Ocean Impacts of Climate Change

Ocean Impacts of Climate Change

In this clip from Years of Living Dangerously, actor Joshua Jackson scuba dives along the Great Barrier Reef, an ecosystem at risk due to climate change.


6 - 12+


Anthropology, Geography

Travel to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with Joshua Jackson, and witness the beauty of a fragile reef ecosystem that could be lost if people continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere at current levels.

In a conversation with a University of Queensland marine biologist, Jackson learns how science has only recently connected climate change with ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and the CO2 reacts with seawater, increasing the ocean’s acidity. Higher acidity is harmful to coral and other marine life. Though humans have assumed that our vast ocean is an inexhaustible resource, it appears the ocean’s resilience is reaching its limit.

Fast Fact

Although coral reefs make up less than one percent of the ocean floor, they support 25 percent of all marine species.

Fast Fact

Human activity that adds CO2 to the atmosphere also warms the oceans, which can cause coral bleaching. When the water is too warm, coral releases the algae that give it its color. The coral then turns white and often dies.

Fast Fact

Most coral reefs grow in tropical waters. The largest coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef, one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World,” which extends more than 1,930 kilometers (1,200 miles) off the eastern coast of Australia.

Fast Fact

The continental United States has one barrier reef, the Florida Reef, stretching about 555 kilometers (345 miles) from Palm Beach to beyond Key West. The Florida Reef is important to the local and state economy, generating about $6.3 billion annually in tourism.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Anne Haywood, Mountain to Sea Education
Terrell Smith
Lockheed Martin
Funded by
National Geographic Channel
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources