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Common Dreams - January 11, 2022

"This finding really underscores the urgency of acting on climate now."

New research out Tuesday shows that the world's oceans last year were hotter than they've ever been in recorded history—part of a long-term warming trend driven primarily by planet-wrecking fossil fuel emissions.

According to an annual study published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, the past five years have been the five hottest for Earth's oceans since measurements began in the late 1950s.

Since the late 1980s, oceans have been warming eight times faster than they did during the preceding decades, and 2021 marked the third consecutive year in which the previous record for annual energy absorption was shattered. These trends, the paper makes clear, are due to "an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."

"We want to stress that global warming is actually ocean warming, and ocean warming has serious consequences," Lijing Cheng, a lead author of the report and professor of environmental science at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told CNN. "Ocean warming keeps breaking records, which is a reminder that the world needs action to combat climate change."

The research on rising ocean heat content comes one day after the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service published an assessment showing that the past seven years have been the hottest in recorded history.

Like rising global surface air temperatures, the ongoing ocean warming pattern is caused by carbon dioxide and methane emissions, researchers say. Greenhouse gas pollution has surged over the past two centuries due largely to fossil fuel-powered capitalism and its insatiable profit motive.

As excess heat is trapped in the planet's atmosphere, oceans absorb 90% of it, leading to a sharp increase in ocean heat content, the paper explains.

"The impacts are perhaps subtle but profound," Kevin Trenberth, a co-author of the new ocean report and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, told CNN. "To stop this [trend], we really need to get to net-zero [emissions], and many countries have plans but not enough actions to support those."

Before and during the recent COP26 climate summit, many governments pledged to reduce planet-heating pollution in the coming years, but new data showing a steady increase in greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric concentrations reveals that empty promises won't be enough to avert the climate emergency's most catastrophic consequences. ...
Read full report at Common Dreams