Oceans can go from being carbon sinks to becoming your chimneys, accelerating climate change

A little-known role of the oceans is their regulation of the Earth’s climate through the carbon dioxide absorption (CO2), explains a study published this Tuesday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which also warns that, if they lose this function, the oceans would contribute to global warming, accelerating the advance of climate change.

To prevent this from happening, the report says, it is urgent study of the uptake cycle of CO2, understand it well and establish a roadmap that guides the authorities responsible for the design of mitigation and adaptation policies to climate change during the next decade.

The text highlights the importance of scientific knowledge to make informed decisions within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in order to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate and build more resilient societies.

Carbon reservoirs of anthropogenic origin

Since the Industrial Revolution, the oceans have been the reservoir of carbon generated by human activity. Without these marine reservoirs, along with terrestrial ones, CO2 levels in the atmosphere would be 50% higher than those recorded in 2019, which were already well above the limit to contain global warming to two degrees Celsius.

The global carbon cycle is an integral part of the Earth system. Of the terrestrial, atmospheric and ocean components of the global carbon cycle that exchange carbon on time scales of decades to centuries, the ocean has more than 90% of the carbon contained in these reservoirs. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, humans have drastically altered carbon stocks and fluxes within the land-atmosphere-ocean system and have harnessed the fossil carbon in the geological reservoir.

Over time, the oceans have evolved from being a sink for pre-industrial carbon from the terrestrial biosphere via rivers, to becoming a significant annual net carbon sink through the uptake of anthropogenic carbon.

The accumulation of carbon generated by human activity in the ocean is altering the chemistry of seawater, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. These changes will affect the future role of the ocean as a reservoir of atmospheric CO2 and alter marine ecosystems in ways that are still under investigation.

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Source: Diario Ecologia by diarioecologia.com.

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