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How Bad Is It?

Diagnosing the state of the Ocean's health

IPSO is currently compiling the Global State of the Ocean Report, which will collate world-wide marine science to give a comprehensive overview of the health of the Ocean. The Report is due to be published in 2013 but we already know that the Ocean's health is in a critical state.

This affects everyone, because — just like the climate — the Ocean forms one of the key operating systems of our planet. It creates more than half our oxygen, drives weather systems and modulates the atmosphere, as well as providing us with vital resources. So the Ocean functions at a fundamental 'Earth System' level, transcending national borders to help maintain life everywhere on Earth.

Damage to the Ocean is not as immediately apparent as terrestrial destruction, but it is just as serious. All of the stressors we have put on the Ocean — from over-fishing to pollution — have contributed to its ill-health. The situation is now so severe that we are altering the chemistry of the Ocean, with significant impacts on marine life and the functioning of marine ecosystems.

The Ocean has already absorbed more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system and around 33% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans. Ecosystems are collapsing as species are pushed to extinction and natural habitats are destroyed. Scientists believe that there is still time to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to our marine ecosystems but that this requires drastic action within a decade.