A new IPCC report on the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans and cryosphere shows the urgency of the need to immediately and drastically reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report shows the oceans are absorbing more than 90% of excess heat caused by global warming and irreversible changes are already occurring.
Imogen Zethoven, AMCS director of strategy, said: “The report by the world’s top climate and marine scientists makes it very clear that we are currently losing the race to protect marine ecosystems, but it’s not too late to change direction if we act decisively now.”
The report finds that by 2100, the ocean will absorb 2 to 4 times more heat even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees C. This will reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life, having a deleterious effect on the health of marine ecosystems.
The report also finds that marine heatwaves are becoming more frequent and severe, especially harming warm water corals, kelp forests and altering the distribution of marine life.
It also finds the ocean is becoming more acidic due to the absorption of our carbon pollution and this is further harming our marine life.
Zethoven said “We need to take immediate and drastic action right now to reduce global emissions. Australia has an enormous amount at stake. We are responsible for the third largest marine estate in the world.
“We have more biodiversity in our oceans than any other country. We are responsible for one of the largest living organisms on the planet: the Great Barrier Reef.
“As an island continent with thriving economies and jobs dependent upon healthy seas, we have a great responsibility to look after our oceans. Our challenge is to act urgently and at scale to reduce our emissions.
“The message from the IPCC Special Report is that we must also undertake local measures to give our marine life the greatest chance of surviving a warming ocean. We must:
- Dramatically expand Australia’s marine sanctuaries that give marine life the best chance of survival
- Reduce fishing pressure and manage our fisheries within the context of ocean warming and shifts in fish populations
- Reduce land-based and marine pollution, including plastics
- Manage our coastal zone in recognition of rising sea levels, increased storm surges, flooding and cyclones
“However, these measures will only buy our oceans time and the Australian government must take serious and immediate action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, transition rapidly from fossil fuels and full embrace renewable energy,” Zethoven said.