Doubling Down

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Doubling Down
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By Jenny Seifert, UC Santa Barbara

Over the recent decade, total human impacts to the world’s oceans have, on average, nearly doubled and could double again in the next decade without adequate action. That’s according to a new study by researchers from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study assessed for the first time where the combined impacts that humans are having on oceans — from nutrient pollution to overfishing — are changing and how quickly. In nearly 60% of the ocean, the cumulative impacts are increasing significantly and, in many places, at a pace that appears to be accelerating.

“That creates even more urgency to solve these problems,” said lead author Ben Halpern, director of NCEAS and a professor at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. 

Photo: Ben Halpern (Photo Credit: Matt Perko)

Climate change is a key factor driving the increase across the world, as seas warm, acidify and rise. On top of that, commercial fishing, runoff from land-based pollution and shipping are intensifying progressively each year in many areas of the ocean.

“It’s a multifactor problem that we need to solve. We can’t just fix one thing if we want to slow and eventually stop the rate of increase in cumulative impacts,” said Halpern.

The study also projected the impacts one decade into the future, based on the rate of change in the recent past, finding that they could double again if the pace of change continues unchecked.

The assessment provides a holistic perspective of where and how much human activities shape ocean change — for better or worse — which is essential to policy and planning.

“If you don’t pay attention to the big picture, you miss the actual story,” said Halpern. “The bigger picture is critical if you want to make smart management decisions — where are you going to get your biggest bang for your buck.”

Regions of particular concern include Australia, Western Africa, the Eastern Caribbean islands and the Middle East, among others. Coastal habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses are among the hardest-hit ecosystems.

There is an upside to the story, however. The authors did find “success stories” around every continent, areas where impacts have declined, such as the seas of South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom and Denmark, all of which have seen significant decreases in commercial fishing and pollution.

These declines suggest that policies and other actions to improve ocean conditions are making a difference — although, the analysis does not attribute specific actions to those declines.

“We can improve things. The solutions are known and within our grasp. We just need the social and political will to take action,” said Halpern.

To assess the pace of change, the authors leveraged two previous and similar assessments conducted by several of the same team members and others in 2008 and 2013, which provided first glimpses into the full, cumulative extent of humanity’s impacts on oceans.

“Previously, we had a good measure of the magnitude of human impacts, but not a clear picture of how they are changing,” said co-author Melanie Frazier, a data scientist at NCEAS.

Frazier was surprised to see in the data how dramatically ocean temperatures have increased in a relatively short period of time.

“You don’t need fancy statistics to see how rapidly ocean temperature is changing and understand the magnitude of the problem,” said Frazier. “I think this study, along with many others, highlights the importance of a concerted global effort to control climate change.”

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EastBeach Aug 19, 2019 11:13 PM
Doubling Down

I think most reasonable folks on both sides of the aisle realize to some extent that climate change is being caused by human endeavors. But most conservative politicians are in the hands of the likes of the Koch Brothers. And the Kochs know that as long as we argue, the status quo will benefit them financially, to hell with the planet and future generations. Terry Gross just did an Episode of Fresh Air about the Koch Brothers. It's a fascinating listen .......

a-1590900749 Aug 19, 2019 10:16 AM
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ol, anyone still believe in the "science" of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Science welcomes challenges, critical analysis, and debate to its ideas and theories. Indeed, it requires it. Openness and discussion are not only encouraged, but demanded. Leftist faith does not, as demonstrated here. It seeks to burn the books (in the modern sense) and seeks to silence any criticism to its faith -- especially when it has no logical or substantive answer to its critics and skeptics. Its only reply: "Silence them."

PitMix Aug 19, 2019 04:15 PM
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Still want to know what you get out of being a science denier. Can you imagine 8 billion of any large mammal predator species not having an impact on their environment? Add to that our insatiable appetite for disposable products and packaging and energy and toxic chemicals and you have a perfect storm threatening our world. If 8 billion doesn't seem enough to you, at what number do you think we might have an impact? Salmon dying of heat in Alaska. Seems pretty obvious to me why.

RHS Aug 19, 2019 02:01 PM
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10:16 a.m. Your rambling comments make it hard to know where you come down. Reference to "leftist faith" is cute but without coherence or documentation. But by and large it has been progressives that support free science and the authoritarian conservatives that suppress such inquiry since the days of Socrates through Galileo through Hitler and Stalin.

biguglystick Aug 19, 2019 10:06 AM
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We need to do better. NOW. I cannot understand the people downvoting science comments here. Truly. It's either some teenagers wanting to be funny or it's serious. If it's the latter, we are in bigger trouble than I thought. The current administration is having a disasterous effect on the environment, rolling back decades of work. Just this last week they announced gutting the Endangered Species Act by making it friendlier to industry. Big ag and oil men everywhere cheered. One million species at risk has profound implications for the way in which we interact with the natural world, with serious ripple effects for our food, water, and livelihoods. In another report, this one in the journal Science, found that rollbacks to public lands protections are accelerating in the U.S., nearly all of those rollback proposals (99%) were associated with industrial-scale development projects, including infrastructure construction and oil and gas extraction. We are just going down the toilet... and why? for MONEY. Sad.

buckwheat Aug 19, 2019 08:59 AM
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Last nights segment on 60 minutes regarding plastic pollution in the ocean was very sad. Anyone who denies the science is ignorant!

PitMix Aug 20, 2019 08:46 AM
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It's as bad as bringing up another topic to divert attention from the matter being discussed. What about.......? Common tactic by science deniers.

LCP112233 Aug 19, 2019 11:04 AM
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It's as bad as allowing the vagrants living in creeks. Contaminating our creeks and oceans with their human and other toxic wastes.

LCP112233 Aug 19, 2019 10:55 AM
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Buckwheat. I stayed on a docked yacht many years ago and was checking out the nautical map. I never realized until then, that there are dumping areas mapped out. All those boats out there just dump their trash out in the ocean. I was dumbfounded to find this out. Imagine all the plastic, garbage and human waste being dumped by the numerous boats out there at any given time. The world can start by outlawing dumping in our oceans. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the longer that happens, the worse conditions will get.

RHS Aug 19, 2019 08:29 AM
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The presence of this fact denying trolls on Edhat is pushing my tolerance and willingness to support what I think is a public service. Comments ignoring the science of this paper and blaming the results on alleged political beliefs or something other than honest work are scary. Knee jerk defense of a social view is what leads to the loss of western liberal democracy.

macpuzl Aug 18, 2019 10:55 PM
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Most climate science deniers are strong conservatives. Conservatives are predisposed to be xenophobic, more religious, more repressive of women’s rights, with little concern for fairness or equity, and to hold a pessimistic view of human nature. They are much less open to new experiences of any type, and are much more prone to authoritarianism and to group think. This is the opposite of scientific thought. Strong conservatives are the least capable of thinking critically and rationally about anything that comes into conflict with their ideology. Conservatives correctly recognize that if anthropogenic global warming is true, then governments need to play a leading role in dealing with the issues. Major governments of the world will have to collaborate to solve the problem. That is totally anathema to the "greed is good" free market capitalist belief system. Therefore, anthropogenic global warming cannot be true in their view, and is rationalized as a hoax, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

a-1590900749 Aug 19, 2019 03:01 PM
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MACPUZL. Well-stated. There are a great many people who don't get that we're all in this together. I wonder how we're ever going to save ourselves and our planet with so much ignorance at play.

VinSB Aug 19, 2019 11:19 AM
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This is an accurate generalization, speaking, of course, in general terms.

a-1590900749 Aug 18, 2019 10:51 PM
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"We can improve things . . ." Yes. And let's all hope we can begin to reverse the damage done. It may be too late already, but it never hurts to at least try and undo our selfish, wayward ways.

a-1590900749 Aug 18, 2019 08:43 PM
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Confirmation Bias: The act of referencing only an opinion or evidence that fuels one’s pre-existing view, while dismissing any contrary evidence or opinion—no matter how valid.

macpuzl Aug 18, 2019 10:01 PM
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Exactly. The deniers' stock in trade.

macpuzl Aug 18, 2019 08:21 PM
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Actually, the baloney is in the climate deniers' comments. The facts can be found here, among many other sources:

AdamVant Aug 18, 2019 06:50 PM
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More global warming baloney.

PitMix Aug 19, 2019 09:37 AM
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Great fact-based response to scholarly research! Could you explain what you get out of being a science denier? The feeling of superiority over the climate lemmings? Profits from your fossil fuel stock? Property one street away from the ocean that will become oceanfront soon? Enquiring minds want to know.

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