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The Global Ocean Crisis

According to a recent report released by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) our global ocean is on the brink of catastrophe. If you're reading this and thinking that's really too bad but it doesn't affect me just stop a moment and take a breath. That breath just came from the sea.

Just like the climate, the ocean is one of the key operating systems of our planet. It creates more than half our oxygen, drives weather systems, modulates the atmosphere and is a vital nutritional resource. The IPSO report states that the changes affecting the world's ocean - all of which have been warned about in the past - are happening much faster than the worst case scenarios that were predicted just a few years ago. "Things seem to be going wrong on several different levels," said Carl Lundin, Director of Global Marine Programs at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a contributor to the report.

The combination of multiple problems suggests a worldwide die-off of species is brewing. The report predicts it could rival past mass extinctions, like the KT Extinction that gave the dinosaurs their swan song. (Interestingly, honeybees survived that particular evolutionary challenge.) Today, the chief causes for extinctions in the ocean are still over fishing and habitat loss. But global warming is adding a new environmental twist the report states.

Carbon dioxide from burning of coal and other fossil fuels end up sinking in the ocean which then becomes more acidic. Add to that the melting sea ice and glaciers and the dead zones from crop chemical run-off, and you've got an oceanic crisis in the making. Then add the chemicals and plastics that industry and consumers use every day which often end up in our waterways. As a result, the report states, the world's ocean can no longer recover as quickly from unexpected problems such as oil spills.

On the brighter side. the report does give suggestions on how some of the damage can be reversed. It's no big surprise the first, and perhaps most important suggestion is that we change our behaviour. Making a conscious choice about the products we use, about the politicians we vote for and about the food we purchase can make a real difference. In fact, our breath depends on it.