Climate scientists raise alarm over ocean warming

A NEW report by the Climate Council on ocean warming has been released, warning that Australian ocean’s are in crisis as “extreme heat punishes marine life and raises the spectre of irreversible changes with profound consequences for all life on our planet”.

The Climate Council’s Code Blue: Oceans in Crisis report reveals the immense amount of climate-change induced heat currently being absorbed by the world’s oceans is equivalent to boiling the Sydney Harbour every eight minutes.

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Key findings include that the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled since the mid 1990s and that global sea levels have risen 20cm since the start of the 20th century, with the rate of rise accelerating.

In addition, the Climate Council ran a highly targeted survey of 30 leading ocean scientists across five continents.

All (100 percent) were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about climate-driven changes to the world’s oceans.

Half (53 percent) said these changes were outpacing scientific predictions.

Overwhelmingly, these scientists agreed ‘rapidly phasing out fossil fuels’ is the single most important action governments could take to address ocean warming.

Report author and the Climate Council’s Research Director Dr Simon Bradshaw said, “The science can’t be any clearer: our oceans are in deep trouble.

“Today the ocean is absorbing excess heat energy that’s equivalent to five Hiroshima bomb explosions every second, or enough to boil Sydney Harbour every eight minutes.

“As our climate changes, driven by rampant burning of coal, oil and gas, our seas are transforming before our eyes.

“More frequent and severe marine heatwaves are pushing coral reefs to the brink, ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate, ocean currents are slowing and seas are rising.

“The climate crisis is also an ocean crisis.

“In hospital emergency rooms, a code blue is called when a very serious life-threatening event is underway.

“We are calling a code blue for our oceans today, because this threatens all the species that inhabit them, the people who depend on them, as well as all life on land.

“Over the past few decades as the climate has warmed, the oceans have done an incredible job of protecting us by absorbing CO2 and an immense amount of heat, but there’s a limit to what they can take and we are close to crossing dangerous tipping points.

“We must scale up the use of clean energy like solar and wind, backed by storage, as quickly as we can so the use of coal, oil and gas is phased out.

“Every step that cuts pollution will help secure our future.”

Ocean scientist Professor Gretta Pecl, Director for the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania, author of the Australian ocean section of the latest IPCC report and report co-author added, “Make no mistake, ocean scientists around the world are growing increasingly concerned about rapid and intensifying changes to our oceans.

“While much of the worry for the brutal summer ahead is quite rightly about the impact on our iconic Great Barrier Reef, the scientific community is also extremely concerned about the Great Southern Reef.

“With forecasts of unprecedented and ‘off the charts’ marine heat this summer, these critical marine ecosystems face risk of utter devastation.

“We’re observing the transformation of the oceans in real time, as marine species move to survive. In Australia, at least 200 marine species have shifted since 2003, with the vast majority headed south.

“As waters warm further south, many will have nowhere left to go.

“While climate change has already caused extensive change to our oceans – and we’ll continue to see devastating impacts for decades – stronger action by governments to reign in fossil fuels right now can limit future harms and ensure more species and ecosystems are given a fighting chance.

“Scientists agree: the single most important action we can take now is to leave fossil fuels in the polluting past – and it has to happen this decade.”

The Code Blue report also raises concerns for the future of surfing, claiming sea level rise and changing wind and swell patterns threaten to undermine treasured surf spots around the country, disrupting one of Australia’s most iconic pastimes.

Pro-surfer Adrian ‘Ace’ Buchan, Surfing Australia Deputy Chairman, has joined the Climate Council’s call to declare a Code Blue emergency, adding, “Surfers have a deep and spiritual connection to the ocean and we are deeply concerned about the devastating impact the climate crisis is having on our big blue playground.

“Erosion is threatening our most iconic surfing spots.

“Our water is being polluted from flood runoff and dangerous jellyfish moving south. Loss of coral reefs and impacts on sandbars, is not just altering where and how waves break, but is also having devastating impacts on marine life.

“This is all terrible news for the millions of ocean loving Aussies – every one of whom should be concerned and take note.

“This is a call to action: we must work to draw attention to the ocean’s plight and push for decisive and rapid climate action now.”

To read the full report, visit

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