The world’s oceans are under constant threat from anthropocentric (human caused) carbon emissions. Numerous studies in recent years have shown that the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, that water temperatures are rising, and that ice in the polar regions is melting. Most such studies point to carbon emissions and, by association, humans as the culprits.

Carbon Emissions

A study published in Science by the Oceans 2015 initiative has brought that data together, and the result isn’t positive. They point out that the combination of these and other side effects of excessive carbon emissions are literally killing the oceans. As deep as 700 meters below the surface, water temperatures have risen enough to force some species to migrate up to 400 kilometers closer to the poles, in order to live in the kinds of temperatures they evolved to survive in. Rapidly melting ice is raising sea levels at alarming rates, and increased ocean acidification is, among other things, making it harder for coral and bivalves to form their skeletons.

The team looked to the future, and explored the effects of achieving the widely supported goal of limiting climate change to two degrees Celsius by 2100, or failing to do so. If we cannot reduce carbon emissions enough to keep the Earth from warming by more than two degrees, but the end of the century we’ll see irreparable damage to ocean ecosystems, including mass extinctions that will directly impact humans. Even if we can keep changes to within the two-degree goal by 2100, corals and bivalves will still suffer, and the risks to those organisms will become critical.

The study is addressed at the attendees of the upcoming COP21 conference in Paris this December, where the researchers hope this information will result in some actual, practical changes to combat global climate change.