According to experts, only “immediate and substantial” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can hope to prevent “massive” impacts on marine ecosystems.
The international team led by Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, from the Laboratoire d’Oceanographie de Villefranche in France, wrote in the journal Science: “Impacts on key marine and coastal organisms, ecosystems, and services from anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions are already detectable, and several will face high risk of impacts well before 2100, even with the stringent CO2 emissions scenario.
“These impacts are occurring across all latitudes and have become a global concern that spans the traditional north/south divide.”
Scientists have compared the fate of the oceans under two scenarios, one a “business-as-usual” approach and the other involving drastic cuts in emissions.
Their evaluations have showed that “business-as-usual” may have an enormous and “effectively irreversible” impact on ocean ecosystems and the services they provide, such as fisheries, by 2100.
Despite controlling emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) enough to prevent temperatures rising by more than 2 % compared with pre-industrial levels, many marine ecosystems would still suffer, they said.
The findings are intended to inform the forthcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris.
While Arctic fisheries may benefit from warmer temperatures at first, the scientists pointed out that this region was a “hot spot” of ocean acidification. It also contained communities that were highly reliant on the sea.