Here’s a story that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. As a result of global warming, agricultural run-off contamination and sewage dumping, our oceans are losing their oxygen. These oxygen-depleted spots in our oceans are also referred to as “dead zones,” where plants and animals struggle to survive. The distressing news is that the size of these zones has increased fourfold around the world. Specifically, the number of hypoxic, or oxygen depleted, zones along coasts has increased up to 10 times, from less than 50 to 500, in a period of just fifty years. And, even worse, the ocean appears to have suffered a loss of about 85 billion tons (77 billion metric tons) of oxygen, affecting an accumulated area approximately the size of the European Union.
This recent analysis of the oxygen-starved zones was conducted by a team of scientists from the Global Oxygen Network (GO2NE), created in 2016 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations. In December 2017, its findings was published in the journal Science. It found that the growing dead zones will result in ecosystem collapse. Notably, because most of the oxygen-depleted spots are along the coasts of most continents, it will have a direct affect upon fish populations, which generally populate coastal regions. If you are scientifically inclined, you can review the report yourself.
Even if you aren’t a scientist, you should know that human impact upon the health of this planet’s oceans has been significant. As noted by Live Science: “The study is the first to present such a comprehensive evaluation of ocean oxygen depletion and its causes. And less oxygen in the ocean doesn’t just spell trouble for marine plants and animals — it could carry serious repercussions for life on land as well.” Addressing this global issue will require worldwide cooperation and initiatives to reduce the use of fossil fuels as well as coastal nutrient pollution. Establishing more protected areas in the ocean and supporting policies that preserve threatened and vulnerable marine life will also help struggling ecosystems recover. Each of these actions is precisely the opposite of what is being promoted by the current Trump Administration. So, the individual can make a difference, but only if we hold our elected officials feet to the burning fire of reality. Politicians might be able to ignore science in the short-term, but the long-term impacts will be dramatic and unavoidable.