The ocean plays a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The largest amount of heat stored on the Earth’s surface is found in the oceans and ocean circulation transports this heat around the planet. The oceans have absorbed approximately 1/2 of the global human-made carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution (roughly 525 billion tons of CO2) that would have otherwise contributed to global warming.
Yet, the buffering services of heat storage and carbon dioxide absorption are having a profound impact on the world’s ocean. The ocean has experienced increased acidity, altered circulation patterns and warming. The oceans in turn have impacted weather patterns, regional drought and precipitation events, and food availability. These changes exacerbate the existing pressures on the marine environment - overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction – and are leading to increased “risks to global food security, economic prosperity, and the well-being of human populations.” (Manado Declaration 2009).
Despite the ocean’s pivotal role in maintaining our planet’s stable climate, this role has not been reflected in climate negotiations. In these pages, we explain the major impacts on the ocean as a result of increased CO2 emissions, and discuss how the Center for Ocean Solutions is working towards solutions through innovative research, education, trainings and communications.