A new study by Princeton University researchers projects a significant decline in the world’s marine biodiversity over the next few centuries if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. This decline could mirror levels not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs.
“Aggressive and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are critical for avoiding a major mass extinction of ocean species,” said senior author Curtis Deutsch, professor of geosciences and the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton.
The researchers combined existing physiological data on marine species with models of climate change to predict how changes in habitat conditions will affect the survival of sea animals around the globe over the next few centuries.
The study found, however, that reversing greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the risk of extinction by more than 70%.
“The silver lining is that the future isn’t written in stone,” said first author Justin Penn, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Geosciences. “The extinction magnitude that we found depends strongly on how much carbon dioxide [CO2] we emit moving forward. There’s still enough time to change the trajectory of CO2 emissions and prevent the magnitude of warming that would cause this mass extinction.”