In his book Pale Blue Dot, legendary scientist Carl Sagan talked about humans’ responsibility to “preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” Sagan’s description of Earth is nothing short of inspirational, but if scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are correct in their findings, the dot won’t be pale blue much longer.
The researchers found that climate change is significantly impacting phytoplankton—microscopic algae at the bottom of the aquatic food chain. While water molecules in the ocean don’t absorb the blue spectrum of sunlight—reflecting it back and creating the appearance of a blue ocean instead—phytoplankton reflect green light, endowing phytoplankton-heavy areas with greener hues than other regions.
#photooftheday: Our ocean’s colors are changing. As temperatures continue to warm, oceans will turn deeper shades of blue and green. In warmer climates, that'll mean bluer waters as algae populations fall. Near the poles, algae blooms will turn waters deeper shades of green. pic.twitter.com/DPmck7WujH
— Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) February 6, 2019
As phytoplankton migrate to compensate for higher ocean acidity and temperature variance, the colors of Earth from space will likely see huge shifts as well.
People are lamenting this latest evidence of human activity’s impact on Earth’s appearance.
I'll miss you… blue.
— Richard Klein (@RichTKlein) February 6, 2019
This sums up my feelings… pic.twitter.com/ndsA6PjzPD
— Any Democratic Candidate 2020 (@AppleCiderRadio) February 6, 2019
There goes the little blue planet 🥵😱😭
— Alison Sykora (@albachick) February 6, 2019
The insidious effects of climate change have long been public knowledge and climate change continues to be one of the most urgent political issues facing countries all over the world.
The effects of a changing ocean could prove to be even more damaging than a change in visual appearance.
Because phytoplankton are at the bottom of the marine food chain, a drastic shift in phytoplankton populations would offset the aquatic ecosystem from zooplankton to Great White Sharks.
When you impact the ecosystem such as changing how phytoplankton absorb sunlight the effects it ends up having a domino effect across the entire food chain over time.
— kevin (@kevin92313809) February 6, 2019
Ummm i think your headline should be "Climate change could mean collapsed ecosystems as heat kills phytoplankton" @radionz don't you?! Honestly who gives a flying feck about the blueness – these things are the foundation of the ENTIRE FOOD CHAIN https://t.co/gZCAWi0Pn1
— Isabella Cawthorn (@fixiebelle) February 4, 2019
attention should be given to the effects on the unprecedented extinction rates of many key species in the food chain. A degree or two drop or rise in sea temperatures could have a devastating effect on global food supplies due to the importance of phytoplankton in the food chain.
— ghengis888 (@ghengis888) January 30, 2019
— Dr Richard Kirby (@PlanktonPundit) January 17, 2019
From appearance to functionality, climate change poses an existential threat to Earth.
Something must be done soon.