Global warming has been in the news for decades as its devastating effects can be seen in action through nature’s fury. Scientists from several organisations like the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) have been studying the intensity of climate change and its impact on the world.
Goa as a coastal state, well-known as a tourist destination all over the world, has already been affected by climate change. The next few decades spell an even greater disaster for the state with most of its coastline in danger of coming under sea level.
Here are the responses of NIO to the queries of Gomantak Times on this significant issue.
1) How could the coastal state of Goa be affected by climate change and global warming?
Global warming and climate change can have devastating effects on the environment as well as the socio-economics of a nation. For instance, one of the major impacts will be that of sea level rise, which, for a state like Goa, can lead to the inundation of its coastal zones, apart from more severe weather conditions. This will have a major impact on tourism, on which the state depends as one of its sources of livelihood. Uneven weather patterns will also impact the flowering and fruiting of various seasonal crops and impact the yield of the crop.
2) How is marine life affected by climate change? Are fish deaths related to climate change?
Dissolved oxygen is the most important parameter required for all marine life. In the seasonally hypoxic coastal zone, climate change has the potential to impact fish production. Oceanic pH is one of the most important environmental factors controlling the distribution, physiology, morphology and behaviour of calcifying organisms. Ocean acidification and warming can adversely affect the health of coral reefs.
There are examples of fish deaths related to the warming of the water body and also to the complete loss of dissolved oxygen from the water body. Such fish deaths are generally reported in an enclosed body of water. The fish kills that are generally reported on the shores of Goa are due to the beaching of the fish as they get caught in the seasonal hypoxic waters (usually Sept-Oct time), which is a natural phenomenon.
3) How will climate change have an impact on the flora and fauna?
Uptake of CO2 released to the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities results in ocean acidification, which will have negative effects on calcification, metabolism, fertility, survival and growth of organisms. Eutrophication stimulates plant/algal growth in both freshwater and coastal marine systems.
A combination of slower ventilation and greater oxygen demand in subsurface waters is resulting in an expansion of OMZs in the open ocean and the appearance of hundreds of hypoxic sites in coastal areas. These changes in aquatic biogeochemistry and ecosystems are expected to profoundly impact water quality and living resources (biodiversity and fisheries) besides providing feedback to global change.
4) What are the major threats of climate change?
Warming, melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns like drought and flooding, extreme events, hurricanes, cyclones, forest fires, etc. are the major threats of climate change.
Particularly, aquatic ecosystems face acidification, eutrophication and deoxygenation of water both on land and in the sea. The emission of CO2 to the atmosphere not only changes the Earth’s radiation balance but also causes a decrease in the pH of water. The release of macro-nutrients, especially nitrogen, to the environment through human activities such as agriculture, land runoff and waste discharge results in eutrophication in the aquatic ecosystem.
Deoxygenation of subsurface waters is one of the major threats faced today by oceanic as well as terrestrial ecosystems due to human activities. Several recent studies have shown the ongoing expansion of oceanic oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) and the appearance of hundreds of hypoxic sites in coastal seas. Surface deoxygenation and expansion of OMZs can lead to habitat compression and, ultimately, loss of valuable marine life.
5) Can we solely blame humans for global warming and climate change?
Mostly humans are to be blamed for climate change, but natural factors do contribute to global warming to some extent. The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) is a natural phenomenon that occurred and was a time of warm climate in Europe.
Natural factors like volcanic eruptions and forest fires do contribute to global warming. However, human activities like the combustion of fossil fuel, coal-burning of power plants, depletion of forest cover, etc have contributed to major climate change.
6) Is there anything we could do to reverse climate change and global warming?
Yes, climate change and global warming can be tackled. This will, however, have to be a two-pronged process. On one side, we can slow down the emission rate of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. For this, we will have to move to a green energy source or a renewable energy source.
Examples of green energy sources are solar and wind energy. And to stabilize the effect of global warming/climate change, we will have to go with mitigation measures to remove the excess greenhouse gases that have been emitted into the atmosphere by the use of fossil fuels.
7) Are there examples of extinction or endangerment of certain species of animals, birds and plants due to global warming?
Yes. There are examples of species known to have gone extinct due to global warming. For example, the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a mammal from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Similarly, many species of animals and birds are now on the endangered list due to the future possible loss of their habitats.
8) Can you give us a compilation of research done by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) on global warming?
CSIR-NIO has been working on several aspects of global warming/climate change and its impacts on the Indian Ocean. NIO’s studies mainly address issues related to Indian Ocean warming, changes in sea level, marine primary productivity, community shifts, oxygen minimum zone, ocean acidification and its impacts. CSIR-NIO has carried out several projects during the last three decades to monitor and study the impact of climate change on the biogeochemistry and ecology of the north Indian Ocean.
Under the Land Ocean Interaction in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) project, CSIR-NIO carried out studies along the west coast of India and reported on the seasonal hypoxic zone that exists there. In 1997, it initiated the first coastal time-series observatory called the Candolim Time Series (CaTS). This time series was continued later under various projects.
Biogeochemical and ecosystem responses to global climate change and anthropogenic perturbations and transfers across interfaces in the North Indian Ocean.SIBER-INDIA project on “Time series observations in the northern Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal) to monitor the effects of global change on biogeochemical cycling and ecology”. This project helped to establish the first open ocean time-series stations in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
“Indian Aquatic Ecosystems: Impact of Deoxygenation, Eutrophication and Acidification (INDIAS IDEA)”. This project extended the time-series station to a time-series transect.
CSIR funded “Impact of climate change on the physics, biogeochemistry, and the ecology of the north Indian Ocean (ClicNIO)”.
CSIR-NIO now maintains the longest coastal observatory, CaTS, in India. CSIR-NIO is in the process of publishing the results of the two-and-a-half decades of time series data on warming and ocean deoxygenation for the coastal Arabian Sea. It has also been maintaining the open ocean time series transect in the Arabian Sea since 2013.
The main objectives of this programme are to study the long-term changes in the system on ocean deoxygenation, acidification and eutrophication and its impact on the ecology of the region. The main findings and the related scientific papers are publicly available for anyone on the following link. https://www.researchgate.net/project/Impact-of-Climate-Change-on-the-Physics-Biogeochemistry-and-the-Ecology-of-the-North-Indian-Ocean