This website was not designed for Internet Explorer 7.0 or below. Please consider upgrading your browser to one of the following:
Mozilla Firefox | Internet Explorer | Google Chrome | Apple Safari
URI Logo Academic Roadmap® CCRI Logo
University of Rhode Island — Marine Affairs
(Select a different program)

Global Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing today's societies, with many difficulties arising from its implications along the coasts and in our oceans. Much of the Earth's human population is concentrated in coastal areas and is at risk from rising sea levels. Additionally, many climate models show an increase in severe tropical storms, which puts coastal development and infrastructure in danger from wind and storm surge damage. Changing rainfall patterns may cause torrential rains in some areas and drought in others. Both extremes could disrupt coastal ecosystems. Climate change is also a threat to wildlife around the world, from polar bears to coral reefs. The acidity of the oceans is increasing as a result of the excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, which has implications for coral, lobsters, clams, oysters, and other fisheries. The polar icecaps are melting, limiting habitat for ice-bound creatures such as polar bears, and causing the polar oceans to absorb more sunlight rather than reflect it off of the icecaps. Land-based glaciers, most notably in Greenland, are melting. This contributes to the rise in sea level and changes in the ocean conveyor belt, which is closely tied to global weather patterns. Because climate change cannot be stopped abruptly even if we greatly reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, coastal managers need to include adaptation as a response to future climate change.

Although you may not notice its effects from one day to the next, the vast majority of the scientific community has reached consensus that we are irreversibly altering the composition of the Earth's atmosphere and in doing so have triggered a shift in the planet's climate. The implications of this shift sound like a series of disaster movies:

  • increase in tropical storm intensities,
  • rising sea level,
  • ocean acidification,
  • extinctions, and
  • much more...

Marine analysts are central to the study of the history of climate change and the potential impact of climate change on the Earth.

Check out some of the following links to more about this critical issue.