Five years ago, a United Nations panel estimated how quickly the world’s oceans would continue to heat up as the planet warms due to climate change.
The oceans are heating up all right. In fact, the Earth’s oceans are warming 40% faster than that UN panel predicted, according to new analysis published Thursday in the journal Science.
About 93% of the greenhouse gasses humans emit are trapped by the oceans, which serve as a vital buffer as carbon emissions continue to climb despite warnings that we’re causing irreversible destruction to the planet. And warming oceans lead to a lot of other dire consequences, some immediately felt by humans and other creatures, and some more generally destructive to life as we’ve long known it. The Science study sums up some of the catastrophic impacts of warming oceans in one alarming list, which includes “rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, the destruction of coral reefs, declining ocean oxygen levels, and declines in ice sheets; glaciers; and ice caps in the polar regions.” In the Arctic, the warming oceans are also causing a serious decline in sea ice, which only compounds the ongoing threats of climate change such as sea level rise.
Climate change isn’t just bad for all living creatures. It also happens to be bad for the economy, with consequences ranging from collapsing coastal real estate values to the rising cost of food production and distribution in areas once fertile for farming but now in decline due to new weather patterns and extreme weather.