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A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences delivered some sobering news on Monday — that Antarctica is losing ice at a rate six times faster than it has in the past. According to CNN, the rate of ice loss has increased each decade over the last 40 years — from a loss of 40 gigatons (a gigaton is one billion tons) per year from in the decade from 1979 to 1990 to a loss of 252 gigatons per year in the decade from 2009 to 2017. And Axios explained that this finding is “important” because “previous studies had regarded that part of the continent as stable or not yet undergoing a net loss.”
Oceans are heating up at a rate as much as 40% faster than the global consensus of scientists studying climate change had previously predicted. A team of scientists looking at the numerous recent studies which made that claim have now validated those studies’ conclusions based on ocean heat content (OHC) observations (actual ocean temperature data), according to a new report published in the journal Science on Friday. It also validates (as if we needed more proof) that the planet is clearly warming.
Why This Matters: Science matters. The more data scientists have to work with, the better they can understand the changes that are wreaking havoc with our planet. With more ocean observing sensors, which could be much more beneficial if we expanded the network of buoys and added sensors to more ships, we would not have to fill in nearly so many gaps and could do a much better job of forecasting risks and impacts, such as sea level rise, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification. As the experts who conducted the review said, “There is a clear need to continue to improve the ocean observation and analysis system to provide better estimates of OHC, because it will enable more refined regional projections of the future.”
A new “front” opened yesterday in the fight to ensure that the world’s ocean resources are used sustainably, with the launch of the Stephenson Ocean Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The Project’s web site explains its objective — to raise awareness about the ways that competition for marine resources contributes to instability and geopolitical risk for the United States.
Why This Matters: Full disclosure — I (Monica) have had a long standing interest in the issue of ocean resources and national security, and have been working to help CSIS get the ball rolling on the project. I believe that if you substituted the word “oil” for “fish” in the paragraphs above, no one would even blink at the national security implications and environmental significance of this work. Fish in my view could be even more important than oil to a larger segment of the public globally — those in the developing world who don’t have cars but do eat fish. The resources available at the Department of Defense (both technical and financial) could be a game changer for efforts to ensure ocean sustainability into the future.
Warming ocean temperatures are causing massive changes for fishermen, some of which may force them out of business, according to several recent stories examining the impacts of climate change on the fishing industry.
Why This Matters: Warming waters that shift fish populations make a barely viable business downright impossible for many small and medium-sized fishing operations. Not to mention the additional fuel and time it takes to chase fewer fish, that are now found farther from ports. Watching this play out is painful in U.S. fishing communities, but for many parts of the world, it could become a real food security crisis. The U.S. government currently is very lethargic in changing its fisheries management schemes even as the evidence of shifting fish populations grows. Given the challenges of climate change, a more engaged approach to fisheries management that takes climate change into account is needed. It will benefit the fishermen and the fish populations as well.
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