BACK TO RESEARCH
Table of Contents
2. The Basics of Climate Change and the Ocean
3. Coastal and Ocean Species Migration due to Climate Change
4. Hypoxia (Dead Zones)
5. The Effects of Warming Waters
6. Marine Biodiversity Loss due to Climate Change
7. The Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs
8. The Effects of Climate Change on the Arctic and Antarctic
9. Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal
10. Climate Change and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
11. Policy and Government Publications
12. Proposed Solutions
13. Looking for More? (Additional Resources)
The ocean makes up 71% of the planet and provides many services to human communities from mitigating weather extremes to generating the oxygen we breathe, from producing the food we eat to storing the excess carbon dioxide we generate. However, the effects of increasing greenhouse gas emissions threaten coastal and marine ecosystems through changes in ocean temperature and melting of ice, which in turn affect ocean currents, weather patterns, and sea level. And, because the carbon sink capacity of the ocean has been exceeded, we are also seeing the ocean’s chemistry change because of our carbon emissions. In fact, mankind has increased the acidity of our ocean by 30% over the past two centuries. (This is covered in our Research Page on Ocean Acidification). The ocean and climate change are inextricably linked.
The ocean plays a fundamental role in mitigating climate change by serving as a major heat and carbon sink. The ocean also bears the brunt of climate change, as evidenced by changes in temperature, currents and sea level rise, all of which affect the health of marine species, nearshore and deep ocean ecosystems. As concerns about climate change increase, the interrelationship between the ocean and climate change must be recognized, understood, and incorporated into governmental policies.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased by over 35%, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. Ocean waters, ocean animals, and ocean habitats all help the ocean absorb a significant portion of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities.
The global ocean is already experiencing the significant impact of climate change and its accompanying effects. They include air and water temperature warming, seasonal shifts in species, coral bleaching, sea level rise, coastal inundation, coastal erosion, harmful algal blooms, hypoxic (or dead) zones, new marine diseases, loss of marine mammals, changes in levels of precipitation, and fishery declines. In addition, we can expect more extreme weather events (droughts, floods, storms), which affect habitats and species alike. To protect our valuable marine ecosystems, we must act.
The overall solution for the ocean and climate change is to significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The most recent international agreement to address climate change, the Paris Agreement, entered into force in 2016. Meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement will require action at international, national, local, and community levels around the world. Additionally, blue carbon may provide a method for the long-term sequestration and storage of carbon. “Blue Carbon” is the carbon dioxide captured by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems. This carbon is stored in the form of biomass and sediments from mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows. More information about Blue Carbon can be found here.
Simultaneously, it is important to the health of the ocean—and us—that additional threats are avoided, and that our marine ecosystems are managed thoughtfully. It is also clear that by reducing the immediate stresses from excess human activities, we can increase the resilience of ocean species and ecosystems. In this way, we can invest in ocean health and its “immune system” by eliminating or reducing the myriad of smaller ills from which it suffers. Restoring abundance of ocean species—of mangroves, of seagrass meadows, of corals, of kelp forests, of fisheries, of all ocean life—will help the ocean continue to provide the services on which all life depends.
The Ocean Foundation has been working on oceans and climate change issues since 1990; on Ocean Acidification since 2003; and on related “blue carbon” issues since 2007. The Ocean Foundation hosts the Blue Resilience Initiative that seeks to advance policy that promotes the roles coastal and ocean ecosystems play as natural carbon sinks, i.e. blue carbon and released the first-ever Blue Carbon Offset Calculator in 2012 to provide charitable carbon offsets for individual donors, foundations, corporations, and events through the restoration and conservation of important coastal habitats that sequester and store carbon, including seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and saltmarsh grass estuaries. For more information, please see The Ocean Foundation’s Blue Resilience Initiative for information on ongoing projects and to learn how you can offset your carbon footprint using TOF’s Blue Carbon Offset Calculator.
The Ocean Foundation staff serve on the advisory board for the Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security, and The Ocean Foundation is a member of the Ocean & Climate Platform. Since 2014, T.O.F. has provided ongoing technical advice on the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters focal area that enabled the GEF Blue Forests Project to provide the first global-scale assessment of the values associated with coastal carbon and ecosystem services. T.O.F. is currently leading a seagrass and mangrove restoration project at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in close partnership with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
Back to Top
2. The Basics of Climate Change and the Ocean
Tanaka, K., and Van Houtan, K. (2022, February 1). The Recent Normalization of Historical Marine Heat Extremes. PLOS Climate, 1(2), e0000007. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pclm.0000007
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has found that since 2014 more than half of the world’s ocean surface temperature has consistently surpassed the historic extreme heat threshold. In 2019, 57% of the global ocean surface water recorded extreme heat. Comparatively, during the second industrial revolution, only 2% of surfaces recorded such temperatures. These extreme heat waves created by climate change threaten marine ecosystems and threaten their ability to provide resources for coastal communities.
Garcia-Soto, C., Cheng, L., Caesar, L., Schmidtko, S., Jewett, E. B., Cheripka, A., … & Abraham, J. P. (2021, September 21). An Overview of Ocean Climate Change Indicators: Sea Surface Temperature, Ocean Heat Content, Ocean pH, Dissolved Oxygen Concentration, Arctic Sea Ice Extent, Thickness and Volume, Sea Level and Strength of the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation). Frontiers in Marine Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.642372
The seven ocean climate change indicators, Sea Surface Temperature, Ocean Heat Content, Ocean pH, Dissolved Oxygen Concentration, Arctic Sea Ice Extent, Thickness, and Volume, and the Strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation are key measures for measuring climate change. Understanding historical and current climate change indicators is essential for predicting future trends and protecting our marine systems from climate change effects.
World Meteorological Organization. (2021). 2021 State of Climate Services: Water. World Meteorological Organization. PDF.
The World Meteorological Organization assesses the accessibility and capacities of water-related climate service providers. Achieving the adaptation objectives in developing countries will require significant additional funding and resources to ensure that their communities can adapt to the water-related impacts and challenges of climate change. Based on the findings the report gives six strategic recommendations to improve climate services for water worldwide.
World Meteorological Organization. (2021). United in Science 2021: A Multi-Organizational High-Level Compilation of the Latest Climate Science Information. World Meteorological Organization. PDF.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has found that recent changes in the climate system are unprecedented with emissions continuing to rise exacerbating health hazards and are more likely to lead to extreme weather (see above infographic for key findings). The full report compiles important climate monitoring data related to greenhouse gas emissions, temperature rise, air pollution, extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and coastal impacts. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise following the current trend, global mean sea level rise will likely be between 0.6-1.0 meters by 2100, causing catastrophic effects for coastal communities.
National Academy of Sciences. (2020). Climate Change: Evidence and Causes Update 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25733.
The science is clear, humans are changing Earth’s climate. The joint U.S. National Academy of Sciences and U.K. Royal Society report argues that long-term climate change will depend on the total amount of CO2 – and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) – emitted due to human activity. Higher GHGs will lead to a warmer ocean, sea-level rise, the melting of Arctic ice, and increased frequency of heatwaves.
Yozell, S., Stuart, J., and Rouleau, T. (2020). The Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index. Climate, Ocean Risk, and Resilience Project. Stimson Center, Environmental Security Program. PDF.
The Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index (CORVI) is a tool used to identify financial, political, and ecological risks that climate change poses to coastal cities. This report applies the CORVI methodology to two Caribbean cities: Castries, Saint Lucia and Kingston, Jamaica. Castries has found success in its fishing industry, though it faces a challenge due to its heavy reliance on tourism and lack of effective regulation. Progress is being made on by the city but more needs to be done to improve city planning particularly of floods and flooding effects. Kingston has a diverse economy supporting increased reliance, but rapid urbanization threatened many of CORVI’s indicators, Kingston is well placed to address climate change but could be overwhelmed if social issues in conjunction with climate mitigation efforts go unaddressed.
Figueres, C. and Rivett-Carnac, T. (2020, February 25). The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Vintage Publishing.
The Future We Choose is a cautionary tale of two futures for the Earth, the first scenario is what would happen if we fail to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and the second scenario considers what the world would look like if the carbon emission goals are met. Figueres and Rivett-Carnac note that for the first time in history we have the capital, the technology, the policies, and the scientific knowledge to understand that we as a society must half our emissions by 2050. Past generations did not have this knowledge and it will be too late for our children, the time to act is now.
Lenton, T., Rockström, J., Gaffney, O., Rahmstorf, S., Richardson, K., Steffen, W. and Schellnhuber, H. (2019, November 27). Climate Tipping Points – Too Risky to Bet Against: April 2020 Update. Nature Magazine. PDF.
Tipping points, or events from which the Earth system cannot recover, are of a higher probability than thought potentially leading to long-term irreversible changes. Ice collapse in the cryosphere and Amundsen Sea in West Antarctic may have already passed their tipping points. Other tipping points – such as deforestation of the Amazon and bleaching events on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – are quickly approaching. More research needs to be done to improve the understanding of these observed changes and the possibility for cascading effects. The time to act is now before the Earth passes a point of no return.
Peterson, J. (2019, November). A New Coast: Strategies for Responding to Devastating Storms and Rising Seas. Island Press.
The effects of stronger storms and rising seas are intangible and will become impossible to ignore. Damage, property loss, and infrastructure failures due to coastal storms and rising seas are unavoidable. However, science has progressed significantly in recent years and more can be done if the United States’ government takes prompt and thoughtful adaptation actions. The coast is changing but by increasing capacity, implementing shrewd policies, and financing long-term programs the risks can be managed and disasters may be prevented.
Kulp, S. and Strauss, B. (2019, October 29). New Elevation Data Triple Estimates of Global Vulnerability to Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding. Nature Communications 10, 4844. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12808-z
Kulp and Strauss suggest that higher emissions associated with climate change will lead to higher-than-expected sea-level rise. They estimate that one billion people will be affected by annual flooding by 2100, of those, 230 million occupy land within one meter of high tide lines. Most estimates place the average sea-level at 2 meters within the next century, if Kulp and Strauss are correct then hundreds of millions of people will soon be at risk of losing their homes to the sea.
Powell, A. (2019, October 2). Red Flags Rise on Global Warming and the Seas. The Harvard Gazette. PDF.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the Oceans and Cryosphere – published in 2019 – warned about the effects of climate change, however, Harvard professors responded that this report may understate the urgency of the problem. A majority of people now report that they believe in climate change however, studies show people are more concerned about issues more prevalent in their daily lives such as jobs, health care, drug, etc. Though over the last five years climate change has become a bigger priority as people experience higher temperatures, more severe storms, and widespread fires. The good news is there is more public awareness now than ever before and there is a growing “bottom-up” movement for change.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Caldeira, K., Chopin, T., Gaines, S., Haugan, P., Hemer, M., …, & Tyedmers, P. (2019, September 23) The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action. High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Retrieved from: https://dev-oceanpanel.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/2019-09/19_HLP_Report_Ocean_Solution_Climate_Change_final.pdf
Ocean-based climate action can play a major role in reducing the world’s carbon footprint delivering up to 21% of the annual greenhouse gas emission cuts as pledged by the Paris Agreement. Published by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a group of 14 heads of states and governments at the U.N. Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit this in-depth report highlights the relationship between the ocean and climate. The report presents five areas of opportunities including ocean-based renewable energy; ocean-based transportation; coastal and marine ecosystems; fisheries, aquaculture, and shifting diets; and carbon storage in the seabed.
Kennedy, K. M. (2019, September). Putting a Price on Carbon: Evaluating a Carbon Price and Complementary Policies for a 1.5 degree Celsius World. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.wri.org/publication/evaluating-carbon-price
It is necessary to put a price on carbon in order to reduce carbon emissions to the levels set by the Paris Agreement. Carbon price is a charge applied to entities that produce greenhouse gas emissions to shift the cost of climate change from society to entities responsible for emissions while also providing an incentive to reduce emissions. Additional policies and programs to spur innovation and make local-carbon alternatives more economically attractive are also necessary to achieve long-term results.
Macreadie, P., Anton, A., Raven, J., Beaumont, N., Connolly, R., Friess, D., …, & Duarte, C. (2019, September 05) The Future of Blue Carbon Science. Nature Communications, 10(3998). Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11693-w
The role of Blue Carbon, the idea that coastal vegetated ecosystems contribute disproportionately large amounts of global carbon sequestration, plays a major role in international climate change mitigation and adaptation. Blue Carbon science continues to grow in support and is highly likely to broaden in scope through additional high-quality and scalable observations and experiments and increased multidisciplinary scientists from a variety of nations.
Heneghan, R., Hatton, I., & Galbraith, E. (2019, May 3). Climate change impacts on marine ecosystems through the lens of the size spectrum. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences, 3(2), 233-243. Retrieved from: http://www.emergtoplifesci.org/content/3/2/233.abstract
Climate change is a very complex issue that is driving countless shifts across the world; particularly it has caused serious alterations in the structure and function of marine ecosystems. This article analyzes how the underused lens of abundance-size spectrum can provide a new tool for monitoring ecosystem adaptation.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (2019). Understanding Sea Level Rise: An in-depth look at three factors contributing to sea-level rise along the U.S. East Coast and how scientists are studying the phenomenon. Produced in Collaboration with Christopher Piecuch, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Woods Hole (MA): WHOI. DOI 10.1575/1912/24705
Since the 20th-century sea-levels have risen six to eight inches globally, though this rate has not been consistent. The variation in sea-level rise is likely due to postglacial rebound, changes to the Atlantic Ocean circulation, and the melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Scientists are in agreement that global water levels will continue to rise for centuries, but more studies are needed to address knowledge gaps and better predict the extent of future sea-level rise.
Rush, E. (2018). Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Canada: Milkweed Editions.
Told via a first-person introspective, author Elizabeth Rush discusses the consequences vulnerable communities face from climate change. The journalistic-style narrative weaves together the true stories of communities in Florida, Louisiana, Rhode Island, California, and New York who have experienced the devastating effects of hurricanes, extreme weather, and rising tides due to climate change.
Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S. and Cutler, M. (2017, July 5). Climate Change in the American Mind: May 2017. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
A joint study by George Mason University and Yale found 90 percent of Americans are unaware that there is a consensus within the scientific community that human-caused climate change is real. However, the study acknowledged that roughly 70% of Americans believe climate change is happening to some extent. Only 17% of Americans are “very worried” about climate change, 57% are “somewhat worried,” and the vast majority see global warming as a distant threat.
Goodell, J. (2017). The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. New York, New York: Little, Brown, and Company.
Told through personal narrative, author Jeff Goodell considers the rising tides around the world and its future implications. Inspired by Hurricane Sandy in New York, Goodell’s research takes him around the world to consider the dramatic action needed to adapt to the rising waters. In the preface, Goodell correctly states that this is not the book for those looking to understand the connection between climate and carbon dioxide, but what the human experience will look like as the sea levels rise.
Laffoley, D., & Baxter, J. M. (2016, September). Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, Scale, Effects, and Consequences. Full Report. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature presents a detailed fact-based report on the state of the ocean. The report finds that sea surface temperature, ocean heat continent, sea-level rise, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations are increasing at an accelerating rate with significant consequences for humanity and the marine species and ecosystems of the ocean. The report recommends recognition of the severity of the issue, concerted joint policy action for comprehensive ocean protection, updated risk assessments, addressing gaps in science and capability needs, acting quickly, and achieving substantial cuts in greenhouse gases. The issue of a warming ocean is a complex issue that will have wide-ranging effects, some may be beneficial, but the vast majority of effects will be negative in ways that are not yet fully understood.
Poloczanska, E., Burrows, M., Brown, C., Molinos, J., Halpern, B., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., …, & Sydeman, W. (2016, May 4). Responses of Marine Organisms to Climate Change across Oceans. Frontiers in Marine Science. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2016.00062
Marine species are responding to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in expected ways. Some responses include poleward and deeper distributional shifts, declines in calcification, increased abundance of warm-water species, and loss of entire ecosystems (e.g. coral reefs). The variability of marine life response to shifts in calcification, demography, abundance, distribution, phenology is likely to lead to ecosystem reshuffling and changes in function that necessitate further study.
Albert, S., Leon, J., Grinham, A., Church, J., Gibbes, B., and C. Woodroffe. (2016, May 6). Interactions Between Sea-level Rise and Wave Exposure on Reef Island Dynamics in the Solomon Islands. Environmental Research Letters Vol. 11 No. 05 .
Five islands (one to five hectares in size) in the Solomon Islands have been lost due to sea-level rise and coastal erosion. This was the first scientific evidence of the effects of climate change on coastlines and people. It is believed that wave energy played a determining role in the island’s erosion. At this time another nine reef islands are severely eroded and likely to disappear in the coming years.
Gattuso, J.P., Magnan, A., Billé, R., Cheung, W.W., Howes, E.L., Joos, F., & Turley, C. (2015, July 3). Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios. Science, 349(6243). Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1126/science.aac4722
In order to adapt to anthropogenic climate change, the ocean has had to profoundly alter its physics, chemistry, ecology, and services. The current emissions projections would rapidly and significantly alter ecosystems that humans heavily depend upon. The management options to address the changing ocean due to climate change narrows as the ocean continues to warm and acidify. The article successfully synthesizes recent and future changes to the ocean and its ecosystems, as well as to the goods and services those ecosystems provide to humans.
The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. (2015, September). Intertwined Ocean and Climate: Implications for International Climate Negotiations. Climate – Oceans and Coastal Zones: Policy Brief. Retrieved from: https://www.iddri.org/en/publications-and-events/policy-brief/intertwined-ocean-and-climate-implications-international
Providing an overview of policy, this brief outlines the intertwined nature of the ocean and climate change, calling for immediate CO2 emission reductions. The article explains the significance of these climate-related changes in the ocean and argues for ambitious emissions reductions at the international level, as increases in carbon dioxide will only become harder to tackle.
Stocker, T. (2015, November 13). The silent services of the world ocean. Science, 350(6262), 764-765. Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6262/764.abstract
The ocean provides crucial services to the earth and to humans that are of global significance, all of which come with an increasing price caused by human activities and increased carbon emissions. The author emphasizes that the need for humans to consider the impacts of climate change on the ocean when considering adaptation to and mitigation of anthropogenic climate change, especially by intergovernmental organizations.
Levin, L. & Le Bris, N. (2015, November 13). The deep ocean under climate change. Science, 350(6262), 766-768. Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6262/766
The deep ocean, despite its critical ecosystem services, is often overlooked in the realm of climate change and mitigation. At depths of 200 meters and below, the ocean absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide and needs specific attention and increased research to protect its integrity and value.
McGill University. (2013, June 14) Study of Oceans’ Past Raises Worry About Their Future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from: sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614111606.html
Humans are changing the amount of nitrogen available to fish in the ocean by increasing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. Findings show it will take centuries for the ocean to balance the nitrogen cycle. This raises concerns about the current rate of CO2 entering our atmosphere and it shows how the ocean may be changing chemically in ways we wouldn’t expect.
The article above provides a brief introduction into the relationship between ocean acidification and climate change, for more detailed information please see The Ocean Foundation’s resource pages on Ocean Acidification.
Fagan, B. (2013) The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Suture of Rising Sea Levels. Bloomsbury Press, New York.
Since the last Ice Age sea levels have risen 122 meters and will continue to rise. Fagan takes readers around the world from prehistoric Doggerland in what is now the North Sea, to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, colonial Portugal, China, and modern-day United States, Bangladesh, and Japan. Hunter-gatherer societies were more mobile and could fairly easily move settlements to higher ground, yet they faced growing disruption as populations became more condensed. Today millions of people around the world are likely to face relocation in the next fifty years as sea levels continue to rise.
Doney, S., Ruckelshaus, M., Duffy, E., Barry, J., Chan, F., English, C., …, & Talley, L. (2012, January). Climate Change Impacts on Marine Ecosystems. Annual Review of Marine Science, 4, 11-37. Retrieved from: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-marine-041911-111611
In marine ecosystems, climate change is associated with concurrent shifts in temperature, circulation, stratification, nutrient input, oxygen content, and ocean acidification. There are also strong linkages between climate and species distributions, phenology, and demography. These could eventually affect the overall ecosystem functioning and services upon which the world depends.
Vallis, G. K. (2012). Climate and the Ocean. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
There is a strong interconnected relationship between the climate and the ocean demonstrated through plain language and diagrams of scientific concepts including systems of wind and currents within the ocean. Created as an illustrated primer, Climate and the Ocean serves as an introduction into the ocean role as a moderator of the Earth’s climate system. The book allows readers to make their own judgments, but with the knowledge to understand generally the science behind the climate.
Spalding, M. J. (2011, May). Before the Sun Sets: Changing Ocean Chemistry, Global marine Resources, and the Limits of Our Legal Tools to Address Harm. International Environmental Law Committee Newsletter, 13(2). PDF.
Carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean and affecting the pH of the water in a process called ocean acidification. International laws and domestic laws in the United States, at the time of writing, have the potential to incorporate ocean acidification polices, including the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the U.N. Convention on the Laws of the Sea, the London Convention and Protocol, and the U.S. Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FOARAM) Act. The cost of inaction will by far exceed the economic cost of acting, and present-day actions are needed.
Spalding, M. J. (2011). Perverse Sea Change: Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Ocean is Facing Chemical and Physical Changes. Cultural Heritage and Arts Review, 2(1). PDF.
Underwater cultural heritage sites are being threatened by ocean acidification and climate change. Climate change is increasingly altering the ocean’s chemistry, rising sea levels, warming ocean temperatures, shifting currents and increasing weather volatility; all of which affect the preservation of submerged historical sites. Irreparable harm is likely, however, restoring coastal ecosystems, reducing land-based pollution, reducing CO2 emissions, reducing marine stressors, increasing historic site monitoring and developing legal strategies can reduce the devastation of underwater cultural heritage sites.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Bruno, J. (2010, June 18). The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems. Science, 328(5985), 1523-1528. Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/328/5985/1523
Rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions are driving the ocean toward conditions that haven’t been seen for millions of years and is causing catastrophic effects. So far, anthropogenic climate change has caused decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distribution, and greater incidences of disease.
Spalding, M. J., & de Fontaubert, C. (2007). Conflict Resolution for Addressing Climate Change with Ocean-Altering Projects. Environmental Law Review News and Analysis. Retrieved from: https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/ocean_climate_3.pdf
There is a careful balance between local consequences and global benefits, particularly when considering the detrimental effects of wind and wave energy projects. There is a need for the application of conflict resolution practices to be applied to coastal and marine projects that are potentially damaging to the local environment but are necessary to reduce reliance on fossil fuel. Climate change must be addressed and some of the solutions will take place in marine and coastal ecosystems, to mitigate conflict conversations must involve policymakers, local entities, civil society, and at the international level to ensure the best available actions will be taken.
Spalding, M. J. (2004, August). Climate Change and Oceans. Consultative Group on Biological Diversity. Retrieved from: http://markjspalding.com/download/publications/peer-reviewed-articles/ClimateandOceans.pdf
The ocean provides many benefits in terms of resources, climate moderation, and aesthetic beauty. However, greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are projected to alter coastal and marine ecosystems and exacerbate traditional marine problems (over-fishing and habitat destruction). Yet, there is opportunity for change through philanthropic support to integrate the ocean and climate to enhance the resilience of the ecosystems most at risk from climate change.
Bigg, G.R., Jickells, T.D., Liss, P.S., & Osborn, T.J. (2003, August 1). The Role of The Oceans in Climate. International Journal of Climatology, 23, 1127-1159. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1002/joc.926
The ocean is a vital component of the climate system. It is important in the global exchanges and redistribution of heat, water, gases, particles, and momentum. The freshwater budget of the ocean is decreasing and is a key factor for the degree and longevity of climate change.
Dore, J.E., Lukas, R., Sadler, D.W., & Karl, D.M. (2003, August 14). Climate-driven changes to the atmospheric CO2 sink in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. Nature, 424(6950), 754-757. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1038/nature01885
Carbon dioxide uptake by ocean waters can be strongly influenced by changes in regional precipitation and evaporation patterns brought on by climate variability. Since 1990, there has been a significant decrease in the strength of the CO2 sink, which is due to the increase of partial pressure of ocean surface CO2 caused by evaporation and the accompanying concentration of solutes in the water.
Revelle, R., & Suess, H. (1957). Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase in Atmospheric CO2 during the Past Decades. La Jolla, California: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the rates and mechanisms of CO2 exchange between the sea and the air, and the fluctuations in marine organic carbon have been studied since shortly after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Industrial fuel combustion since the start of the Industrial Revolution, more than 150 years ago, has caused an increase of the average ocean temperature, a decrease in the carbon content of soils, and a change in the amount of organic matter in the ocean. This document served as a key milestone in the study of climate change and has greatly influenced scientific studies in the half-century since its publication.
Back to top
3. Coastal and Ocean Species Migration due to the Effects of Climate Change
Hu, S., Sprintall, J., Guan, C., McPhaden, M., Wang, F., Hu, D., Cai, W. (2020, February 5). Deep-reaching Acceleration of Global Mean Ocean Circulation over the Past Two Decades. Science Advances. EAAX7727. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/6/eaax7727
The ocean has started to move faster over the last 30 years. The increased kinetic energy of ocean currents is due to increased surface wind spurred by warmer temperatures, particularly around the tropics. The trend is far larger than any natural variability suggesting increased current speeds will continue in the long term.
Whitcomb, I. (2019, August 12). Droves of Blacktip Sharks Are Summering in Long Island for the First Time. LiveScience. Retrieved from: livescience.com/sharks-vacation-in-hamptons.html
Every year, blacktip sharks migrate north in the summer seeking cooler waters. In the past, the sharks would spend their summers off the coast of the Carolinas, but due to the warming waters of the ocean, they must travel further north to Long Island to find cool enough waters. At the time of publication, whether the sharks are migrating farther north on their own or following their prey farther north is unknown.
Fears, D. (2019, July 31). Climate change will spark a baby boom of crabs. Then predators will relocate from the south and eat them. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/07/31/climate-change-will-spark-blue-crab-baby-boom-then-predators-will-relocate-south-eat-them/?utm_term=.3d30f1a92d2e
Blue crabs are thriving in the warming waters of the Chesapeake Bay. With the current trends of warming waters, soon blue crabs will no longer need to burrow in the winter to survive, which will cause the population to soar. The population boom may lure some predators to new waters.
Furby, K. (2018, June 14). Climate change is moving fish around faster than laws can handle, study says. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2018/06/14/climate-change-is-moving-fish-around-faster-than-laws-can-handle-study-says
Vital fish species such as salmon and mackerel are migrating to new territories necessitating increased international cooperation to ensure abundance. The article reflects on the conflict that can arise when species cross national boundaries from the perspective of a combination of law, policy, economics, oceanography, and ecology.
Poloczanska, E. S., Burrows, M. T., Brown, C. J., García Molinos, J., Halpern, B. S., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., … & Sydeman, W. J. (2016, May 4). Responses of Marine Organisms to Climate Change Across Oceans. Frontiers in Marine Science, 62. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2016.00062
The Marine Climate Change Impacts Database (MCID) and the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explores the marine ecosystem changes driven by climate change. Generally, climate change species responses are consistent with expectations, including poleward and deeper distributional shifts, advances in phenology, declines in calcification, and increases in abundance of warm water species. Areas and species that do not have documented climate change related impacts, do not mean they are not affected, but rather that there are still gaps in the research.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2013, September). Two Takes on Climate Change in the Ocean? National Ocean Service: The United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved from: http://web.archive.org/web/20161211043243/http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2013/09/9_30_13two_takes_on_climate_change_in_ocean.html
Marine life throughout all parts of the food chain is shifting towards the poles to stay cool as things heat up and these changes can have significant economic consequences. Species shifting in space and time are not all happening at the same pace, therefore disrupting the food web and the delicate patterns of life. Now more than ever is it important to prevent overfishing and continue to support long-term monitoring programs.
Poloczanska, E., Brown, C., Sydeman, W., Kiessling, W., Schoeman, D., Moore, P., …, & Richardson, A. (2013, August 4). Global imprint of climate change on marine life. Nature Climate Change, 3, 919-925. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate1958
Over the last decade, there have been widespread systemic shifts in phenology, demography, and distribution of species in marine ecosystems. This study synthesized all available studies of marine ecological observations with expectations under climate change; they found 1,735 marine biological responses which either local or global climate change was the source.
BACK TO TOP
4. Hypoxia (Dead Zones)
Hypoxia is low or depleted levels of oxygen in water. It is often associated with the overgrowth of algae that leads to oxygen depletion when the algae die, sink to the bottom, and decompose. Hypoxia is also exacerbated by high levels of nutrients, warmer water, and other ecosystem disruption due to climate change.
Slabosky, K. (2020, August 18). Can the Ocean Run Out of Oxygen?. TED-Ed. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/ovl_XbgmCbw
The animated video explains how hypoxia or dead zones are created in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Agricultural nutrient and fertilizer run-off is a major contributor of dead zones, and regenerative farming practices must be introduced to protect our waterways and threatened marine ecosystems. Although it is not mentioned in the video, warming waters created by climate change are also increasing the frequency and intensity of dead zones.
Bates, N., and Johnson, R. (2020) Acceleration of Ocean Warming, Salinification, Deoxygenation and Acidification in the Surface Subtropical North Atlantic Ocean. Communications Earth & Environment. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00030-5
Ocean chemical and physical conditions are changing. Data points collected in the Sargasso Sea during the 2010s provide critical information for ocean-atmosphere models and model-data decade-to-decade assessments of the global carbon cycle. Bates and Johnson found that temperatures and salinity in the Subtropical North Atlantic Ocean varied over the last forty years due to seasonal changes and changes in alkalinity. The highest levels of CO2 and ocean acidification occurred during the weakest atmospheric CO2 growth.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2019, May 24). What is a Dead Zone? National Ocean Service: The United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved from: oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/deadzone.html
A dead zone is the common term for hypoxia and refers to a reduced level of oxygen in the water leading to biological deserts. These zones are naturally occurring, but are enlarged and enhanced by human activity through warmer water temperatures caused by climate change. Excess nutrients that run-off the land and into waterways is the primary cause of the increase of dead zones.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2019, April 15). Nutrient Pollution, The Effects: Environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/effects-environment
Nutrient pollution fuels the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs), which have negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems. HABs sometimes can create toxins that are consumed by small fish and work their way up the food chain and become detrimental to marine life. Even when they do not create toxins, they block sunlight, clog fish gills, and create dead zones. Dead zones are areas in water with little or no oxygen that are formed when algal blooms consume oxygen as they die causing marine life to leave the affected area.
Blaszczak, J. R., Delesantro, J. M., Urban, D. L., Doyle, M. W., & Bernhardt, E. S. (2019). Scoured or suffocated: Urban stream ecosystems oscillate between hydrologic and dissolved oxygen extremes. Limnology and Oceanography, 64(3), 877-894. https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.11081
Coastal regions are not the only places where dead zone-like conditions are increasing due to climate change. Urban streams and rivers draining water from highly trafficked areas are common locations for hypoxic dead zones, leaving a bleak picture for freshwater organisms that call urban waterways home. Intense storms create pools of nutrient-laden run-off that remain hypoxic until the next storm flushes out the pools.
Breitburg, D., Levin, L., Oschiles, A., Grégoire, M., Chavez, F., Conley, D., …, & Zhang, J. (2018, January 5). Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters. Science, 359(6371). Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1126/science.aam7240
Largely due to human activities that have increased the overall global temperature and the amount of nutrients that are discharged into coastal waters, the oxygen content of the overall ocean is and has been declining for at least the last fifty years. The declining level of oxygen in the ocean has both biological and ecological consequences on both regional and global scales.
Breitburg, D., Grégoire, M., & Isensee, K. (2018). The ocean is losing its breath: Declining oxygen in the world’s ocean and coastal waters. IOC-UNESCO, IOC Technical Series, 137. Retrieved from: https://orbi.uliege.be/bitstream/2268/232562/1/Technical%20Brief_Go2NE.pdf
Oxygen is declining in the ocean and humans are the major cause. This occurs when more oxygen is consumed than replenished where warming and nutrient increases cause high levels of microbial consumption of oxygen. Deoxygenation can be worsened by dense aquaculture, leading to reduced growth, behavioral changes, increased diseases, particularly for finfish and crustaceans. Deoxygenation is predicted to become exacerbated in coming years, but steps can be taken to combat this threat including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as black carbon and nutrient discharges.
Bryant, L. (2015, April 9). Ocean ‘dead zones’ a growing disaster for fish. Phys.org. Retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2015-04-ocean-dead-zones-disaster-fish.html
Historically, sea floors have taken millennia to recover from past eras of low oxygen, also known as dead zones. Due to human activity and rising temperatures dead zones currently constitute 10% and rising of the world’s ocean surface area. Agrochemical use and other human activities lead to rising levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water feeding the dead zones.
BACK TO TOP
5. The Effects of Warming Waters
Schartup, A., Thackray, C., Quershi, A., Dassuncao, C., Gillespie, K., Hanke, A., & Sunderland, E. (2019, August 7). Climate change and overfishing increase neurotoxicant in marine predators. Nature, 572, 648-650. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1468-9
Fish are the predominant source of human exposure to methylmercury, which can lead to long-term neurocognitive deficits in children that persist into adulthood. Since the 1970s there has been an estimated 56% increase in tissue methylmercury in Atlantic bluefin tuna due to increases in seawater temperatures.
Smale, D., Wernberg, T., Oliver, E., Thomsen, M., Harvey, B., Straub, S., …, & Moore, P. (2019, March 4). Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Nature Climate Change, 9, 306-312. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0412-1
The ocean has warmed considerably over the past century. Marine heatwaves, periods of regional extreme warming, have particularly affected critical foundation species such as corals and seagrasses. As anthropogenic climate change intensifies, the marine warming and heatwaves have the capability to restructure ecosystems and disrupt the provision of ecological goods and services.
Sanford, E., Sones, J., Garcia-Reyes, M., Goddard, J., & Largier, J. (2019, March 12). Widespread shifts in the coastal biota of northern California during the 2014-2016 marine heatwaves. Scientific Reports, 9(4216). Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40784-3
In response to prolonged marine heatwaves, increased poleward dispersal of species and extreme changes in sea surface temperature may be seen in the future. The severe marine heatwaves have caused mass mortalities, harmful algal blooms, declines in kelp beds, and substantial changes in the geographic distribution of species.
Pinsky, M., Eikeset, A., McCauley, D., Payne, J., & Sunday, J. (2019, April 24). Greater vulnerability to warming of marine versus terrestrial ectotherms. Nature, 569, 108-111. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1132-4
It is important to understand which species and ecosystems will be most affected by warming due to climate change in order to ensure effective management. Higher sensitivity rates to warming and faster rates of colonization in marine ecosystems suggest that extirpations will be more frequent and species turnover faster in the ocean.
Morley, J., Selden, R., Latour, R., Frolicher, T., Seagraves, R., & Pinsky, M. (2018, May 16). Projecting shifts in thermal habitat for 686 species on the North American continental shelf. PLOS ONE. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196127
Due to changing ocean temperatures, species are beginning to change their geographic distribution towards the poles. Projections were made for 686 marine species that are likely to be affected by changing ocean temperatures. Future geographic shift projections were generally poleward and followed coastlines and helped identify which species are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Laffoley, D. & Baxter, J. M. (editors). (2016). Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, Scale, Effects and Consequences. Full report. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 456 pp. https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.CH.2016.08.en
Ocean warming is rapidly becoming one of the greatest threats of our generation as such the IUCN recommends increased recognition of impact severity, global policy action, comprehensive protection and management, updated risk assessments, closing gaps in research and capability needs, and acting quickly to make substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Hughes, T., Kerry, J., Baird, A., Connolly, S., Dietzel, A., Eakin, M., Heron, S., …, & Torda, G. (2018, April 18). Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages. Nature, 556, 492-496. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0041-2?dom=scribd&src=syn
In 2016, the Great Barrier Reef experienced a record-breaking marine heatwave. The study hopes to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of examining the risks of ecosystem collapse to predict how future-warming events might affect coral reef communities. They define different stages, identify the major driver, and establish quantitative collapse thresholds.
Gramling, C. (2015, November 13). How Warming Oceans Unleashed an Ice Stream. Science, 350(6262), 728. Retrieved from: DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6262.728
A Greenland glacier is shedding kilometers of ice into the sea each year as warm ocean waters undermine it. What is going on under the ice raises the most concern, as warm ocean waters have eroded the glacier far enough to detach it from the sill. This will cause the glacier to retreat even faster and creates huge alarm about the potential sea-level rise.
Precht, W., Gintert, B., Robbart, M., Fur, R., & van Woesik, R. (2016). Unprecedented Disease-Related Coral Mortality in Southeastern Florida. Scientific Reports, 6(31375). Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep31374
Coral bleaching, coral disease, and coral mortality events are increasing due to high water temperatures attributed to climate change. Looking at the unusually high levels of contagious coral disease in southeastern Florida throughout 2014, the article links the high level of coral mortality to thermally stressed coral colonies.
Friedland, K., Kane, J., Hare, J., Lough, G., Fratantoni, P., Fogarty, M., & Nye, J. (2013, September). Thermal habitat constraints on zooplankton species associated with Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on the US Northeast Continental Shelf. Progress in Oceanography, 116, 1-13. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2013.05.011
Within the ecosystem of the US Northeast Continental Shelf there are different thermal habitats, and the increasing water temperatures are impacting the quantity of these habitats. The amounts of warmer, surface habitats have increased whereas the cooler water habitats have decreased. This has the potential to significantly lower quantities of Atlantic Cod as their food zooplankton is affected by the shifts in temperature.
BACK TO TOP
6. Marine Biodiversity Loss due to Climate Change
Brito-Morales, I., Schoeman, D., Molinos, J., Burrows, M., Klein, C., Arafeh-Dalmau, N., Kaschner, K., Garilao, C., Kesner-Reyes, K., and Richardson, A. (2020, March 20). Climate Velocity Reveals Increasing Exposure of Deep-ocean Biodiversity to Future Warming. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0773-5
Researchers have found that contemporary climate velocities – warming waters – are faster in the deep ocean than at the surface. The study now predicts that between 2050 and 2100 warming will occur faster at all levels of the water column, except the surface. As a result of the warming, biodiversity will be threatened at all levels, in particular at depths between 200 and 1,000 meters. To reduce the rate of warming limits should be placed on exploitation of deep-ocean resources by fishing fleets and by mining, hydrocarbon and other extractive activities. Additionally, progress can be made by expanding networks of large MPA’s in the deep ocean.
Riskas, K. (2020, June 18). Farmed Shellfish Is Not Immune to Climate Change. Coastal Science and Societies Hakai Magazine. PDF.
Billions of people worldwide get their protein from the marine environment, yet wild fisheries are being stretched thin. Aquaculture is increasingly filling the gap and managed production may improve water quality and reduce excess nutrients which cause harmful algal blooms. However, as water becomes more acidic and as warming water alters plankton growth, aquaculture and mollusk production are threatened. Riskas predicts mollusk aquaculture will begin a decline in production 2060, with some countries affected much earlier, particularly developing and least developed nations.
Record, N., Runge, J., Pendleton, D., Balch, W., Davies, K., Pershing, A., …, & Thompson C. (2019, May 3). Rapid Climate-Driven Circulation Changes Threaten Conservation of Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. Oceanography, 32(2), 162-169. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2019.201
Climate change is causing ecosystems to rapidly change states, which renders a lot of conservation strategies based on historical patterns ineffective. With deep-water temperatures warming at rates twice as high as surface water rates, species like Calanus finmarchicus, a critical food supply for North Atlantic right whales, have changed their migration patterns. North Atlantic right whales are following their prey out of their historical migration route, changing the pattern, and thus putting them at risk to ship strikes or gear entanglements in areas conservation strategies do not protect them.
Díaz, S. M., Settele, J., Brondízio, E., Ngo, H., Guèze, M., Agard, J., … & Zayas, C. (2019). The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Summary for Policymakers. IPBES. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3553579.
Between half a million and one million species are threatened with extinction globally. In the ocean, unsustainable fishing practices, coastal land and sea use changes, and climate change are driving biodiversity loss. The ocean requires further protections and more Marine Protected Area coverage.
Abreu, A., Bowler, C., Claudet, J., Zinger, L., Paoli, L., Salazar, G., and Sunagawa, S. (2019). Scientists Warning on the Interactions Between Ocean Plankton and Climate Change. Foundation Tara Ocean.
Two studies that use different data both indicate that the impact of climate change on the distribution and quantities of planktonic species will be greater in polar regions. This is likely because higher ocean temperatures (around the equator) lead to increased diversity of planktonic species that may be more likely to survive changing water temperatures, though both planktonic communities could adapt. Thus, climate change acts as an additional stress factor for species. When combined with other changes in habitats, the food web, and species distribution the added stress of climate change could cause major shifts in ecosystem properties. To address this growing problem there needs to be improved science/policy interfaces where research questions are designed by scientists and policy-makers together.
Bryndum-Buchholz, A., Tittensor, D., Blanchard, J., Cheung, W., Coll, M., Galbraith, E., …, & Lotze, H. (2018, November 8). Twenty-first-century climate change impacts on marine animal biomass and ecosystem structure across ocean basins. Global Change Biology, 25(2), 459-472. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14512
Climate change affects marine ecosystems in relation to primary production, ocean temperature, species distributions, and abundance at local and global scales. These changes significantly alter marine ecosystem structure and function. This study analyzes the responses of marine animal biomass in response to these climate change stressors.
Niiler, E. (2018, March 8). More Sharks Ditching Annual Migration as Ocean Warms. National Geographic. Retrieved from: nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/animals-sharks-oceans-global-warming/
Male blacktip sharks historically have migrated south during the coldest months of the year to mate with females off the coast of Florida. These sharks are vital to Florida’s coastal ecosystem: By eating weak and sick fish, they help balance the pressure on coral reefs and seagrasses. Recently, the male sharks have stayed farther north as the northern waters become warmer. Without southward migration, the males will not mate or protect Florida’s coastal ecosystem.
Worm, B., & Lotze, H. (2016). Climate Change: Observed Impacts on Planet Earth, Chapter 13 – Marine Biodiversity and Climate Change. Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada. Retrieved from: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780444635242000130
Long-term fish and plankton monitoring data has provided the most compelling evidence for climate-driven changes in species assemblages. The chapter concludes that conserving marine biodiversity may provide the best buffer against rapid climate change.
McCauley, D., Pinsky, M., Palumbi, S., Estes, J., Joyce, F., & Warner, R. (2015, January 16). Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean. Science, 347(6219). Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6219/1255641
Humans have profoundly affected marine wildlife and the function and structure of the ocean. Marine defaunation, or human-caused animal loss in the ocean, emerged only hundreds of years ago. Climate change threatens to accelerate marine defaunation over the next century. One of the main drivers of marine wildlife loss is habitat degradation due to climate change, which is avoidable with proactive intervention and restoration.
Deutsch, C., Ferrel, A., Seibel, B., Portner, H., & Huey, R. (2015, June 05). Climate change tightens a metabolic constraint on marine habitats. Science, 348(6239), 1132-1135. Retrieved from: science.sciencemag.org/content/348/6239/1132
Both the warming of the ocean and the loss of dissolved oxygen will drastically alter marine ecosystems. In this century, the metabolic index of the upper ocean is predicted to reduce by 20% globally and 50% in northern high-latitude regions. This forces poleward and vertical contraction of metabolically viable habitats and species ranges. The metabolic theory of ecology indicates that body size and temperature influence organisms’ metabolic rates, which may explain shifts in animal biodiversity when the temperature changes by providing more favorable conditions to certain organisms.
Marcogilese, D.J. (2008). The impact of climate change on the parasites and infectious diseases of aquatic animals. Scientific and Technical Review of the Office International des Epizooties (Paris), 27(2), 467-484. Retrieved from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/219d/8e86f333f2780174277b5e8c65d1c2aca36c.pdf
The distribution of parasites and pathogens will be directly and indirectly affected by global warming, which may cascade through food webs with consequences for entire ecosystems. Transmission rates of parasites and pathogens are directly correlated to temperature, the increasing temperature is increasing transmission rates. Some evidence also suggests that virulence is directly correlated as well.
Barry, J.P., Baxter, C.H., Sagarin, R.D., & Gilman, S.E. (1995, February 3). Climate-related, long-term faunal changes in a California rocky intertidal community. Science, 267(5198), 672-675. Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1126/science.267.5198.672
The invertebrate fauna in a California rocky intertidal community has shifted northward when comparing two study periods, one from 1931-1933 and the other from 1993-1994. This shift northward is consistent with predictions of change associated with climate warming. When comparing the temperatures from the two study periods, the mean summer maximum temperatures during the period 1983-1993 were 2.2˚C warmer than the mean summer maximum temperatures from 1921-1931.
BACK TO TOP
7. The Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs
Figueiredo, J., Thomas, C. J., Deleersnijder, E., Lambrechts, J., Baird, A. H., Connolly, S. R., & Hanert, E. (2022). Global Warming Decreases Connectivity Among Coral Populations. Nature Climate Change, 12(1), 83-87
Global temperature increases are killing corals and decreasing population connectivity. Coral connectivity is how individual corals and their genes are exchanged among geographically separated sub-populations, which can greatly affect the ability of corals to recover after disturbances (such as those caused by climate change) is highly dependent on the connectivity of the reef. To make protections more effective spaces between protected areas should be reduced to esure reef connectivity.
Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN). (2021, October). The Sixth Status of Corals of the World: 2020 Report. GCRMN. PDF.
The ocean’s coral reef coverage has declined by 14% since 2009 mainly because of climate change. This decline is a cause for major concern as corals do not have enough time to recover in-between mass bleaching events.
Principe, S. C., Acosta, A. L., Andrade, J. E., & Lotufo, T. (2021). Predicted Shifts in the Distributions of Atlantic Reef-Building Corals in the Face of Climate Change. Frontiers in Marine Science, 912.
Certain coral species play a special role as reef builders, and changes in their distribution due to climate change comes with cascading ecosystem effects. This study covers current and future projections of three Atlantic reef builder species that are essential to overall ecosystem health. The coral reefs within the Atlantic ocean require urgent conservation actions and better governance to ensure their survival and revival through climate change.
Brown, K., Bender-Champ, D., Kenyon, T., Rémond, C., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Dove, S. (2019, February 20). Temporal effects of ocean warming and acidification on coral-algal competition. Coral Reefs, 38(2), 297-309. Retrieved from: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00338-019-01775-y
Coral reefs and algae are essential to ocean ecosystems and they are in competition with one another due to limited resources. Due to warming water and acidification as a result of climate change, this competition is being altered. To offset the combined effects of ocean warming and acidification, tests were conducted, but even enhanced photosynthesis was not enough to offset the effects and both corals and algae have reduced survivorship, calcification, and photosynthetic ability.
Bruno, J., Côté, I., & Toth, L. (2019, January). Climate Change, Coral Loss, and the Curious Case of the Parrotfish Paradigm: Why Don’t Marine Protected Areas Improve Reef Resilience? Annual Review of Marine Science, 11, 307-334. Retrieved from: annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-marine-010318-095300
Reef-building corals are being devastated by climate change. To combat this, marine protected areas were established, and the protection of herbivorous fish followed. The others posit that these strategies have had little effect on the overall coral resilience because their main stressor is the rising ocean temperature. To save reef-building corals, efforts need to go past the local level. Anthropogenic climate change needs to be tackled head-on as it is the root cause of global coral decline.
Cheal, A., MacNeil, A., Emslie, M., & Sweatman, H. (2017, January 31). The threat to coral reefs from more intense cyclones under climate change. Global Change Biology. Retrieved from: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.13593
Climate change boosts the energy of cyclones that cause coral destruction. While cyclone frequency is not likely to increase, cyclone intensity will as a result of climate warming. The increase in cyclone intensity will accelerate coral reef destruction and slow post-cyclone recovery due to the cyclone’s obliteration of biodiversity.
Hughes, T., Barnes, M., Bellwood, D., Cinner, J., Cumming, G., Jackson, J., & Scheffer, M. (2017, May 31). Coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature, 546, 82-90. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/nature22901
Reefs are degrading rapidly in response to a series of anthropogenic drivers. Because of this, returning reefs to their past configuration is not an option. To combat reef degradation, this article calls for radical changes in science and management to steer reefs through this era while maintaining their biological function.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Poloczanska, E., Skirving, W., & Dove, S. (2017, May 29). Coral Reef Ecosystems under Climate Change and Ocean Acidification. Frontiers in Marine Science. Retrieved from: frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2017.00158/full
Studies have begun to predict the elimination of most warm-water coral reefs by 2040-2050 (although cold-water corals are at lower risk). They assert that unless rapid advances are made in emission reduction, communities that depend on coral reefs to survive are likely to face poverty, social disruption, and regional insecurity.
Hughes, T., Kerry, J., & Wilson, S. (2017, March 16). Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals. Nature, 543, 373-377. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/nature21707?dom=icopyright&src=syn
Recent recurrent mass coral bleaching events have varied significantly in severity. Using surveys of Australian reefs and sea surface temperatures, the article explains that water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effects on bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local conditions provide little protection against extreme temperatures.
Torda, G., Donelson, J., Aranda, M., Barshis, D., Bay, L., Berumen, M., …, & Munday, P. (2017). Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals. Nature, 7, 627-636. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/nclimate3374
A coral reefs’ ability to adapt to climate change will be crucial to projecting a reef’s fate. This article dives into the transgenerational plasticity among corals and the role of epigenetics and coral-associated microbes in the process.
Anthony, K. (2016, November). Coral Reefs Under Climate Change and Ocean Acidification: Challenges and Opportunities for Management and Policy. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Retrieved from: annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-110615-085610
Considering the rapid degradation of coral reefs due to climate change and ocean acidification, this article suggests realistic goals for regional and local-scale management programs that could improve sustainability measures.
Hoey, A., Howells, E., Johansen, J., Hobbs, J.P., Messmer, V., McCowan, D.W., & Pratchett, M. (2016, May 18). Recent Advances in Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs. Diversity. Retrieved from: mdpi.com/1424-2818/8/2/12
Evidence suggests coral reefs may have some capacity to respond to warming, but it’s unclear if these adaptations can match the increasingly rapid pace of climate change. However, the effects of climate change are being compounded by a variety of other anthropogenic disturbances making it harder for corals to respond.
Ainsworth, T., Heron, S., Ortiz, J.C., Mumby, P., Grech, A., Ogawa, D., Eakin, M., & Leggat, W. (2016, April 15). Climate change disables coral bleaching protection on the Great Barrier Reef. Science, 352(6283), 338-342. Retrieved from: science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6283/338
The current character of temperature warming, which precludes acclimation, has resulted in increased bleaching and death of coral organisms. These effects were most extreme in the wake of the 2016 El Nino year.
Graham, N., Jennings, S., MacNeil, A., Mouillot, D., & Wilson, S. (2015, February 05). Predicting climate-driven regime shifts versus rebound potential in coral reefs. Nature, 518, 94-97. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/nature14140
Coral bleaching due to climate change is one of the major threats facing coral reefs. This article considers long-term reef responses to major climate-induced coral bleaching of Indo-Pacific corals and identifies reef characteristics that favor rebound. The authors aim to use their findings to inform future best management practices.
Spalding, M. D., & B. Brown. (2015, November 13). Warm-water coral reefs and climate change. Science, 350(6262), 769-771. Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6262/769
Coral reefs support huge marine life systems as well as providing critical ecosystem services for millions of people. However, known threats such as overfishing and pollution are being compounded by climate change, notably warming and ocean acidification to increase the damage to coral reefs. This article provides a succinct overview of the effects of climate change on coral reefs.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Eakin, C.M., Hodgson, G., Sale, P.F., & Veron, J.E.N. (2015, December). Climate Change Threatens the Survival of Coral Reefs. ISRS Consensus Statement on Coral Bleaching & Climate Change. Retrieved from: https://www.icriforum.org/sites/default/files/2018%20ISRS%20Consensus%20Statement%20on%20Coral%20Bleaching%20%20Climate%20Change%20final_0.pdf
Coral reefs provide goods and services worth at least US$30 billion per year and support at least 500 million people worldwide. Due to climate change, reefs are under serious threat if actions to curb carbon emissions globally are not taken immediately. This statement was released in parallel with the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015.
BACK TO TOP
8. The Effects of Climate Change on the Arctic and Antarctic
Sohail, T., Zika, J., Irving, D., and Church, J. (2022, February 24). Observed Poleward Freshwater Transport Since 1970. Nature. Vol. 602, 617-622. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04370-w
Between 1970 and 2014 the intensity of the global water cycle increased by up to 7.4%, which the previous modeling suggested estimates of a 2-4% increase. Warm freshwater is pulled toward the poles changing our ocean temperature, freshwater content, and salinity. The increasing intensity changes to the global water cycle are likely to make dry areas dryer and wet areas wetter.
Moon, T.A., M.L. Druckenmiller., and R.L. Thoman, Eds. (2021, December). Arctic Report Card: Update for 2021. NOAA. https://doi.org/10.25923/5s0f-5163
The 2021 Arctic Report Card (ARC2021) and the attached video illustrates that rapid and pronounced warming continues to create cascading disruptions for the Arctic marine life. Arctic-wide trends include tundra greening, increasing Arctic rivers discharge, loss of sea ice volume, ocean noise, beaver range expansion, and glacier permafrost hazards.
Strycker, N., Wethington, M., Borowicz, A., Forrest, S., Witharana, C., Hart, T., and H. Lynch. (2020). A Global Population Assessment of the Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica). Science Report Vol. 10, Article 19474. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76479-3
Chinstrap penguins are uniquely adapted to their Antarctic environment; however, researchers are reporting population reductions in 45% of penguin colonies since the 1980s. Researchers found a further 23 populations of chinstrap penguins gone during an expedition in January of 2020. While exact assessments are not available at this time, the presence of abandoned nesting places suggests the decline is widespread. It is believed that warming waters reduce sea ice and the phytoplankton that krill depend on for food the primary food of chinstrap penguins. It is suggested that ocean acidification may affect the penguin’s ability to reproduce.
Smith, B., Fricker, H., Gardner, A., Medley, B., Nilsson, J., Paolo, F., Holschuh, N., Adusumilli, S., Brunt, K., Csatho, B., Harbeck, K., Markus, T., Neumann, T., Siegfried M., and Zwally, H. (2020, April). Pervasive Ice Sheet Mass Loss Reflects Competing Ocean and Atmosphere Processes. Science Magazine. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz5845
NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, which was launched in 2018, is now providing revolutionary data on glacial melt. The researchers found that between 2003 and 2009 enough ice melted to raise sea-levels by 14 millimeters from Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Rohling, E., Hibbert, F., Grant, K., Galaasen, E., Irval, N., Kleiven, H., Marino, G., Ninnemann, U., Roberts, A., Rosenthal, Y., Schulz, H., Williams, F., and Yu, J. (2019). Asynchronous Antarctic and Greenland Ice-volume Contributions to the Last Interglacial Sea-ice Highstand. Nature Communications 10:5040 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12874-3
The last time sea-levels rose above their present level was during the last interglacial period, roughly 130,000-118,000 years ago. Researchers have found that an initial sea-level highstand (above 0m) at ~129.5 to ~124.5 ka and intra-last interglacial sea-level rises with event-mean rates of rise of 2.8, 2.3, and 0.6m c−1. Future sea-level rise may become driven by increasingly rapid mass-loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. There is an increased likelihood for extreme sea-level rise in the future based on historic data from the last interglacial period.
Climate Change Effects on Arctic Species. (2019) Fact sheet from Aspen Institute & SeaWeb. Retrieved from: https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/files/content/upload/ee_3.pdf
Illustrated fact sheet highlighting the challenges of Arctic research, the relatively short time frame that studies of species have been undertaken, and positing the effects of sea ice loss and other effects of climate change.
Christian, C. (2019, January) Climate Change and the Antarctic. Antarctic & Southern Ocean Coalition. Retrieved from https://www.asoc.org/advocacy/climate-change-and-the-antarctic
This summary article provides an excellent overview of the effects of climate change on the Antarctic and its effect on marine species there. The West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth, with only some areas of the Arctic Circle experiencing faster-rising temperatures. This rapid warming affects every level of the food web in Antarctic waters.
Katz, C. (2019, May 10) Alien Waters: Neighboring Seas Are Flowing into a Warming Arctic Ocean. Yale Environment 360. Retrieved from https://e360.yale.edu/features/alien-waters-neighboring-seas-are-flowing-into-a-warming-arctic-ocean
The article discusses the “Atlantification” and “Pacification” of the Arctic Ocean as warming waters allowing new species to migrate northward and disrupting the ecosystem functions and lifecycles that have evolved over time within the Arctic Ocean.
MacGilchrist, G., Naveira-Garabato, A.C., Brown, P.J., Juillion, L., Bacon, S., & Bakker, D.C.E. (2019, August 28). Reframing the carbon cycle of the subpolar Southern Ocean. Science Advances, 5(8), 6410. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aav6410
Global climate is critically sensitive to physical and biogeochemical dynamics in the subpolar Southern Ocean, because it is there that deep, carbon-rich layers of the world ocean outcrop and exchange carbon with the atmosphere. Thus, how carbon uptake works there specifically must be well understood as a means of understanding past and future climate change. Based on their research, the authors believe that the conventional framework for the subpolar Southern Ocean carbon cycle fundamentally misrepresents the drivers of regional carbon uptake. Observations in the Weddell Gyre show that the rate of carbon uptake is set by interplay between the Gyre’s horizontal circulation and the remineralization at mid-depths of organic carbon sourced from biological production in the central gyre.
Woodgate, R. (2018, January) Increases in the Pacific inflow to the Arctic from 1990 to 2015, and insights into seasonal trends and driving mechanisms from year-round Bering Strait mooring data. Progress in Oceanography, 160, 124-154 Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079661117302215
With this study, conducted using data from year-round mooring buoys in the Bering Strait, the author established that northward flow of water through the straight had increased dramatically over 15 years, and that the change was not due to local wind or other individual weather events, but due to warming waters. The transport increase results from stronger northward flows (not fewer southward flow events), yielding a 150% increase in kinetic energy, presumably with impacts on bottom suspension, mixing, and erosion. It was also noted that the temperature of the northward-flowing water was warmer than 0 degrees C on more days by 2015 than at the beginning of the data set.
Stone, D. P. (2015). The Changing Arctic Environment. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Since the industrial revolution, the Arctic environment is undergoing unprecedented change due to human activity. The seemingly pristine arctic environment is also showing high levels of toxic chemicals and increased warming which have started to have serious consequences on the climate in other parts of the world. Told through an Arctic Messenger, author David Stone examines scientific monitoring and influential groups have led to international legal actions to lessen the harm to the arctic environment.
Wohlforth, C. (2004). The Whale and the Supercomputer: On The Northern Front of Climate Change. New York: North Point Press.
The Whale and the Supercomputer weaves the personal stories of the scientists researching climate with the experiences of the Inupiat of northern Alaska. The book equally describes the whaling practices and traditional knowledge of the Inupiaq as much as data-driven measures of snow, glacial melt, albedo -that is, light reflected by a planet- and biological changes observable in animals and insects. The description of the two cultures allows non-scientists to relate to the earliest examples of climate change affecting the environment.
BACK TO TOP
9. Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)
Tyka, M., Arsdale, C., and Platt, J. (2022, January 3). CO2 Capture by Pumping Surface Acidity to the Deep Ocean. Energy & Environmental Science. DOI: 10.1039/d1ee01532j
There is a potential for new technologies – such as alkalinity pumping – to contribute to the portfolio of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies, although they are likely to be more expensive than on-shore methods due to the challenges of marine engineering. Significantly more research is necessary to assess the feasibility and the risks associated with ocean alkalinity alterations and other removal techniques. Simulations and small-scale tests have limitations and cannot fully predict how CDR methods will affect the ocean ecosystem when put to the scale of mitigating current CO2 emissions.
Castañón, L. (2021, December 16). An Ocean of Opportunity: Exploring the Potential Risks and Rewards of Ocean-based Solutions to Climate Change. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/an-ocean-of-opportunity/
The ocean is an important part of the natural carbon sequestration process, diffusing excess carbon from the air into the water and eventually sinking it to the ocean floor. Some carbon dioxide bonds with weathered rocks or shells locking it into a new form, and marine algae uptakes other carbon bonds, integrating it into the natural biological cycle. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) solutions intend to mimic or enhance these natural carbon storage cycles. This article highlights risks and variables that will affect the success of the CDR projects.
Cornwall, W. (2021, December 15). To Draw Down Carbon and Cool off the Planet, Ocean Fertilization Gets Another Look. Science, 374. Retrieved from: https://www.science.org/content/article/draw-down-carbon-and-cool-planet-ocean-fertilization-gets-another-look
Ocean fertilization is a politically charged form of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) that used to be viewed as reckless. Now, researchers are planning to pour 100 tons of iron across 1000 square kilometers of the Arabian Sea. An important question being posed is how much of the absorbed carbon actually makes it to the deep ocean rather than being consumed by other organisms and re-emitted into the environment. Skeptics of the fertilization method note that recent surveys of 13 past fertilization experiments found only one that increased deep ocean carbon levels. Although potential consequences worry some, others believe that gauging the potential risks is another reason to move forward with the research.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2021, December). A Research Strategy for Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26278
This report recommends the United States undertake a $125 million research program dedicated to testing understanding challenges for ocean-based CO2 removal approaches, including economic and social obstacles. Six ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) approaches were assessed in the report including nutrient fertilization, artificial upwelling and downwelling, seaweed cultivation, ecosystem recovery, ocean alkalinity enhancement, and electrochemical processes. There are still conflicting opinions on CDR approaches within the scientific community, but this report marks a notable step in the conversation for the bold recommendations laid out by ocean scientists.
The Aspen Institute. (2021, December 8). Guidance for Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal Projects: A Pathway to Developing a Code of Conduct. The Aspen Institute. Retrieved From: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/files/content/docs/pubs/120721_Ocean-Based-CO2-Removal_E.pdf
Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) projects could be more advantageous than land-based projects, because of space availability, the possibility for co-locational projects, and co-beneficial projects (including mitigating ocean acidification, food production, and biofuel production). However, CDR projects face challenges including poorly studied potential environmental impacts, uncertain regulations and jurisdictions, the difficulty of operations, and varying rates of success. More small-scale research is necessary to define and verify carbon dioxide removal potential, catalog potential environmental and societal externalities, and account for governance, funding, and cessation issues.
Batres, M., Wang, F. M., Buck, H., Kapila, R., Kosar, U., Licker, R., … & Suarez, V. (2021, July). Environmental and Climate Justice and Technological Carbon Removal. The Electricity Journal, 34(7), 107002.
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) methods should be implemented with justice and equity in mind, and the local communities where projects may be located should be at the core of decision-making. Communities often lack the resources and knowledge to participate and invest in CDR efforts. Environmental justice should remain at the forefront of project progression to avoid adverse effects on already overburdened communities.
Fleming, A. (2021, June 23). Cloud Spraying and Hurricane Slaying: How Ocean Geoengineering Became the Frontier of the Climate Crisis. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/23/cloud-spraying-and-hurricane-slaying-could-geoengineering-fix-the-climate-crisis
Tom Green hopes to sink trillion tonnes of CO2 to the bottom of the ocean by dropping volcanic rock sand into the ocean. Green claims that if the sand is deposited on 2% of the world’s coastlines it would capture 100% of our current global annual carbon emissions. The size of CDR projects necessary to tackle our current emission levels makes all projects difficult to scale. Alternatively, rewilding coastlines with mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses both restore ecosystems and hold CO2 without facing the major risks of technological CDR interventions.
Gertner, J. (2021, June 24). Has the Carbontech Revolution Begun? The New York Times.
Direct carbon capture (DCC) technology exists, but it remains expensive. The CarbonTech industry is now beginning to resell the captured carbon to businesses that can use it in their products and in turn shrink their emission footprint. Carbon-neutral or carbon-negative products could fall under a larger category of carbon utilization products that make carbon capture profitable while appealing to the market. Although climate change will not be fixed with CO2 yoga mats and sneakers, it is just another small step in the right direction.
Hirschlag, A. (2021, June 8). To Combat Climate Change, Researchers Want to Pull Carbon Dioxide From the Ocean and Turn It Into Rock. Smithsonian. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/combat-climate-change-researchers-want-to-pull-carbon-dioxide-from-ocean-and-turn-it-into-rock-180977903/
One proposed Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technique is to introduce electrically charged mesor hydroxide (alkaline material) into the ocean to trigger a chemical reaction that would result in carbonate limestone rocks. The rock could be used for construction, but the rocks would likely end up in the ocean. The limestone output could upset local marine ecosystems, smothering plant life and significantly altering seafloor habitats. However, researchers point out that the output water will be slightly more alkaline which has the potential to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification in the treatment area. Additionally, hydrogen gas would be a byproduct that could be sold to help offset installment costs. Further research is necessary to demonstrate the technology is viable on a large scale and economically viable.
Healey, P., Scholes, R., Lefale, P., & Yanda, P. (2021, May). Governing Net-Zero Carbon Removals to Avoid Entrenching Inequities. Frontiers in Climate, 3, 38. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2021.672357
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technology, like climate change, is embedded with risks and inequities, and this article includes actionable recommendations for the future to address these inequities. Currently, the emerging knowledge and investments in CDR technology are concentrated in the global north. If this pattern continues, it will only exacerbate the global environmental injustices and accessibility gap when it comes to climate change and climate solutions.
Meyer, A., & Spalding, M. J. (2021, March). A Critical Analysis of the Ocean Effects of Carbon Dioxide Removal via Direct Air and Ocean Capture – Is it a Safe and Sustainable Solution?. The Ocean Foundation.
Emerging Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies could play a supporting role in larger solutions in the transition away from burning fossil fuels to a cleaner, equitable, sustainable energy grid. Among these technologies are direct air capture (DAC) and direct ocean capture (DOC), which both use machinery to extract CO2 from the atmosphere or ocean and transport it to underground storage facilities or utilize the captured carbon to recover oil from commercially depleted sources. Currently, carbon capture technology is very expensive and poses risks to ocean biodiversity, ocean and coastal ecosystems, and coastal communities including Indigenous peoples. Other nature-based solutions including: mangrove restoration, regenerative agriculture, and reforestation remain beneficial for biodiversity, society, and long-term carbon storage without many of the risks that accompany technological DAC/DOC. While risks and feasibility of carbon removal technologies are rightfully explored moving forward, it is important to “first, do no harm” to ensure adverse effects are not inflicted on our precious land and ocean ecosystems.
Center for International Environmental Law. (2021, March 18). Ocean Ecosystems & Geoengineering: An introductory Note.
Nature-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) techniques in the marine context include protecting and restoring coastal mangroves, seagrass beds, and kelp forests. Even though they pose fewer risks than technological approaches, there is still harm that can be inflicted on marine ecosystems. Technological CDR marine-based approaches seek to modify the ocean chemistry to uptake more CO2, including the most widely discussed examples of ocean fertilization and ocean alkalinization. The focus must be on preventing human-caused carbon emissions, rather than unproven adaptive techniques to lessen the world’s emissions.
Gattuso, J. P., Williamson, P., Duarte, C. M., & Magnan, A. K. (2021, January 25). The Potential for Ocean-Based Climate Action: Negative Emissions Technologies and Beyond. Frontiers in Climate. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2020.575716
Of the many types of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), the four primary ocean-based methods are: marine bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, restoring and increasing coastal vegetation, enhancing open-ocean productivity, enhancing weathering and alkalinization. This report analyzes the four types and argues for increased priority for CDR research and development. The techniques still come with many uncertainties, but they have the potential to be highly effective in the pathway to limit climate warming.
Buck, H., Aines, R., et al. (2021). Concepts: Carbon Dioxide Removal Primer. Retrieved From: https://cdrprimer.org/read/concepts
The author’s define Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) as any activity that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and durably stores it in geological, terrestrial, or ocean reserves, or in products. CDR is different from geoengineering, as, unlike geoengineering, CDR techniques remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but geoengineering simply focuses on reducing climate change symptoms. Many other important terms are included in this text, and it serves as a helpful supplement to the larger conversation.
Keith, H., Vardon, M., Obst, C., Young, V., Houghton, R. A., & Mackey, B. (2021). Evaluating Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Mitigation and Conservation Requires Comprehensive Carbon Accounting. Science of The Total Environment, 769, 144341. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144341
Nature-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) solutions are a co-beneficial approach to address the climate crisis, which includes carbon stocks and flows. Flow-based carbon accounting incentivizes natural solutions while highlighting the risks of burning fossil fuels.
Bertram, C., & Merk, C. (2020, December 21). Public Perceptions of Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal: The Nature-Engineering Divide?. Frontiers in Climate, 31. https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2020.594194
Public acceptability of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) techniques over the past 15 has remained low for climate engineering initiatives when compared to nature-based solutions. Perceptions research mainly has focused on the global perspective for climate-engineering approaches or a local perspective for blue carbon approaches. Perceptions vary greatly according to location, education, income, etc. Both technological and nature-based approaches are likely to contribute to the utilized CDR solutions portfolio, so it is important to consider the perspectives of groups that will be directly affected.
ClimateWorks. (2020, December 15). Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). ClimateWorks. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/brl4-xa9DTY.
This four-minute animated video describes the natural ocean carbon cycles and introduces common Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) techniques. It must be noted that this video does not mention the environmental and societal risks of technological CDR methods, nor does it cover alternative nature-based solutions.
Brent, K., Burns, W., McGee, J. (2019, December 2). Governance of Marine Geoengineering: Special Report. Centre for International Governance Innovation. Retrieved from: https://www.cigionline.org/publications/governance-marine-geoengineering/
The rise of marine geoengineering technologies is likely to place new demands on our international law systems to govern the risks and opportunities. Some existing policies on marine activities could apply to geoengineering, however, the rules were created and negotiated for purposes other than geoengineering. The London Protocol, 2013 amendment on ocean dumping is the most relevant farmwork to marine geoengineering. More international agreements are necessary to fill the gap in marine geoengineering governance.
Gattuso, J. P., Magnan, A. K., Bopp, L., Cheung, W. W., Duarte, C. M., Hinkel, J., and Rau, G. H. (2018, October 4). Ocean Solutions to Address Climate Change and Its Effects on Marine Ecosystems. Frontiers in Marine Science, 337. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00337
It is important to reduce climate-related impacts on marine ecosystems without compromising ecosystem protection in the solution method. As such the authors of this study analyzed 13 ocean-based measures to reduce ocean warming, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise, including Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) methods of fertilization, alkalinization, land-ocean hybrid methods, and reef restoration. Moving forward, the deployment of various methods at a smaller scale would reduce risks and uncertainties associated with large-scale deployment.
National Research Council. (2015). Climate intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration. National Academies Press.
The deployment of any Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technique accompanies many uncertainties: effectiveness, cost, governance, externalities, co-benefits, safety, equity, etc. The book, Climate Intervention, addresses uncertainties, important considerations, and recommendations for moving forward. This source includes a good primary analysis of the main emerging CDR technologies. CDR techniques may never scale up to remove a substantial amount of CO2, but they still play an important part in the journey to net-zero, and attention must be paid.
The London Protocol. (2013, October 18). Amendment to Regulate the Placement of Matter for Ocean Fertilization and other Marine Geoengineering Activities. Annex 4.
The 2013 amendment to the London Protocol prohibits the dumping of wastes or other material into the sea to control and restrict ocean fertilization and other geoengineering techniques. This amendment is the first international amendment addressing any geoengineering techniques which will affect the types of carbon dioxide removal projects that can be introduced and tested in the environment.
BACK TO TOP
10. Climate Change and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ)
Phillips, T. and King, F. (2021). Top 5 Resources For Community Engagement From A Deij Perspective. The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Diversity Workgroup. PDF.
The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Diversity Workgroup has put together a resource guide for integrating DEIJ into community engagement projects. The fact sheet includes links to information on environmental justice, implicit bias, and racial equity, as well as definitions for groups. It is important that DEIJ be integrated into a project from the initial developing phase in order for meaningful involvement of all people and communities involved.
Gardiner, B. (2020, July 16). Ocean Justice: Where Social Equity and the Climate Fight Intersect. Interview with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Yale Environment 360.
Ocean justice is at the intersection of ocean conservation and social justice, and the problems that communities will face from climate change are not going away. Solving the climate crisis is not just an engineering problem but a social norm problem that leaves many out of the conversation. The full interview is highly recommended and is available at the following link: https://e360.yale.edu/features/ocean-justice-where-social-equity-and-the-climate-fight-intersect.
Rush, E. (2018). Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Canada: Milkweed Editions.
Told via a first-person introspective, author Elizabeth Rush discusses the consequences vulnerable communities face from climate change. The journalistic-style narrative weaves together the true stories of communities in Florida, Louisiana, Rhode Island, California, and New York who have experienced the devastating effects of hurricanes, extreme weather, and rising tides due to climate change.
BACK TO TOP
11. Policy and Government Publications
The United Nations. (2015). The Paris Agreement. Bonn, Germany: United National Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat, U.N. Climate Change. Retrieved from: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
The Paris Agreement came into force on 4 November 2016. Its intent was to unite nations in an ambitious effort to limit climate change and adapt to its effects. The central goal is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and limit further temperature increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). These have been codified by each party with specific Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that require each party to regularly report on their emissions and implementation efforts. To date, 196 Parties have ratified the agreement, though it should be noted the United States was an original signatory but has given notice that it will withdraw from the agreement.
Please note this document is the only source not in chronological order. As the most comprehensive international commitment affecting climate change policy, this source is included out of chronological order.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group II. (2022). Climate Change 2022 Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers. IPCC. PDF.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is a high-level summary for policy makers of Working Group II’s contributions to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. The assessment integrates knowledge more strongly than earlier assessments, and it addresses climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation that are concurrently unfolding. The authors have issued a ‘dire warning’ about the current and future state of our environment.
United Nations Environment Programme. (2021). Emissions Gap Report 2021. United Nations. PDF.
The United Nations Environment Programme 2021 report shows that national climate pledges currently in place put the world on track to hit a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees celsius by the end of the century. To keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees celsius, following the goal of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half in the next eight years. In the short term, the reduction of methane emissions from fossil fuel, waste, and agriculture has the potential to reduce warming. Clearly defined carbon markets could also help the world meet emission goals.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2021, November). Glasgow Climate Pact. United Nations. PDF.
The Glasgow Climate Pact calls for increased climate action above the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to keep the goal of only a 1.5C temperature rise. This pact was signed by nearly 200 countries and is the first climate agreement to explicitly plan to reduce coal usage, and it sets clear rules for a global climate market.
Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. (2021). Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue to Consider How to Strengthen Adaptation and Mitigation Action. The United Nations. PDF.
The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) is the first summary report of what will now be the annual ocean and climate change dialogue. The report is a requirement of COP 25 for reporting purposes. This dialogue was then welcomed by the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, and it highlights the importance of Governments strengthening their understanding of and action on the ocean and climate change.
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. (2021). The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030): Implementation Plan, Summary. UNESCO. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000376780
The United Nations has declared that 2021-2030 to be the Ocean Decade. Throughout the decade the United Nations is working beyond the capacities of a single nation to collectively align research, investments, and initiatives around global priorities. Over 2,500 stakeholders contributed to the development of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development plan which sets scientific priorities that will jumpstart ocean science based solutions for sustainable development. Updates on the Ocean Decade initiatives can be found here.
The Law of the Sea and Climate Change. (2020). In E. Johansen, S. Busch, & I. Jakobsen (Eds.), The Law of the Sea and Climate Change: Solutions and Constraints (pp. I-Ii). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
There is a strong link between solutions to climate change and the influences of international climate law and the law of the sea. Although they are largely developed through separate legal entities, addressing climate change with marine legislation can lead to achieving co-beneficial objectives.
United Nations Environment Program (2020, June 9) Gender, Climate & Security: Sustaining Inclusive Peace on the Frontlines of Climate Change. United Nations. https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/gender-climate-security-sustaining-inclusive-peace-frontlines-climate-change
Climate change is exacerbating conditions that threaten peace and security. Gender norms and power structures place a critical role in how people may be affected by and respond to the growing crisis. The United Nations report recommends integrating complementary policy agendas, scale-up integrated programming, increase targeted financing, and expand the evidence base of the gender dimensions of climate-related security risks.
United Nations Water. (2020, March 21). The United Nations World Water Development Report 2020: Water and Climate Change. United Nations Water. https://www.unwater.org/publications/world-water-development-report-2020/
Climate change will affect the availability, quality, and quantity of water for basic human needs threatening food security, human health, urban and rural settlements, energy production, and increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme events such as heatwaves and storm surge events. Water-related extremes exacerbated by climate change increase risks to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure. Opportunities to address the growing climate and water crisis include systematic adaptation and mitigation planning into water investments, which will make investments and associated activities more appealing to climate financiers. The changing climate will affect more than just marine life, but nearly all human activities.
Blunden, J., and Arndt, D. (2020). State of the Climate in 2019. American Meteorological Society. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.https://journals.ametsoc.org/bams/article-pdf/101/8/S1/4988910/2020bamsstateoftheclimate.pdf
NOAA reported that 2019 was the hottest year on record since records began in the mid-1800s. 2019 also saw record levels of greenhouse gases, rising sea levels, and increased temperatures recorded in every region of the world. This year was the first time that NOAA’s report included marine heatwaves showing the growing prevalence of marine heatwaves. The report supplements the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Ocean and Climate. (2019, December) Policy Recommendations: A healthy ocean, a protected climate. The Ocean and Climate Platform. https://ocean-climate.org/?page_id=8354&lang=en
Based on the commitments made during the 2014 COP21 and the 2015 Paris Agreement, this report lays out the steps for a healthy ocean and protected climate. Countries should begin with mitigation, then adaptation, and finally embrace sustainable finance. Recommended actions include: to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5°C; end subsidies to fossil fuel production; develop marine renewable energies; accelerate adaptation measures; boost efforts to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by 2020; adopt a legally binding agreement for fair conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity in the high seas; pursue a target of 30% of the ocean protected by 2030; strengthen international transdisciplinary research on ocean-climate themes by including a socio-ecological dimension.
World Health Organization. (2019, April 18). Health, Environment and Climate Change WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change: The Transformation Needed to Improve Lives and Well-being Sustainably through Healthy Environments. World Health Organization, Seventy-Second World Health Assembly A72/15, Provisional agenda item 11.6.
Known avoidable environmental risks cause about one-quarter of all deaths and disease worldwide, a steady 13 million deaths each year. Climate change is increasingly responsible, but the threat to human health by climate change can be mitigated. Actions must be taken focusing on upstream determinants of health, determinants of climate change, and the environment in an integrated approach that is adjusted to local circumstances and supported by adequate governance mechanisms.
United Nations Development Programme. (2019). UNDP’s Climate Promise: Safeguarding Agenda 2030 Through Bold Climate Action. United Nations Development Programme. PDF.
In order to achieve the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Development Programme will support 100 countries in an inclusive and transparent engagement process to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The service offering includes support for building of political will and societal ownership at national and sub-national levels; review of and updates to existing targets, policies, and measures; incorporating new sectors and or greenhouse gas standards; assess costs and investment opportunities; monitor progress and strengthen transparency.
Pörtner, H.O., Roberts, D.C., Masson-Delmotte, V., Zhai, P., Tignor, M., Poloczanska, E., …, & Weyer, N. (2019). Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. PDF.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report authored by more than 100 scientists from over 36 countries on the enduring changes in the ocean and cryosphere-the frozen parts of the planet. The key finds are that major changes in high mountain areas will affect downstream communities, glaciers and ice sheets are melting contributing to increasing rates of sea-level rise predicted to reach 30-60 cm (11.8 – 23.6 inches) by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply curbed and 60-110cm (23.6 – 43.3 inches) if greenhouse gas emissions continue their current rise. There will be more frequent extreme sea-level events, changes in the ocean’s ecosystems through ocean warming and acidification and Arctic sea ice is declining every month along with thawing permafrost. The report finds that strongly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems and careful resource management makes it possible to preserve the ocean and cryosphere, but action must be taken.
The U.S. Department of Defense. (2019, January). Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. Retrieved from: https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/sec_335_ndaa-report_effects_of_a_changing_climate_to_dod.pdf
The U.S. Department of Defense considers the national security risks associated with a changing climate and subsequent events such as recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost’s effects on national security. The report finds that climate resilience must be incorporated in planning and decision-making processes and cannot act as a separate program. The report finds that there are significant security vulnerabilities from climate-related events on operations and missions.
Wuebbles, D.J., Fahey, D.W., Hibbard, K.A., Dokken, D.J., Stewart, B.C., & Maycock, T.K. (2017). Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I. Washington, D.C., USA: U.S. Global Change Research Program.
As part of the National Climate Assessment ordered by the U.S. Congress to be conducted every four years is designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change with a focus on the United States. Some key findings include the following: the last century is the warmest in the history of civilization; human activity -particularly the emission of greenhouse gases- is the dominant cause of the observed warming; the global average sea level has risen by 7 inches in the last century; tidal flooding is increasing and sea levels are expected to continue to rise; heatwaves will be more frequent, as will forest fires; and the magnitude of change will depend heavily on global levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Cicin-Sain, B. (2015, April). Goal 14—Conserve and Sustainably Use Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. United Nations Chronicle, LI(4). Retrieved from: http://unchronicle.un.org/article/goal-14-conserve-and-sustainably-useoceans-seas-and-marine-resources-sustainable/
Goal 14 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) highlights the need for the conservation of the ocean and sustainable use of marine resources. The most ardent support for ocean management comes from the small island developing states and least developed countries that are adversely affected by ocean negligence. Programs that address Goal 14 also serve to meet seven other UN SDG goals including poverty, food security, energy, economic growth, infrastructure, reduction of inequality, cities and human settlements, sustainable consumption and production, climate change, biodiversity, and means of implementation and partnerships.
United Nations. (2015). Goal 13—Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impacts. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13
Goal 13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) highlights the need to address the increasing effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Since the Paris Agreement, many countries have taken positive steps for climate finance through nationally determined contributions, there remains significant need for action on mitigation and adaptation, particularly for least developed countries and small island nations.
U.S. Department of Defense. (2015, July 23). National Security Implication of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Retrieved from: https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/150724-congressional-report-on-national-implications-of-climate-change.pdf
The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat with observable effects in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including the United States. The risks themselves vary, but all share a common assessment of climate change’s significance.
Pachauri, R.K., & Meyer, L.A. (2014). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/
Human influence on the climate system is clear and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Effective adaption and mitigation possibilities are available in every major sector, but responses will depend on policies and measures across the international, national, and local levels. The 2014 report has become a definitive study about climate change.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Cai, R., Poloczanska, E., Brewer, P., Sundby, S., Hilmi, K., …, & Jung, S. (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK and New York, New York USA: Cambridge University Press. 1655-1731. Retrieved from: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WGIIAR5-Chap30_FINAL.pdf
The ocean is essential to the Earth’s climate and has absorbed 93% of the energy produced from the enhanced greenhouse effect and approximately 30% of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Global average sea surface temperatures have increased from 1950-2009. The ocean chemistry is changing due to an uptake of CO2 decreasing the overall ocean pH. These, along with many other effects of anthropogenic climate change, have a plethora of detrimental repercussions on the ocean, marine life, the environment, and humans.
Please note this is related to the Synthesis Report detailed above, but is specific to the Ocean.
Griffis, R., & Howard, J. (Eds.). (2013). Oceans and Marine Resources in a Changing Climate; A Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Washington, D.C., USA: Island Press.
As a companion to the National Climate Assessment 2013 report, this document looks at the technical considerations and findings specific to the ocean and marine environment. The report argues that climate-driven physical and chemical changes are causing significant harm, will adversely affect the ocean’s features, thus the Earth’s ecosystem. There remain many opportunities to adapt and address these problems including increased international partnership, sequestration opportunities, and improved marine policy and management. This report provides one of the most thorough investigates the consequence of climate change and its effects on the ocean supported by in-depth research.
Warner, R., & Schofield, C. (Eds.). (2012). Climate Change and the Oceans: Gauging the Legal and Policy Currents in the Asia Pacific and Beyond. Northampton, Massachusetts: Edwards Elgar Publishing, Inc.
This collection of essays looks at the nexus of governance and climate change within the Asia-Pacific region. The book begins by discussing the physical effects of climate change including effects on biodiversity and the policy implications. The moves into discussions of maritime jurisdiction in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic followed by a discussion of country and maritime boundaries, followed by a security analysis. The final chapters discuss the implications of greenhouse gases and opportunities for mitigation. Climate change presents an opportunity for global cooperation, signals a need for monitoring and regulating marine geo-engineering activities in response to climate change mitigation efforts, and develop a coherent international, regional, and national policy response that recognize the ocean’s role in climate change.
United Nations. (1997, December 11). The Kyoto Protocol. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved from: https://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is an international commitment to set internationally binding targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction. This agreement was ratified in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. The Doha Amendment was adopted in December, 2012 to extend the protocol to December 31st, 2020 and revise the list of greenhouse gases (GHG) that must be reported by each party.
BACK TO TOP
12. Proposed Solutions
Ruffo, S. (2021, October). The Ocean’s Ingenious Climate Solutions. TED. https://youtu.be/_VVAu8QsTu8
We must think of the ocean as a source for solutions rather than another part of the environment we need to save. The ocean is currently what is keeping the climate stable enough to support humanity, and it is an integral part of the fight against climate change. Natural climate solutions are available by working with our water systems, while we simultaneously reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Carlson, D. (2020, October 14) Within 20 Years, Rising Sea Levels Will Hit Nearly Every Coastal County – and their Bonds. Sustainable Investing.
Increased credit risks from more frequent and severe flooding could hurt municipalities, an issue that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. States with large coastal populations and economies face multi-decade credit risks due to the weaker economy and the high costs of sea-level rise. The U.S. states most at risk are Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Johnson, A. (2020, June 8). To Save the Climate Look to the Ocean. Scientific American. PDF.
The ocean is in dire straits due to human activity, but there are opportunities in renewable offshore energy, the sequestration of carbon, algae biofuel, and regenerative ocean farming. The ocean is a threat to the millions living on the coast via flooding, a victim of human activity, and an opportunity to save the planet, all at the same time. A Blue New Deal is needed in addition to the proposed Green New Deal to address the climate crisis and turn the ocean from a threat into a solution.
Ceres (2020, June 1) Addressing Climate as a Systematic Risk: A Call to Action. Ceres. https://www.ceres.org/sites/default/files/2020-05/Financial%20Regulator%20Executive%20Summary%20FINAL.pdf
Climate change is a systematic risk due to its potential to destabilize capital markets which may lead to serious negative consequences for the economy. Ceres provides over 50 recommendations for key financial regulations for action on climate change. These include: acknowledging that climate change poses risks to the financial market stability, require financial institutions to conduct climate stress tests, require banks to assess and disclose climate risks, such as carbon emissions from their lending and investment activities, integrate climate risk into community reinvestment processes, particularly in low-income communities, and join efforts to foster coordinated efforts on climate risks.
Gattuso, J., Magnan, A., Gallo, N., Herr, D., Rochette, J., Vallejo, L., and Williamson, P. (2019, November) Opportunities for Increasing Ocean Action in Climate Strategies Policy Brief. IDDRI Sustainable Development & International Relations.
Published ahead of the 2019 Blue COP (also known as COP25), this report argues that advancing knowledge and ocean-based solutions can maintain or increase ocean services despite climate change. As more projects that address climate change are revealed and countries work toward their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), countries should prioritize the scale-up of climate action and prioritize decisive and low regret projects.
Gramling, C. (2019, October 6). In a Climate Crisis, is Geoengineering Worth the Risks? Science News. PDF.
To combat climate change people have suggested large-scale geoengineering projects to reduce ocean warming and sequester carbon. Suggested projects include: building large mirrors in space, adding aerosols to the stratosphere, and ocean seeding (adding iron as fertilizer to the ocean to spur phytoplankton growth). Others suggest that these geoengineering projects could lead to dead zones and threaten marine life. The general consensus is that more research is needed due to the considerable uncertainty on the long-term effects of geoengineers.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Northrop, E., and Lubehenco, J. (2019, September 27). The Ocean is Key to Achieving Climate and Societal Goals: Ocean-based Approached can help close Mitigation Gaps. Insights Policy Forum, Science Magazine. 265(6460), DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz4390.
While climate change adversely affects the ocean, the ocean also serves as a source of solutions: renewable energy; shipping and transport; protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems; fisheries, aquaculture, and shifting diets; and carbon storage in the seabed. These solutions have all been previously proposed, yet very few countries have included even one of these in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. Only eight NDC include quantifiable measurements for carbon sequestration, two mention ocean-based renewable energy, and only one mentioned sustainable shipping. There remains an opportunity to direct time-bound targets and policies for ocean-based mitigation to ensure the goals of emission reduction are met.
Cooley, S., BelloyB., Bodansky, D., Mansell, A., Merkl, A., Purvis, N., Ruffo, S., Taraska, G., Zivian, A. and Leonard, G. (2019, May 23). Overlooked ocean strategies to address climate change. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.101968.
Many countries have committed to limits on greenhouse gases via the Paris Agreement. In order to be successful parties to the Paris Agreement must: protect the ocean and accelerate climate ambition, focus on CO2 reductions, understand and protect ocean ecosystem-based carbon dioxide storage, and pursue sustainable ocean-based adaptation strategies.
Helvarg, D. (2019). Diving into an Ocean Climate Action Plan. Alert Diver Online.
Divers have a unique view into the degrading ocean environment caused by climate change. As such, Helvarg argues that divers should unite to support an Ocean Climate Action Plan. The action plan will highlight the need for reformation of the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, major coastal infrastructure investment with a focus on natural barriers and living shorelines, new guidelines for offshore renewable energy, a network of marine protected areas (MPAs), assistance for greening ports and fishing communities, increased aquaculture investment, and a revised National Disaster Recovery Framework.
BACK TO TOP
13. Looking for More? (Additional Resources)
This research page is designed to be a curated list of resources of the most influential publications on the ocean and climate. For additional information on specific topics we recommend the following journals, databases, and collections:
- Meyer, A. and Spalding, M. (2021, March). A Critical Analysis of the Ocean Effects of Carbon Dioxide Removal via Direct Air and Ocean Capture- Is it a Safe and Sustainable Solution? (Part of a formal submission to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for consideration in the public access file for NASEM’s ocean CDR study)
- Journal of Ocean and Climate
- Ocean and Coastal Management
- NOAA’s 1991 Oceans and Climate Bibliography
- History of the Discovery of Global Warming
- New York University’s collection of Global Laws related to Climate Change