International
Lucas Jackson / REUTERS

World - Oceans Are Changing. Nature Can Help Us Deal With the Risk

Multi-sector collaboration and innovation are needed to protect and regenerate precious ecosystems and reduce ocean risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown all of us the interconnectedness of our world and how important it is to invest in nature. Yet, the ocean is often forgotten as a critical, investible solution to both mitigate risk and build resilience to change.

Last year’s IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate underscores how human activity is now changing the ocean faster than at any time in the past 65 million years. The year 2019 was declared as the warmest ever for the ocean and last month saw the second-lowest extent of Arctic sea ice since satellite records began.

Ocean heating from CO₂ emissions results in a rise in sea levels, intensifying storms and damage to marine ecosystems that provide essential services including their protective benefits, food security and climate regulation. Changes to the ocean pose threats to the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, most of them in the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the Global South and in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with women and girls especially hard hit.

It also results in significant costs: according to a research paper published in Nature Climate Change, by 2050 the global community will face annual costs of more than $1 trillion in coastal urban areas as a result of the combined effects of rising sea levels and extreme weather events on our coastlines. Insurers alone have paid out more than $300 billion for coastal storm damage in the past decade – far less than the significant and constantly rising costs to governments and taxpayers.

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