State of the Ocean in Crisis

20 June, 2024

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has published this year’s State of the Ocean Report, which describes the state of the ocean and marine life.

The ocean is at a critical stage and the UN agency is calling for more research and policies to help reduce climate change and increase biodiversity.

Sea temperatures are steadily increasing

The report shows that the rate of ocean warming has doubled in the last 20 years.

While the temperature of the atmosphere varies, the ocean is constantly and steadily warming upwards. Ocean temperatures have already increased by an average of 1.45°C.

As the water warms, the consequence is that sea levels are rising all over the world. The rate of rise has doubled in the last 30 years and now totals 9 cm.

Lost 2% oxygen

At the same time, the ocean is losing oxygen, since the 1960s the ocean has lost 2% of its oxygen due to warmer temperatures and pollution. Coastal areas are particularly affected and around 500 ‘dead zones’ have now been identified, where almost no marine life remains due to declining oxygen levels.

The ocean absorbs 25-30% of fossil fuel emissions, changing the chemical composition of the sea. Since pre-industrial times, ocean acidity has increased by 30%. And it is the coastal areas that are most affected.

As a biological defence against global warming and to help biodiversity, marine forests of mangroves, seagrass beds and kelp forests stand. They can absorb up to five times more carbon than forests on land. Yet, the UNESCO report shows that almost 60% of countries still have no plans to restore or protect marine forests.

Strict rules are good

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the report shows that the higher the level of regulation and protection around marine protected areas, the more effective they are in caring for and protecting local ecosystems.

The next report, due in 2026, will show whether society has used and implemented this information to protect the ocean and ensure the well-being of us all.

Text: Lena Scherman
Photo: Tobias Dahlin, Johan Candert

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