On occasions when we have talked about climate change the more skeptical of our ‘friends’ have suggested that cetaceans ought to be pretty robust to all this warming and cooling. Some have even suggested that cetaceans ‘did all right in the last ice age, so should be fine now’.
To that I say ‘poppycock’.
WDCS has note the growing impact of acidification an its potential impact on cetaceans, but a recent report has again highlighted the problem of the silent death that is creeping through our oceans.
Les Blumenthal, writing in the McClatchy Newspapers writes; ‘Far away from our casual sight, something is going wrong in our oceans.’ Off the Pacific Northwest coast of the Unites States, areas of lower level of oxygen are alarming scientists and conservationists. The report notes that in some spots off Washington state and Oregon, the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions. Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean but in some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.
Scientists say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models.
'Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. As ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water on the surface acts as a cap, which interferes with the natural circulation that normally allows deeper waters that are already oxygen-depleted to reach the surface. It's on the surface where ocean waters are recharged with oxygen from the air. Water that's pulled up from the depths is poor in oxygen, it's rich in nutrients, which fertilize phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms form the bottom of one of the richest ocean food chains in the world. As they die, however, they sink and start to decay. The decaying process uses oxygen, which depletes the oxygen levels even more. '
Blumenthal reports further, "It's a large disturbance in the ecosystem that could have huge biological changes," said Steve Bograd , an oceanographer at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Southern California.
Bottom-dwelling species could be at the greatest risk because they move slowly and might not be able to escape the lower oxygen levels. Most fish can swim out of danger. Some species, however, such as chinook salmon, may have to start swimming at shallower depths than they're used to. Whether the low oxygen zones will change salmon migration routes is unclear.
So why are we humans so reluctant to accept something is going on? Well I suggest its not because the evidence is saying that there is not a problem. The blip of debate over the IPCC reports is just that, a blip. In a year’s time we shall see more evidence and this will be forgotten.But the traditional environmentalists in our younger generations are also being swayed by the naysayers. Its concerning to see a report that suggests ‘Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are, for the most part, split on the issue of global warming and, on some indicators, relatively disengaged when compared to older generations.’
Is it that we do believe that man-made climate degradation is real, it’s just that by remaining skeptical to pollsters and the media, we put off having to take responsibility?
(Please note that I find using the phrase ‘climate change’ or climate warming’ can encourage a kind of positive view in some people’s minds; a view of a world of ‘gentle breezes blowing in over a Caribbean beach’ – not quite what it could really be – like a another frozen UK. Lets use a negative phrase to get people to understand what this could really mean)
Just as some people had ‘forgotten’ about whaling, and their governments have conveniently forgotten what a resumption of commercial whaling will do for whales and our oceans, - its just easier to ‘hope it will go away’ without having to do anything now.
The evidence in our oceans may be out of sight and therefore out of mind, but when these effects start to affect the cost of your fish, or mean that prey disappears for whales and dolphins and they themselves then disappear off your coastline, it may well be to late.
I for one don’t know what the absolute effects of man-made climate degradation will be. What I do know is that the possibilities are alarming, and I don’t want to gamble on those worse options happening for my children, but there again, maybe if I close my eyes and put my hands over my ears, and spin round three times, I could just ignore it…