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Climate change: A record temperature for the oceans in 2020

Picture by Greg Razoky from Unsplash

The year 2020 permanently sinks into chaos and if it has had a heavy hit on humanity, this year will not have been easy for our planet. Forest fires, floods and hurricanes, 2020 has been affected by 14 major extreme weather disasters. In addition to causing thousands of deaths in many parts of the world, these weather phenomenons, more often than not caused by the climate crisis, have cost more than 150 billion dollars on a planetary scale. In 2020, climate change has also shown the extent of its damage to the oceans which had an unfortunately exceptional warming record. According to scientists, the oceans would have absorbed around 20 zettajoules. 1 zettajoules is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules, this represents a massive amount of energy absorbed by the ocean. 

Consequences on the ocean 

Researchers from China have found that the ocean temperatures from the surface to a depth of 2 kilometres exceptionally increased during the last 65 years. They sound the alarm for possible consequences of this change. According to Professor Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences of Beijing, the increase of the ocean’s temperature is a threat which can lead to increasingly serious natural disasters. “’Warmer oceans and a warmer atmosphere also promote more intense rainfalls in all storms, and especially hurricanes, increasing the risk of flooding”. By absorbing one-third of the carbon dioxide produced by humanity, the ocean’s temperature was 0.17 warmer in 2017 than in 2000. This climate change also leads to significant consequences for marine life, which is threatened by the increase of acidity due to warming waters. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the ocean can absorb 22 million tons a day of carbon dioxide sent by humanity into the atmosphere. This is considered harmful as it increases the acidity rate. The current pH of the ocean is around 8.1, the increase of acidity could bring it to 7.8 by the end of the century. A change that could significantly impact marine species and ecosystems. By causing the movement of many species, increasing the ocean’s acidity could lead to the disruption of the submarine wildlife. To prevent serious consequences for the future, scientists bring an urgent warning about the decisions to be taken. “So, societies need to adapt to the now unavoidable consequences of our unabated warming. “But there is still time to take action and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases” according to Professor Cheng. 

Possible threats for humanity 

Climate change is not without a price to pay and the consequences can backfire on humanity. By the end of the century, 630 million people will be threatened by flooding due to rising sea levels. Cities like New York, Shanghaï and Tokyo could be submerged by 2100. If emission scenarios become more destructive, the 21st century could see a sea-level rise of 0.5 meters and exceed 2 meters if the ice regions experience other periods of instability. China remains the country with the highest risk from rising sea levels with around 67 million people potentially at risk. “The costs of protecting cities from rising sea levels and storms are also likely to rise – as are the costs of repairing storm damage,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s not that we expect sea levels to rise at some point in the future – they are already rising.”

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