Ringing The Alarm Bells For The Ocean

“All people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean and cryosphere. The global ocean covers 71% of the Earth surface and contains about 97% of the Earth’s water. The cryosphere refers to frozen components of the Earth system. Around 10% of Earth’s land area is covered by glaciers or ice sheets. The ocean and cryosphere support unique habitats, and are interconnected with other components of the climate system through global exchange of water, energy and carbon. The projected responses of the ocean and cryosphere to past and current human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and ongoing global warming include climate feedbacks, changes over decades to millennia that cannot be avoided, thresholds of abrupt change, and irreversibility.” 

What are global institutions and organisations of scientific rigour and renown telling us about human impact and the state of our oceans? We have pulled together a list of the most prominent institutions and reports which speak on this topic.

  1. Organisation: Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers.
    On the ocean:Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591-595) – a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.”
    Resources:  IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Media release (2019)
  1. Organisation: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options. 
    On the Ocean: “Human communities in close connection with coastal environments, small islands (including Small Island Developing States, SIDS), polar areas and high mountains are particularly exposed to ocean and cryosphere change, such as sea level rise, extreme sea level and shrinking cryosphere. Other communities further from the coast are also exposed to changes in the ocean, such as through extreme weather events.”
    Resources: Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) September 2019.
  1. Organisation: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. IUCN is one of the global authorities on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
    On the Ocean:“Over the coming decades and centuries, ocean health will become increasingly stressed by at least three interacting factors. Rising seawater temperature, ocean acidification and ocean deoxygenation will cause substantial changes in marine physics, chemistry and biology. These changes will affect the ocean in ways that we are only beginning to understand.It is imperative that international decision-makers understand the enormous role the ocean plays in sustaining life on Earth, and the consequences of a high CO2 world for the ocean and society.”
  1. Organisation: The Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (Regular Process) is a global mechanism established after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to regularly review the environmental, economic and social aspects of the world’s oceans, both current and foreseeable. It is accountable to the United Nations General Assembly, and its purpose is to contribute to the strengthening of the regular scientific assessment of the state of the marine environment in order to enhance the scientific basis for policymaking.
    On the Ocean: “We intentionally exploit many components of that rich biodiversity and increase the mortality of other components, even though we are not deliberately harvesting them. Carelessly (for example, through the input of waste material) or because of an initial lack of knowledge (for example, through the ocean acidification from increased emissions of carbon dioxide), we are altering the environment in which those organisms live. All those actions are affecting their ability to thrive and, sometimes, even to survive.” 
    Resource: First Global Integrated Marine Assessment (2016)
  1. Organisation: The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plays a vital role in promoting, with determination and efficacy, regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation.
    On the ocean: “The world ocean is one, interconnected and vast. It covers 70% of the surface and contains more than 95% of the water of the planet. Grasping such vastness is challenging. Yet we have to realize that the ocean’s resistance and resilience are not infinite. We can and should no longer assume that the world ocean can continue absorbing the effects of unsustainable human activities endlessly and still continue providing its vital services. The ocean is vulnerable. It is our duty to use it sustainably. This is our responsibility to both current and future generations. We must act now to ensure the sustainability of the world ocean.”
    Resource: Global Oceans Science Report (2017)