How is climate change impacting the ocean?

Ocean warming and acidification from climate change disrupt ecosystems, accelerate ice melt, and intensify extreme weather events, threatening vast numbers of species and demanding immediate, innovative climate action.

As the planet warms, the ocean does, too — at an accelerating rate, with devastating global consequences. 

Changes in temperature and salinity caused by climate change disrupt ocean currents and circulation patterns, with cascading effects on marine ecosystems and weather patterns around the world.

The ocean stores one-third of the CO₂ released into the atmosphere, and 90% of the excess heat generated by these emissions, making it increasingly warmer and more acidic. Coral bleaching is one of the most stark and visible effects of ocean acidification. In recent decades, we’ve lost 50% of the coral reefs that existed in 1950. And on our current trajectory, scientists estimate that well lose 90% of coral reefs by 2050 due to climate change and human activities.

As the ocean warms, ice is melting at an increasingly alarming rate, with annual ice loss in Antarctica six times higher than in the 1990s. Melting ice and the expansion of water as it warms are driving global sea level rise, with global mean sea level projected to rise between 0.43 and 0.84 meters by 2100. 

These rising sea temperatures and associated changes in ocean circulation combine in catastrophic fashion, increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Over the past 50 years, extreme weather events have caused more than two million deaths and $4.3 trillion in economic losses.

As a result of climate change — on land and at sea — up to one million species are threatened with extinction, including a third of all marine species. We need to innovate and take action now to elevate the ocean as a climate solution.

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