New UNESCO report highlights ocean threats

New UNESCO report highlights ocean threats

Ocean Threats

The rate of ocean warming has doubled in the past 20 years, while the rate of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years, according to a new UNESCO report. The report highlights the urgent need to address the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, emphasized the importance of implementing the Paris Climate Agreement and called on member states to invest in marine forest restoration and better regulate marine protected areas, which are crucial for biodiversity conservation.

The report reveals that ocean temperatures have been steadily increasing, with 2023 witnessing one of the highest temperature hikes.

The average ocean temperature has risen by 1.45°C, with hotspots in the Mediterranean, Tropical Atlantic, and Southern Oceans already exceeding 2°C above pre-industrial levels. As a result of ocean warming, sea levels have risen significantly.

The ocean absorbs 90% of excess atmospheric heat, causing water expansion and contributing to 40% of the global sea level increase. The total sea level rise has amounted to 9cm. Oxygen levels in the ocean have dropped by 2% since the 1960s, exacerbated by pollutants such as wastewater and agricultural runoff.

Urgent need to protect oceans

Nearly 500 “dead zones” exist where marine life is almost non-existent due to oxygen deprivation. Ocean acidification is another alarming trend, with the ocean absorbing 25-30% of fossil fuel emissions.

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This has increased acidity by 30% since pre-industrial times and could reach 170% by 2100, endangering fragile marine life. Marine forests, such as mangroves and seagrass plains, absorb up to five times more carbon than terrestrial forests and act as crucial biodiversity havens. However, nearly 60% of countries do not include marine forest conservation in their climate plans.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are essential, protecting 72% of the 1,500 endangered marine species listed by the IUCN. The effectiveness of MPAs improves with stricter regulations. Efforts are being led under the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), with over 500 projects launched and more than a billion dollars mobilized to enhance ocean knowledge and protection.

UNESCO, with 194 Member States, promotes peace and security through multilateral cooperation in education, science, culture, and communication. The organization operates in 54 countries, employs over 2,300 people, and manages over 2,000 World Heritage sites, biosphere reserves, and geoparks.


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