SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - San Diego is envied for its spectacular and beautiful coastline. Now scientists are concerned by the human impact on ocean systems, not only here, but worldwide. One local researcher reveals how our daily lives influence the ocean, marine life and ultimately our ability to make a living.
The ocean and the communities that depend on it for survival could drastically change in the next 87 years, according to a new study examining impacts on ecosystems worldwide. Co-author Dr. Lisa Levin from Scripps Institution of Oceanography explains.
"We found not surprisingly the ocean will be warming, O2 declining, pH declining and productivity declining," Levin said. "We found over half a billion people, those living in the poorest countries and those depending on ocean for food, job revenue will be most affected by these climate changes."
According to the study, all of these things happening together at the same time means there will be noticeable impacts on developing countries with a domino effect across the globe -- including coastal cities like San Diego -- by the year 2100.
"The pH of our water is going down without question. It can affect shell fisheries like our mussel culture… so undoubtedly changes we'd feel here in San Diego," Levin said.
Some might say the words "climate change" are overused and vague. Levin says it's a matter of fact, not a debatable topic, that it's happening now. Her study, in conjunction with the Norwegian Research Council, offers this data.
"It's happening, it's already happening. We don't have to wait until 2100 to see it. The oxygen in our coastal waters here at 300 meters water depth has already declined 20 to 30 percent in the last 20 to 25 years," Levin said. "We do have a lot of beautiful and important habitats, and we do know that the oxygen and pH in our coastal waters are declining."
Her study shows that some 470 million to 870 million of the world's poorest populations rely on the ocean for food and jobs. Biochemical changes, like reduced oxygen, means some of the ocean's inhabitants risk dying unless they find a new home. For those communities dependent on tourism, a lack of marine life could mean the end of business.
"There are many people we don't see and know out there who depend on those fish for food on their table every single day and those really large numbers of people are the ones to be affected first," Levin said.