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Scientists: Current Behaviors Could Lead to Mass Extinction of Sea Life

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Scientists suggest our habits are leading to mass extinction of sea life and that it could be our last chance to curb those behaviors.

"We're going to see these impacts locally without a doubt. If we reach that 1.9 degree centigrade level, we will see the virtual extinction of all the corals in our oceans," said J.P. Brooker, Director of Florida Conservation at Ocean Conservancy.

Scientists are comparing the current state of global warming to the age of dinosaurs over 60 million years ago and say overlooking greenhouse gas emissions could be detrimental.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we're currently looking at the prospect of a nearly two degree Centigrade - or Celsius - increase in temperature. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could cut extinction risks by more than half.

"1.5, you still leave room for adaptation. At 1.9 degrees, we're going to see changes that we might not be able to rebound from," said Brooker.

Limiting global warming to this would require rapid transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Scientists predict that the likelihood of an arctic ocean free of sea ice in summer could reach at least once per decade with current behaviors toward global warming. This means coral reefs would decline by more than 99%.

"The Gulf of Mexico is 3 degrees warmer on average. That warm water is like pouring gasoline on harmful algal blooms," said Brooker. Florida is no exception. "Animals like manatees will be impacted as sea grass continues to die off. Harmful algal blooms like red tide are made worse by warming water. We're going to see coral systems die off because of inability to adapts. We're going to see our fishery resources, which are super important to Florida, move and change and migrate."

Individual action to remove carbon is needed but policy changes are vital. One way we can help is by is protecting sea grass which pulls carbon from the atmosphere and keeps it locked in.

"The same goes for mangroves or other coastal foliage," said Brooker.

For more from the IPCC on this, click here.

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