Ocean warming is affecting people all over the world and presents an enormous ‘ocean risk’, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). XL Catlin, a global provider of environmental insurance, sponsored this study.
The report, titled “Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences”
, says that the temperature rise of the Earth’s seas is “one of the greatest hidden challenges of our generation.” Eighty scientists from 12 countries around the world have contributed to the study’s contents.
According to the report, fundamental changes in the ocean’s chemistry, physics, and biodiversity have started affecting human food security and health, as well as extreme weather events.
Changes in the ocean, such as acidification and de-oxygenation which will impact every level of marine life from the smallest plankton to the largest marine mammals, and even humans. Some of these impacts are:
- Greater risk of storm surges due to stronger tropical storms, putting coastal communities in significant danger
- Compromised food security due to depleted fish stocks and shifts in marine habitats. By 2050, marine harvests in Southeast Asia are expected to decline by 10-30% if greenhouse gas levels remain high
- Reduced crop yields in several regions, such as North America and the Indian subcontinent, due to climate change, with both increased rainfall and droughts in various areas.
- Faster spread of viruses, diseases, and other pathogens due to a warmer ocean. These could reach humans directly or through the food chain. Some examples are the bacteria causing cholera and the neurological disease ciguatera.
- Ocean changes can cause costs to rise. For example, coral bleaching has cost the tourism industry US$23 billion so far. By 2100, lost coral reefs could translate to US$1 trillion lost per year.
The study recommended that the scientific community should place its focus on closing the knowledge gaps about the effects of ocean warming and how it will affect or alter our lives. It also called for the further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to a more active management and even restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.
XL Catlin has been supporting scientific study on ocean changes since 2009. Some of the research endeavors it helped accomplish are a comprehensive digital survey of the world’s coral reefs and a deep-ocean survey that will help develop a methodology to assess physical, chemical and biological indicators of the deep ocean.
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