September 15, 2013
Across the nation thousands of college students have joined a campaign, inspired by author and climate activist Bill McKibben, to get their universities to divest from fossil fuel companies just as they once got them to purge their portfolios of companies doing business with apartheid-era South Africa.
Yet even many of today’s climate activists are not fully aware that the greatest impacts of fossil-fuel fired climate change are likely to be felt in our ocean and coastal regions. These impacts include ocean warming and sea-level rise, increased erosion, runoff and coastal flooding, more intense hurricanes and El Nino events, melting sea ice and glaciers and ocean acidification that will weaken the ability of all shell forming critters – from certain planktons to oysters to vast coral reefs – to survive. A warmer, more acidic ocean will also hold less dissolved oxygen. That is better news for jellyfish and bacterial mats that can thrive in hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions than it is for bony fish that provide both marine biodiversity and food security for over a billion humans. Scientists are already seeing the expansion of what they call the, “the oxygen minimum zone,” in waters off California and in other parts of the world.