The ocean regulates the global climate by mediating temperature and determining rainfall, droughts and floods. The ocean has already absorbed over 90% of the excess heat trapped by the rising concentration of greenhouse gases. While the ocean’s ability to store heat has slowed global warming, this in turn is changing the ocean’s chemistry. The complex interactions between continued emissions of greenhouse gases and changes in the ability of the ocean to store excess heat will be a major determinant of the speed and magnitude of long-term climate change impacts, with global economic implications.
The ocean and coastal communities are being disproportionately impacted by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Warming is leading to the melting of inland glaciers and ice, causing rising sea levels with significant impacts on coastal areas such as coastal flooding and erosion, saltwater intrusion, and habitat destruction. Communities and infrastructure are already under pressure from coastal flooding and erosion.
The OECD is helping countries address climate impacts on the ocean. Recent work has focused on building coastal zone resilience in the face of rising sea levels, mitigating climate change by aligning financial flows, and strengthening links between climate action and well-being.
January 2021 | POLICY PAPER
Robust early warning systems can help mitigate the loss of life and property from coastal flooding.
Reducing nitrogen pollution to improve water quality can also help attain climate targets.