This article originally appeared on Greenpeace Argentina’s website.

Oceans are crucial to keep the planet alive. Not only are they the source of food and work for millions of people but they also are essential to weather control, and without them, life on this planet would be impossible. 

A whale shark in Cenderawasih Bay National Park. Greenpeace is in Indonesia to document one of the world’s most biodiverse – and threatened – environments and to call for urgent action to ensure that the country’s oceans and forests are protected. © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

The climate crisis we are currently undergoing is also a crisis of the oceans. Given the important role that oceans play in climate control, water cycle, and carbon capture, we can observe the consequences of this crisis in fires, droughts, floods and beyond. The climate impacts of human exploitation of the sea is ongoing and, in many cases, irreversible. Healthy oceans play a vital role in mitigating the consequences of the climate breakdown, but overfishing, gas and oil exploration, and plastic pollution are causing huge exhaustion to our oceans, affecting their ability to cope and deal with climate change. 

Starfish in the Seychelles. © Tommy Trenchard / Greenpeace
A starfish lies on a granite boulder off Mahe, Seychelles. © Tommy Trenchard / Greenpeace

Oceans represent 70% of the planet and international waters comprise 43% of the planet’s surface but only an alarming one percent of international waters are protected. Almost half of the planet is now in danger as a consequence of the constant threat of human activity and the lack of protection mechanisms.

Bottlenose Dolphins on Koombana Bay. © Greenpeace / Lewis Burnett
A pair of young Bottlenose Dolphins race past in a playful chase of each other on a summer day in Koombana Bay, Western Australia. © Greenpeace / Lewis Burnett

Did you know these 10 facts about the oceans and the climate?

1. Oceans absorb 90% of the climate system’s excess heat.

2. Without oceans, earth’s temperature would have risen 36 °C (96.8 °F).

3. Climate change is altering the ocean currents. In the Argentine Sea, for example, this means the reach of the Brazil warm current is expanding to the south.

5. Oceans contribute annually between 50% and 80% of oxygen to the atmosphere.

6. Prochlorococcus, a very small cyanobacteria that is part of the marine phytoplankton, is responsible for producing more oxygen than all tropical forests in the world.

7. Oceans absorb almost one third of the methane and CO2 emissions to the atmosphere (10 gigatons of carbon) 30 times faster than tropical forests.

8. Human activities, such as overfishing, plastic pollution, and offshore gas and oil extraction, affect the ocean’s ability to fulfill the functions that help cope and deal with climate change. 

Fish on Purse Seiner in East Pacific Ocean. © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace
A net bulging with tuna and bycatch on the Ecuadorean purse seiner ‘Ocean Lady’, which was spotted by Greenpeace in the vicinity of the northern Galapagos Islands while using fishing aggregating devices (FADs).

9. Unless adaptation measures to protect the oceans are improved, annual damages caused by floods will increase by an order of magnitude of two to three by the end of the century in comparison to the present day.

10. It is anticipated that the El Niño extreme events will occur approximately twice as many times as in the 21st century.

Walruses on ice floe at Kvitøya in Svalbard © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
Aerial view over two walruses on an ice floe in front of Kvitøya (White Island) in the Svalbard Archipelago. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

So what can we do to preserve our oceans?

1. Protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 through the creation of a Global Ocean Treaty.

2. Prohibit any type of commercial whale hunting around the world.

3. Stop ocean contamination.

4. Fight illegal, unregulated, and undeclared fishing, among other demands.

5. Abandon and forbid fossil-fuel extraction from the seabed.

A protester holds a banner that read: "Choose Oceans, Not Oil."© Gabriel Bulacio / Greenpeace
According to a study by the National University of the Center of the Province of Buenos Aires, there is a 100% probability that oil spills will occur in Argentine offshore projects. © Gabriel Bulacio / Greenpeace

What’s next?

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is in the Argentine Sea right now, investigating vulnerable marine ecosystems. Greenpeace Argentina also demands the full human right to a stable climate as well as the suspension of oil exploration projects due to the severe consequences they will have on the ocean, the biodiversity, and the climate. 

We must stop the expanding industrialisation of our global commons. Nearly five million people from across the planet have signed a petition urging world leaders to create a strong Global Ocean Treaty. Join them by signing too.

MY Arctic Sunrise during Argentine Sea Ship Tour. © Esteban Medina San Martin / Greenpeace
MY Arctic Sunrise during Argentine Sea Ship Tour. © Esteban Medina San Martin / Greenpeace

Laura Colombo is Digital Engagement Coordinator with Greenpeace Argentina.