percent of the biosphere, the planet's living space. It is shameful that the climate negotiators in Paris have removed the ocean impacts from the climate crisis and that they are refusing to protect them. The oceans are the life support system of our planet and as we cross the 1C threshold, they are collapsing.
Each day, oceanic phytoplankton absorbs over 32 million metric tons of greenhouse gases or a third of the daily emissions from heat-trapping, climate-altering, subsidized fossil fuels.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans have created anxious fish that are loosing their ability to detect the correct chemical cues. In the ocean off Papa New Guinea, fish are becoming attracted to the smell of predators, a maladaptive response. These confused fish are venturing further away from shelter, thus becoming more exposed to predators. High levels of carbon dioxide interfere with the fundamental neurotransmitters in the brains of fish causing them to take dangerous and unnecessary risks.
Most of the global fleet of 1.2 billion automobiles are powered by fossil fuels. Photo credit: thestephenharvey.com
As if this weren't shocking enough -- over 42 percent of Earth's coral reefs are dead from warming waters and ocean acidification. Reefs are crucial as nursery grounds, security cover and feeding habitat for at least a million species of life.
Fossil fuels are subsidized $5.6 trillion annually while nature is being irrevocably destroyed. Photo credit: joinmosaic.com
Since 1950, mercury poisoning in the oceans from burning coal has tripled up to 80,000 metric tons. Cetaceans around the globe are showing high levels of mercury, a potent nerve poison, never witnessed before.
The warming oceans have disrupted cold currents from upwelling and carrying iron and nitrogen, essential for fertilizing phytoplankton. As such, 40 percent of phytoplankton, which makes up the entire base of the marine food web along with its vital oxygen-bearing capacity, is missing. Phytoplankton provides each earthling with almost three out of every four breaths of air.
There are between 8,000-9,000 endangered blue whales remaining in the oceans. Approximately 2,500 majestic blue whales feed along California coast, the largest concentration of blues on the globe. Photo credit: itravel-cabo.com
The awesome filter feeding whales with their vast flocculent fecal plumes, their poop, rich in iron and nitrogen are fertilizing the oceans and rebuilding the lost mega tons of phytoplankton. In the Southern Ocean their food source Antarctic krill has plummeted 80 percent below the 1970 levels due to missing western Antarctic sea ice and gross overharvesting. In fact, China intends to increase its krill harvest by as much as 60 fold.
The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker (R) colliding with the illegal Japanese whaling fleet fuel tanker the San Laurel in 2013. Photo credit: AAP
Japan, Iceland, Denmark and Norway refuse to abide by the 1986 global moratorium on whaling. Instead these rogue countries are killing the very mammals that are helping, via fertilizing the sea stimulating more phytoplankton, to fight the climate crisis. Why are these whale-killing nations knowingly feeding cetaceans laced with methylmercury, PCBs, DDT, insecticides, biphenyls, phthalates and tributyltin to their people?
In June, 337, 23-ton each, sei whales were found beached along the coast of Chile in one of the largest whale strandings ever recorded. Toxic algal blooms from rising ocean temperatures are being implicated in their deaths. Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk
It is impossible to submit a meaningful greenhouse gas reduction plan by removing the oceans from the Paris negotiations. This is ecocide. The melt waters from Greenland and the Antarctic alone will inundate all coastal cities by mid-century. The oceans drive our climate, removing them from the equation is like a medical doctor telling a patient that they can live a normal life with one lung, no liver, no kidneys and a missing pancreas. Flummery!
Earth Dr Reese Halter's latest book is "Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans."