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Climate Change: Overview

coal plantThe oceans play an important role in regulating the Earth's temperature. As the levels of carbon dioxide and heat rise in the atmosphere, so do their levels in the oceans.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have added close to 1.5 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and the oceans have absorbed about a third of that amount. The oceans have also absorbed 80 percent of the heat that has been added to the atmosphere.

Without the oceans, global warming would be far worse than it already is. Unfortunately, the oceans are being overwhelmed by the massive amounts of carbon dioxide they are absorbing. As the oceans become "full" of carbon dioxide, the rate at which they can continue to absorb carbon dioxide slows, resulting in more carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere, affecting the climate.

Recently, it was found that the Southern Ocean, the most important "carbon sink" of all the oceans, has greatly slowed its uptake of carbon dioxide because of climate change. The absorption of heat and carbon dioxide by the oceans is currently slowing the effects of global warming; however, the oceans are becoming overburdened and may not be able to perform this function for much longer.

The impacts of absorbing such huge amounts of carbon dioxide and heat include ocean acidification, sea level rise, disrupted marine food webs, depleted ecosystems and more.

Oceana campaigns to stop climate change through legislative advocacy, source control, public education and awareness and ecosystem protection.