Warning: Our Ocean Has A Fever


Emma Greaves


The news lately has been filled with hidden climate disasters: intense hurricanes and nor’easters, dead coral reefs, and sinking cities. The ocean temperature is an anchor for entire ecosystems. Climate change is causing ocean temperatures to rapidly rise. Our oceans absorb more than 90 percent of excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. When scientists accurately measure the speed at which oceans are warming, they can better predict the future effects of climate change; coastal areas can cope with rising sea levels and prepare for oncoming storms.

A recent study from Princeton’s Laure Resplandy, a biogeochemical oceanographer found that oceans are heating up 60 percent faster per year than previous estimates. These new ocean temperatures have come from a new approach that gathers ocean temperatures by measuring levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere. The amount of dissolved gas that an ocean can hold depends on its temperature. David Nicholson, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution states, “As the ocean has been warming, it’s basically pushing out oxygen and carbon dioxide.” Global temperature is difficult to capture using standard data collection; a comprehensive record requires thermometers around the globe. However, Dr. Laure Resplandy and her team used a data set from Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1991 that documented atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Though the data was not originally collected for this intent, it has proven to be very useful to Resplandy and her team.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global organization for climate data, has predicted a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and mass extinction of coral reefs as soon as the next 22 years if gas emissions continue at the current rate. The atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5º degrees Celsius) above pre industrial levels, triggering massive coastline flooding, and intensifying droughts and poverty. To prevent this, pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. What can we do about this?

According to the New York Times, though Americans are naturally divided over climate change there is broad agreement on some solutions. Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication found that an average 85 percent of Americans support funding research into renewable energy and providing consumers with energy-saving tax incentives. Voters in Washington State will decide in their midterms to pass the country’s first tax on carbon dioxide pollution. Funds would go toward programs for the development of wind and solar energy.

At Pingree, Emma Weis of Green Team says “Pingree students can compost and recycle more to keep trash out of landfills. Decomposing trash releases methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and pollution.” Recycle your empty ice cream cups, print your essays double sided, donate to Savers, thrift, and compost your leftovers.