The effect of climate change on the world’s oceans has been understudied, a recent report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) finds, and it is far worse than many scientists and politicians had previously thought.
“We all know the oceans sustain this planet,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN’s director general, to National Geographic, “yet we are making the oceans sick.”
“Ocean warming is one of this generation’s greatest hidden challenges—and one for which we are completely unprepared.”
—Inger Andersen, IUCN
The oceans have been shielding us from the worst effects of climate change, according to “Explaining ocean warming: causes, scale, effects and consequences” (pdf), by absorbing 93 percent of the excess CO2 that human industrial activity has emitted into the atmosphere—and humans have produced so much CO2 that without the oceans, surface temperatures worldwide would have risen by 36° Celsius since the 1970s.