Researchers from the University of Plymouth have played a key role in new research highlighting how measures to address climate change and reach the Paris Agreement will not succeed unless the ocean is fully taken into account.
The study, published in the journal Aquatic Conservation, is addressed directly to leaders attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
It was prepared by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), a collaboration of scientists including Professor of Marine Biology Jason Hall-Spencer and Professor of Oceanography Chris Reid.
In their report, the researchers say the role of the ocean in both mitigating and aggravating climate change is understood by scientists but largely being ignored by politicians.
They highlight that the ocean is carrying the heaviest load in terms of climate mitigation, absorbing over 90% of the excess heat produced by global warming, in comparison with only about 3% absorbed by land.
It is also the largest carbon sink on Earth leading to damaging ocean acidification that erodes the ocean’s ability to function and creates feedback loops that can exacerbate climate change.
Calling on world leaders to urgently take action to protect the ocean, lead author Professor Dan Laffoley said:
“There simply isn’t time to waste. The changes we have already put into the ocean system will last for centuries and are making the climate crisis worse. Anything we can do now to help the ocean withstand the climate onslaught will in turn help us. Ocean protection is about human survival.”
The report is the latest prepared by IPSO in an attempt to inspire international collaboration and action to protect the ocean.