Rising sea surface temperatures have been linked with increasing levels and ranges of diseases in both humans and marine life.
Our climate is changing. Natural cycles of warming and cooling have occurred before in the Earth’s distant past; however, the rate and magnitude of recent climate change goes way beyond any natural variability. According to an overwhelming body of scientific evidence, anthropogenic (i.e. human-caused) greenhouse gas emissions are the primary driver behind most of the global warming observed over the past 50 years.
Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, act like a blanket in our atmosphere, trapping heat from solar energy that would otherwise be reflected back into space. This phenomenon, known as the greenhouse effect, occurs naturally and is essential for life on Earth.
Since the Industrial Revolution began, human activities have exponentially augmented and destabilized the natural greenhouse effect. Through the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use in particular, humans have released billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, causing the Earth to warm at an unprecedented rate.
Over the last century, the world’s average surface temperature has risen by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with the past 10 years being the warmest ever recorded. Now, 1.5 degrees may not seem like that big of a deal. Well, small shifts in average global temperature, even by just half a degree, can quickly translate to massive and potentially catastrophic changes to major weather and climate systems.
Rises in ocean acidity, sea levels, and ocean temperatures are all linked to the higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere due to human activity. The changing global climate is also responsible for the mass melting of polar glaciers and sea ice, the shifting wind and precipitation patterns, and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Our climate will only continue to change; that is a fact. The scope and magnitude of these future changes, however, depends entirely upon the choices we make today.