The Science on Ocean and Climate is Dire. We Know What to Do, Now is Our Time to Act

Upcoming climate events will provide critical opportunities for ocean supporters to call for action

You may have been hearing a lot about climate change this week. More than 170 news outlets from around the globe are engaged in a massive #CoveringClimateNow effort, next Monday is the United Nations Climate Action Summit and next Wednesday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its latest in a string of special reports on climate change. This is just the beginning of a series of global events playing out over the next year that will provide critical opportunities for ocean supporters to call for action, and for leaders around the world to answer the call.

Next week is one of the first major steps on that path of opportunity, with the release of a groundbreaking IPCC report on the ocean and climate. Last year the IPCC released the blockbuster report on the effects of 1.5°C of global warming and earlier this summer the panel released a special report on climate change and our lands. Next week, our ocean will also receive the focused attention it deserves. While almost every previous IPCC report or special report has addressed the ocean in some manner, next Wednesday’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate will be the IPCC’s first stand-alone assessment of our ocean and cryosphere (our planet’s icy regions).

Much like with previous IPCC reports, the news will be grim and headlines will likely draw a dire picture. The report will provide a consensus assessment of the latest climate and ocean science, all of which says that the ocean is getting warmer, acidifying and losing oxygen at an astounding pace. Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate due to melting land ice and glaciers. Coastal flooding will increase in frequency as sea level rises, putting coastal communities and low lying islands at risk. Warming is causing marine life, including economically important fisheries, to move long distances in search of cooler water. Carbon dioxide is particularly problematic because it also causes ocean acidification, and our ocean is acidifying faster now than it has in millions of years. Our ocean also faces an increasing number of dead zones, areas where the amount of oxygen in the water is so low it makes life nearly impossible for marine creatures. Combined, these effects are putting marine ecosystems at unprecedented risk, and fundamentally threaten the food security, livelihoods and ways of life of billions and people in communities across the globe.

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