Don’t believe in global warming? Do you think that its nothing but green hype when people worry about the future of a number of plant and animal species as a result of human selfishness?
Consider this: a petition has been filed for protection of 83 coral species in United States, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. Coral reefs existing in waters from Florida to Hawaii, and territories in the Caribbean and Pacific are seriously threatened as a result of rising ocean temperatures, pollution and global climate change.
Ocean acidification could result in the death of all coral reefs worldwide by 2050, which would then lead to the first world-wide ecosystem collapse due to preventable climate change. This condition occurs as our seas absorb CO2 emissions – the greenhouse gases that result from coal burning and other man-made pollution.
Miyoko Saksashita, oceans director of the Center for Biological Diversity, stated:
“Coral reefs are the world’s most endangered ecosystems and provide an early warning of impacts to come from our thirst for fossil fuels. Within a few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely unravel magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build.”
Polar bears and penguins are often considered to be the poster children of climate change. Yet corals are more imperiled by the way we live our lives. Coral bleaching is the deadly result of the stress the species experience in warm ocean temperatures. Under those unhealthy circumstances, the reefs expel the colorful algae on which they rely for energy and growth.
Not surprisingly, this leads to death of the delicate coral reefs.
Shockingly, however, experts believe that most of the world’s corals are at risk of mass bleaching events over the next 20 years, unless we reduce CO2 emissions.
Once the coral reefs die from bleaching, ocean acidification makes it nearly impossible for them to rebuild and thrive. With too much CO2 in the water, the pH balance shifts to a more acidic state. Corals are unable to build their skeletons, weakened by the unnatural CO2 levels.
At CO2 levels of 450 ppm, scientists predict that reef erosion will eclipse the ability of corals to grow. Moreover, ocean acidification and global warming render corals even more susceptible to other threats that have led to the present degraded state of our reefs, including destructive fishing, agriculture runoff, storms, sea-level rise, pollution, abrasion, predation, and disease.
What can be done? First and foremost, CO2 concentrations must be reduced to below 350 parts per million (ppm). This is necessary not only for the coral reefs’ survival, but other species on land and in sea. The climate bill currently being considered by Congress will not result in reduction of CO2 levels to the critical 350 ppm point.
Recognizing the importance of Endangered Species Act protection, the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the federal government to adopt and enforce measures that would require government agencies reduce the impact of activities harmful to the coral reefs (dumping, dredging and offshore oil drilling), and minimize their own greenhouse gas emissions.
Within 90 days, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must respond to the petition to list 83 coral species as endangered under the ESA. A formal decision on the listings is required within one year.
If you would like to learn more, check out 350 Reasons We Need to get to 350, created by the Center for Biological Diversity.