A recent United Nations report warned that the world had just a dozen years left to avoid some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change. A new study suggests that assessment was far too optimistic. Researchers using a new method to calculate the amount of heat absorbed by the world's oceans say the buildup of heat over the last 25 years is 60% higher than previous estimates, meaning the world is warming significantly faster than expected, the BBC reports. In the study published in the journal Nature, the researchers, who measured gases released by the oceans, warn that our planet appears to be more sensitive to the release of greenhouse gases than earlier believed—and that dealing with the problem will be even more of a challenge.
The energy warming the oceans, which comes from the sun and is trapped by the atmosphere, works out to eight times the world's energy consumption every year, the researchers say. "I thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted," lead researcher Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University, tells the Washington Post. "But we were wrong. The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn’t sample it right. But it was there. It was in the ocean already." She says that beyond the extremely troubling implications for the climate, the warmer oceans will rise faster and hold less oxygen, meaning marine ecosystems will be devastated. (A "scary" first recently hit the Arctic's thickest section of sea ice.)