Our ocean covers more than 70% percent of the planet and is home to over 220,000 known species and another estimated 2 million undiscovered flora and fauna. Yet in the past few decades, climate change and pollution have endangered this habitat.
The UN’s latest Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change outlines the warming of the earth’s oceans surface since 1970, highlighting temperatures in the past 25 years increasing twice as fast. This rapid warming coincides with rising sea levels from ice loss in the arctic and more frequent marine heatwaves which together create a ripple effect through the ocean food chain, resulting in mass marine life and bird die-offs.
Recent major flooding has led scientists to predict the more frequent occurrence of ocean dead zones—areas of water not able to sustain life due to low concentrations of oxygen. Flooding causes the agricultural industry’s runoff (including nutrients and chemicals) to go straight into nearby rivers, with many of these rivers emptying into oceans, creating these dead zones.
Additionally, there are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, polluting countless habitats and putting many species in danger.
Given our oceans comprise more than 70% of Earth’s surface, this can all lead to catastrophic economic implications for coastal communities dependent on ocean life and even more dire global consequences.