A United Nations panel released its latest assessment of the impact of climate change on the world’s environment, focusing on issues such as food supply and economic security. The ocean, which covers 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, is at the epicenter of many of the problems brought on by climate change.
“Even before this report came out, we knew we were draining the ocean of life,” said Karen Sack, senior director for international oceans at The Pew Charitable Trusts, referring to the new work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“The IPCC report raises further alarm about how climate change is speeding up the degradation of increasingly fragile marine ecosystems. World leaders must act now to implement solutions we know exist, to problems that we are certain can be reversed, by ending overfishing and establishing very large, fully protected marine reserves.”
The release of the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report comes as country delegates convene in New York City for UN meetings that include talks on sustainable development goals and the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, or the high seas.
“Science is the foundation of smart environmental policy, and science continues to sound the alarm that the world’s changing climate is killing coral reefs, drastically redistributing fisheries, and creating more and more food and economic insecurity,” Ms Sack said.
Findings from the report suggest that globally, climate change is projected to cause a large-scale redistribution of global fish catch potential, with an average 30-70 per cent increase in yield at high latitudes and up to 89 per cent in some regions, after 2°C warming from pre-industrial periods following redistribution between areas, with average catch potential remaining unchanged, will occur at mid latitudes.
A 40-60 per cent drop will occur in the tropics and in Antarctica by the 2050's relative to the 2000's. Model projections also suggest a potential loss of up to 13 per cent to annual total fishery value in the US, or globally over $100 billion annually by 2100.
Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative said the report highlights the dramatic difference of impacts between a world where we act now to cut emissions, which now come mostly from using fossil fuels; and a world where we fail to act quickly and at scale.
“This report tells us that we have two clear choices: cut emissions now and invest in adaption - and have a world that has challenging and just barely manageable risks ; or do nothing and face a world of devastating and unmanageable risks and impacts.”
"The report makes it clear that we still have time to act. We can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes we see now. But without immediate and specific action, we are in danger of going far beyond the limits of adaptation. With this risk posed so clearly, we have to hope that the next IPCC report which is being released in Berlin in April, will provide us with strong statements on the solutions that we know exist,” she said.