Ensuring survival: oceans, climate and security

The oceans play a vital role in the global carbon cycle, regulate climate and temperature, provide food security and support the livelihoods of billions of people around the globe, especially in coastal areas (where over half the global population resides) and in small island states, where some of the most vulnerable populations rely on marine resources. However, the provision of these life-sustaining services is at risk—climate change and ocean acidification are already affecting marine ecosystems and coastal populations, threatening the ability of the oceans to continue providing economic resources and environmental services on which we so critically depend. Citing evidence of these key points, this paper calls for improved governance, the use of ecosystem-based approaches in coastal and ocean management, and urgency in transition to a low-carbon economy. With enhanced governance frameworks and a reliance on science and best practices, we can improve food security, enhance ecosystem resilience, secure sustainable livelihoods, and provide man-made and, perhaps more importantly, natural protections to threats to human health and environmental security from rising seas, acidifying oceans, coastal hazards and extreme weather events. The oceans play a vital role in combating climate change impacts, which, as much current evidence shows, will be more extensive and disastrous than previously forecast by international experts. It is urgent that the international community concertedly and decisively act to protect this function, including with the improvement of climate change cost estimates and development of financing mechanisms. We must act to increase resilience of key ocean and coastal ecosystems that provide shoreline and infrastructure protection, water quality maintenance, food security, and livelihood support. In effect, we must act to protect our own security through “ocean security”.

Mendler de Suarez J., Cicin-Sain B., Wowk K., Payet R. & Hoegh-Guldberg O., in press. Ensuring survival: oceans, climate and security. Ocean & Coastal Management. Article (subscription required).

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