Synthesis of European research on the effects of climate change on marine environments

It is now commonly accepted that climate change poses one of the main challenges faced by society in the coming decades. Changes in patterns of air temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, and the impacts of such changes on terrestrial environments, often form the focus of public and political concern. The marine environment and marine ecosystems are also being impacted by climate change, with consequent impacts on all terrestrial environments (not just coastal) and thus on society itself. Although there is no certainty regarding the precise nature and rate of future climate change, even the more moderate of the predicted scenarios is expected to further alter the marine environment, with major environmental, economic and social consequences.

Scientific research has contributed to a significantly improved knowledge and understanding of the current and future potential impacts of climate change on the marine environment. However, this knowledge has rarely been adequately communicated beyond the scientific community and, as a result, the impacts are not well known or understood by politicians, policy makers and the general public. This gap in the knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change on the marine environment between scientists and non-specialists forms the main focus of the CLAMER project (European Framework Programme 7 Coordinated Support Action on Climate Change and Marine Ecosystem Research). It starts from the premise that those charged with making difficult decisions on whether and how to implement measures to adapt to the inevitable changes which are taking place, need access to the best scientific knowledge, translated into a format that they can understand and use. Moreover, the general public also need to understand the risks and implications of climate change impacts. Only through adequate knowledge and understanding of the potential consequences of climate change can the public support decisions made by public representatives on appropriate adaptation measures, which may require significant investments of public funds.

In the past 15 years, successive European Union Framework Programmes (EU FP) have supported broad-ranging and multidisciplinary research on how climate change affects marine systems at various spatiotemporal scales, ranging, for example, from long-term global effects of CO2 concentrations on the biosphere, to the immediate effects of local temperatures on the metabolism of bacteria. European scientists have achieved major advances within various fields and have contributed extensively to the working groups and synthesis reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Furthermore, much has been learned from regional climate research initiatives, for example, in the Baltic Sea (BALTEX), the North Sea (BASIN, RECLAIM) and the Mediterranean (MEDCLIVAR).

Clamer Publications, September 20111. Report.

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