The climate crisis is an ocean crisis – Greenpeace report calls for urgent global political response to ocean breakdown

Madrid, Spain – The impact of the climate crisis on our oceans has far-reaching implications for biodiversity and humankind, requiring an urgent global political response in the next 12 months, a new Greenpeace International report warns. In Hot Water: The Climate Crisis and the Urgent Need for Ocean Protection states the breakdown of the oceans due to fossil fuel usage is rapid and large-scale, already disrupting ecosystem structure and functions across the globe, and resulting in ocean heating, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. 

“The ocean is heating, it’s rising, and its very chemistry is changing. For people and for wildlife, the climate crisis is an ocean crisis, and we’re already in hot water,” said Taehyun Park, global climate political advisor, Greenpeace East Asia. “The ocean isn’t something that happens ‘over there’: it’s a livelihood for so many people, it’s food security for millions more, and it’s the oxygen that every one of us on this blue planet breathes.”

The report urges coordinated action from governments, seizing on a series of events over the next year which presents a ‘unique window of opportunity’ to address climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and ocean protection at a global scale. This includes states agreeing to be more ambitious in their national greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets at climate summits in Spain and the UK, agreeing a Global Ocean Treaty at the UN by the end of 2020, and committing to protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030 with a network of ocean sanctuaries at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit in China in October 2020.

Through protecting at least 30% of the ocean with a network of sanctuaries, marine ecosystems can build resilience and better withstand rapid changes, as well as help mitigate climate breakdown by safeguarding carbon sequestration and storage. The report identifies ocean ecosystems at the frontline of climate impacts and recommends priority areas for governments to protect within a global network of ocean sanctuaries. These include both poles of the Arctic and Antarctic, whale hotspots, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows, the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic, the mesopelagic zone and the deep ocean, which the report states should remain off-limits to the nascent deep sea mining industry. 

“The science isn’t a debate, it’s a prescription,” Park continued. “Governments need to drastically reduce our fossil fuel emissions and urgently create a network of ocean sanctuaries. Free from harmful human activity, these safe spaces would allow our oceans and wildlife to recover and in turn help us to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown. 2020 is a crucial year for protecting our oceans and tackling the climate crisis. Governments must seize the opportunity to agree a historic Global Ocean Treaty at the UN and pledge to protect at least 30% of the oceans by 2030 at the biodiversity summit in China. The ocean is a crucial ally in the fight against climate change. With millions worldwide calling for action, it’s time we protect the ocean like people’s lives depend on it, because they do.”



For a collection of images related to the report, see: 


The full report, In Hot Water: The Climate Crisis and the Urgent Need for Ocean Protection, can be accessed here: 


Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),

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