Key Issues

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Why is the Ocean under threat?

The Ocean is under the most unprecedented threat in human history… and is critical to enabling life to exist on Earth. Yet … the Ocean and the life within it are the least understood components of our planet.
From The Oceans in Crisis – International Program on the State of the Ocean, 2013

Here is an outline of some of the main issues now affecting the Ocean. . This list is just a guide, and is not exhaustive. As the Odyssey events progress, we will add to this Oceans section with stories from the front line as sailors visit some of the most threatened parts of the planet.

Climate Change
Climate scientists attribute climate change to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as CO2 (carbon dioxide), which are causing average temperatures on the planet to rise.

Changing weather
As air and sea temperatures rise, this affects the weather, and more extreme weather events are expected to increase. The effect of warmer oceans on the world’s weather systems are only now beginning to be understood.

Warmer seas
The Ocean has already absorbed more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system by increasing temperatures. Rising temperatures contribute to coral bleaching and damage to reefs. About 20% of the planet’s coral reefs have been lost in the last 20 years and another 35% is in danger. Read about the threats to coral reefs.

Sea Level Rise
Warmer oceans cause sea levels to rise, threatening low-lying coasts and islands.

Melting Ice
As warmer temperatures increase the melting of sea ice and glaciers, this also contributes to rising sea levels. Read about the impact on the Arctic.

Ocean Acidification
The ocean absorbs almost one-third of the CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere, making it increasingly acidic which can harm marine life by making it more difficult for corals and shell fish to build shells. Read about the threats to coral reefs.

Plastic Pollution
We are using increasing amounts of plastic, and much of it ends up in the sea. Marine life mistake colorful plastic fragments for food, or become entangled in it. Plastic eventually breaks down into tiny, microscopic pieces which enters the food chain. Ocean currents transport plastic and other debris thousands of kilometres around the world. Learn more about plastic pollution and what you can do about it