Typhoon Haiyan – a symptom of oceans in crisis

Typhoon Haiyan from BBC

The devastating Typhoon Haiyan that’s killed thousands and brought untold destruction to the Philippines is probably the most severe storm in centuries.

We should all dig deep and contribute to the Disaster Emergency Committee which is co-ordinating the British response. £25 will feed a family for a week.

But is Typhoon Haiyan a taste of things to come? A recent report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean neatly summarises the critical condition of the seas.

This quote from the international boffins, communications experts and political leaders neatly sums up the problem:

“The Ocean has already absorbed more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system and around 33% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans. Ecosystems are collapsing as species are pushed to extinction and natural habitats are destroyed. Scientists believe that there is still time to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to our marine ecosystems but that this requires drastic action within a decade.”

The recent UN climate change report set out how the oceans are affected by climate change. Us humans are piling more pressure on it by sucking out the fish (especially the ones at the top of the food chain, thereby messing up the delicate balance of nature), polluting it and mining it for oil, gas and other precious minerals.

But one of the reasons that Typhoon Haiyan was so fierce was that it was fuelled by warmer than normal seas. The long term trend is for the oceans to be getting warmer so northern hemisphere hurricanes and southern hemisphere cyclones will be getting  fiercer and fiercer.

At the moment, the corporations and governments that run the world seem unwilling to take climate change or ocean degradation seriously. Sadly, we had better get used to more Typhoon Haiyans and Hurricane Sandys, until the financial damages and (maybe) even human deaths persuade them to act.


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