The increase in global temperature is now believed to be almost entirely due to human consumption habits. In particular, our growing use of fossil fuels is adding record levels of carbon to our atmosphere, and to our oceans.
Sixty years ago, we were near the historical high concentration (290ppm) for Earth while modern Homo sapiens has existed. In just the past fifty years, we have rocketed the CO2 level upward, and we are now roughly 38% above the historical high concentrations. Such a large change, in such a short timeframe (and for an entire planet!) is extraordinary.
The impact in our atmosphere is being absorbed by our oceans, which are a huge sink for CO2 and heat. This ‘sink-absorption’ process buffers the atmospheric impacts, and creates time lags, so the impacts become delayed by years.
These buffering delays obscure the real impacts and feed political paralysis and inaction, which only intensifies the difficulty of later actions.
One end-result of ocean warming and acidification is death of corals. This series of four photographs shows the destruction of a single coral colony. Heat caused bleaching during the summer of 2005, and by late 2006, disease had killed the colony. Coral and other marine species are critical, as they support the entire ocean ecosystem.