Global climate change threats to surfing habitats
Sustainable Surf works extensively on highlighting threats to surfing habitats which are now growing exponentially due to the impacts of man-made climate change. These include:
1. Sea level rise
Otherwise known as “permanent high tide” at every surf break. Caused by the melting of glaciers, ice sheets, and the thermal expansion of the ocean, sea levels are expected to increase 4-6 feet in the coming century. This will result in the loss and destruction of many surf breaks world-wide, because projected sea level rise happens on a 100-year timescale while the geologic processes that form surf breaks happen on a 1000-year timescale. For example, it is unlikely that San Mateo Creek in Southern California will be able to deposit cobblestones at Trestles fast enough to keep up with sea level rise in the next 100 years.
2. Ocean acidification
Even if you ardently disbelieve that humans are causing global warming, you cannot deny that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing as a direct result of human fossil fuel consumption and forest clearing. The current level of 390 ppm CO2 is about 100 ppm higher than the highest level in the past 35 million years, and the rate of change is 1000 times higher than has ever happened in the geologic history of the Earth. The net result is that oceans are acidifying at an unprecedented rate, which is a problem for any creature that uses calcium carbonate for its skeleton or shell (e.g. coral reefs, shellfish, phytoplankton).
3. Ocean warming
The oceans are the primary heat sink for the planet, and have absorbed roughly 90% of the recent heating of the Earth. This has the most significant effect on coral reefs, which have a very narrow temperature window of survival. If you have seen photos of bleached corals, this is what happens when water warms beyond the safe temperature window. When ocean warming is combined with ocean acidification, marine pollution, and overfishing, scientists now expect 90% of all coral reef ecosystems to be threatened with extinction by the year 2030. Other impacts from ocean warming are sea level rise (although glacial melting will be the dominate cause), and ocean stratification.
Climate Change Report
Surfers Against Sewage’s Climate Change Report examines the possible impacts a changing climate could have on our waves, oceans and beaches, and those that use them for recreation. The report analyses recent scientific evidence on climate change relating to water quality, predicted sea level rises, coastal erosion, storm tracks, water temperature and ocean acidification. It also looks at the emergence of the marine renewables sector as one of the solutions to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our oceans. It’s vital that world leaders understand that urgent action is needed in their term to offset the worst impacts.Andy Cummins, Campaign Director, Surfers Against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage is also a committed member of the Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the environment & world’s poorest communities. The Climate Coalition’s combined supporter base reaches more than 11 million people over 100 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women’s groups.
United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP21
The Global Wave Conference is being organised at a time when the protection of our oceans is at the top of political, news and public agenda. It falls during a key timeframe for protecting our beaches and coastline through the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), and from an international perspective, the conference will also take place shortly before the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
The UN Conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. In the run up to the Global Wave Conference, we will be engaging the world’s surfers and water sports enthusiasts with the critical threat that climate change poses to the coastal zones, reefs and surf habitats.