The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate released

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). More than 100 scientists from 30 countries contributed to the SROCC. The report highlights the need for urgent, ambitious, and coordinated action to address unprecedented and enduring changes in the planet’s ocean and cryosphere.

“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable. We increase our ability to build resilience and there will be more benefits for sustainable development”, said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee at the report’s launch in Monaco on 25 September.

The report presents a comprehensive overview of physical and ecosystem changes in the ocean and cryosphere with their direct repercussions on society. SROCC predicts increases in the ocean warming, acidification, hypoxia, extreme weather events and sea-level rise. Findings include predicted species distribution shifts affecting ecosystem structure and functioning, loss of biodiversity, biomass, and fisheries production. A high-level summary for policymakers opens with an overview of the ocean’s role as life support system, pointing that “All people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean and cryosphere. The global ocean covers 71% of the Earth surface and contains about 97% of the Earth’s water”.

SROCC notes the increased scientific knowledge and observations of the ocean and cryosphere in the recent decades and stresses that “long-term sustained observations are critical”. Monitoring and forecasting, use of all available knowledge sources, sharing of data, information and knowledge are mentioned among the key enablers for implementing effective responses to climate-related changes. The report also calls for intensified cooperation and coordination among governing authorities, increased education, environmental literacy, and finance, as well as addressing social equity.

The report notes that observations for many key ocean variables must be increased in geographical coverage, density and accuracy. This echoes the recent OceanObs’19 conference conclusions on the challenges of ocean observing capacities and technologies worldwide. The importance of integration of the data and knowledge across the different scales and water systems, as well as across different knowledge holders, have also been stressed in both OceanObs’19 and SROCC.

“As the European Global Ocean Observing System, and as part of the global ocean monitoring and forecasting community, we are well aware of the data and information gaps and work hard to strengthen international cooperation, build capacity and ocean literacy”, said EuroGOOS Chair George Petihakis. “We welcome the IPCC SROCC as an irrefutable scientific evidence of the paramount importance of the ocean for all life on the planet and will continue our efforts to support best available data and information at European and global scales”.

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 is currently being designed by the global ocean stakeholders’ community coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and aims at boosting the societal uptake of the ocean knowledge and information as well as attracting finances. Ocean monitoring and forecasting are among the Decade’s priorities.

Find the IPCC SROCC and the Summary for Policymakers here

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