The Beacon

Blog Tags: Climate Change

A Third of Reef Fish Face Extinctions from Climate Change

A blacknosed butterflyfish. © Oceana

When you picture the impacts of climate change, what animal comes to mind? Is it a polar bear floating on a thin chunk of ice, or maybe another cold climate species losing habitat like a walrus or a penguin?

Add butterflyfish to your thoughts about climate change, because a new study predicts that they, along with one-third of all coral reef fish, are losing reef habitat and are locally threatened with extinction from climate change.

Coral reefs are threatened by two aspects of carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification and climate change. Corals are susceptible to sustained periods of warmer water temperatures due to climate change, which causes them to bleach when they expel algae, turning them white.


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New Report: It’s Getting Hot Out There

Every year the Endangered Species Coalition creates a report that focuses on 10 species facing extinction that are currently listed or being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

This year’s report, It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top Ten Places to Save for Endangered Species, focuses on critical habitats that support endangered species and are themselves threatened by climate change. Shallow water coral reefs and Arctic sea ice, two important habitats that Oceana works hard to protect, were selected as two of the top 10 most important habitats to protect.

Oceana nominated shallow water coral reefs as a habitat that is important to save from the threats caused by human-produced carbon dioxide emissions: climate change and ocean acidification.


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Guest Post: In the Eyes of the Polar Bear

Image courtesy Emily Goldstein.

Editor’s note: Guest blogger Emily Goldstein was a finalist in Oceana’s first annual Ocean Heroes contest in 2009 for her work to convince thousands of people and dozens of large companies to reduce their energy use, saving 16 million pounds of CO2.

Polar bears stand for everything that is wild and free, ruling over the Arctic as the creature we all associate with the North Pole. They are the apex predators in the Arctic, admired for their power and majesty. But the polar bear has recently become well-known for another, more deadly reason: they have become victims of climate change. Their world of ice is melting away, threatening their very existence.

In November I traveled to a remote town in northern Canada to talk with scientists about the polar bear’s perilous situation. Churchill is a village near the Hudson Bay, where ice first begins to form each year. This was my third visit there, but each time I go I feel even more privileged to be able to experience the world of the bears. The first time I looked into the eyes of a polar bear, I knew that I had to do something to save these amazing creatures from extinction. 


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Oceans in the Spotlight at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun this week.

This weekend at COP16 started off with style (or perhaps lack thereof) at the NGO party at Señor Frog’s – an infamous nightclub catering to 20-something American spring-breakers in Cancun. The NGO party is a great event that lets the climate community put on their party clothes and let off a little steam - before heading into the second very grueling week of negotiations.

Saturday was Oceans Day, an all-day event that focused on the issues facing the oceans due to increasing carbon dioxide levels. On the agenda this year were ocean acidification (a panel including myself, Carol Turley and Tony Haymet), blue carbon and coastal adaptation.


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Days 3-5 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, center, sits on a panel at COP16.

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Last week I decided to take a break from the negotiations and attend a workshop by Google where they released their new technology platform Google Earth Engine.

This is a very exciting development that could be incredibly useful to scientists, NGOs and the general community in monitoring and measuring changes in earth systems. This platform will have reams and reams of satellite imagery data than can then be analyzed with various tools, including statistical and modeling programs. Computations will be done in the “cloud” so that work that would have previously taken many hours to days or even years can be done over very short time periods.


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Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories

As the first week of the sixteenth meeting of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) draws to a close, Oceana is releasing a new report on climate change's evil twin: ocean acidification.

Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories details new findings for many different species of marine life that will be affected by a more acidic ocean.  Coral reef ecosystems will be some of the first casualties of an acidified ocean; impacts to these beautiful and important habitats could have huge consequences for a quarter of the entire biological diversity of the oceans that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter.

Marine life ranging from the smallest plankton to the largest whale may be affected by ocean acidification. Shellfish such as sea urchins, lobsters, sea stars and brittle stars are some prime examples of creatures that could be affected. More acidic oceans are expected to lead to a shortage of carbonate, a key building block that these animals need to build their shells and skeletons.


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Ted Danson: A Return to Common Sense for Our Coasts

The eastern Gulf of Mexico, near St. Petersburg, FL. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Ted Danson is a member of Oceana's board of directors, and has been active in the fight against offshore drilling for decades. This guest post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

I haven't heard news this good in a long time. The Obama administration's announcement to protect the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and both U.S. coasts from offshore drilling as part of the next five-year plan is a massive win for our oceans and every living thing that relies on them.

What's more, the administration said it would reconsider Shell's proposal to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, a sign that the president's commitment to science and preparedness were not just lip service.

The decision is a reversal of the plans President Obama announced in March -- before the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history began staining the Gulf of Mexico black.


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Day 2 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Even at this early stage in the negotiations, countries are proving unwilling to come to the table on some issues. Day two saw Japan announce that it will not, under any circumstances, inscribe targets in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Japan is committed to killing the Kyoto protocol, which is kind of ironic since it was born in Japan.

Also on the agenda for day two was a discussion on whether the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) should undertake a review of the impacts of a 1.5oC temperature rise. This would bring forward the latest science and help to inform negotiations as to the real and immediate threats facing many nations from a less than 2 oC increase in temperatures.


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Oceana Arrives at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun for the next few weeks.

Here we are again at the international climate change negotiations, this time in Cancun, Mexico. The weather is nice, but it is yet to be seen if the negotiations will be equally sunny. This is the 16th conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and we had hoped that by now the international community would be a bit further along at coming to a binding agreement.

Despite the lack of optimism around a meaningful agreement coming out of this meeting, positive steps can (and should) be made to move the process along, hopefully allowing for an agreement to be made next year in South Africa. This meeting has the potential to provide a clear path forward that can lead to a legally binding agreement, one that will require countries to meet their pledges and truly reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.


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Belize's Reef Fails Health Class

Last week in Belize, reef scientists, conservationists and managers gathered at the Belize Reef Summit to discuss the impacts of increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.

Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The 2010 Belize Reef Report Card, which was released at the meeting, reveals that 60% of this protected reef is in poor to critical condition with only 8% considered in good condition. This staggering statistic is unfortunately the case for many coral reefs worldwide.  

On the final day of the summit, hundreds of Belizeans and international supporters gathered on an island on the Barrier Reef off of Belize City to create a living work of art to raise awareness about the effect of climate change on the oceans. This striking photograph was a call for world leaders to take strong action against climate change and ocean acidification at COP 16, the UN Climate Talks in Cancun that begin November 29th.


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