Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Multiple Stressors Pushing Ocean Ecosystems to the Brink

Climate
Multiple Stressors Pushing Ocean Ecosystems to the Brink

Stockholm Environment Institute

Climate change alone could reduce the economic value of key ocean services by up to $2 trillion a year by 2100, a new study shows—but so many threats are converging on the oceans at once, that a global, integrated approach is urgently needed.

The study, Valuing the Ocean, is the work of an international, multi-disciplinary team of experts coordinated by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). The preliminary Executive Summary released on March 21 sends a strong message to world leaders preparing for the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012—that protecting the oceans must be a priority in global sustainability goals.

The study also includes a groundbreaking analysis on ocean economics, designed to quantify the costs of ocean degradation, which are often invisible in the cost-benefit analyses that guide policy. The analysis calculates the cost over the next 50 and 100 years respectively in terms of five categories of lost ocean value (fisheries, tourism, sea-level rise, storms and the ocean carbon sink) under high- and low-emissions scenarios.

By 2100, the annual cost of the damages from ‘business as usual’ emissions, projected to lead to an average temperature rise of 4°C, is estimated to be $1.98 trillion, equivalent to 0.37 percent of future global GDP. A rapid emission reduction pathway that limited temperatures increases to 2.2 ° C, would ‘save’ (i.e. avoid) almost $1.4 trillion of those damages.

“These figures are just part of the story, but they provide an indication of the price of the avoidable portion of future environmental damage on the ocean—in effect the distance between our hopes and our fears,” says Frank Ackerman, director of SEI’s Climate Economics Group. “The cost of inaction increases greatly with time, a factor which must be fully recognised in climate change accounting.”

And while climate change is an enormous threat, it is not the only one. A key point of Valuing the Ocean is that the convergence of multiple stressors—acidification, ocean warming, hypoxia, sea-level rise, pollution and overuse of marine resources—could lead to damages far greater than just from individual threats.

The study does not put a monetary value on the total projected damages, many of which involve ‘priceless’ losses such as the eradication of species, but it argues that given how much we do know about the potential costs, world leaders should take a precautionary approach and take strong action to protect oceans, even in the absence of complete economic data.

“We must develop an integrated view of how our actions impact the ocean, and threaten the vital services it provides, from food to tourism to storm protection,” says Kevin Noone, director of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and co-editor of Valuing the Ocean. “The global ocean is a major contributor to national economies, and a key player in the earth’s unfolding story of global environmental change, yet is chronically neglected in existing economic and climate change strategies at national and global levels. We want to bridge these gaps and give a holistic view of the value of the ocean.”

The review presents the latest evidence of the way in which parts of the ocean are being affected by multiple stressors—for example, ocean acidification, ocean warming and hypoxia—which means that the projected damage, and its costs, is much greater than with single impacts.

“We no longer have the luxury of tackling only one issue at a time. We urgently need to devise a management system that works across scales from local to global, and allows us to optimise our use of marine resources in a sustainable way given simultaneous, and often synergistic, threats,” says Julie Hall of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and co-author of the ‘Impacts of Multiple Stressors’ chapter.

Valuing the Ocean urges policy makers to fully consider the threats to ocean services in broader economic and development plans, including by valuing the massive ‘blue carbon’ absorption potential of marine ecosystems. The authors also call for local measures, such as marine protected areas (MPAs), to boost the resilience of marine ecosystems to insure against the growing risk of extreme events like mass coral bleaching and more intense tropical storms.

But given the enormity of the climate threat in particular, Valuing the Ocean stresses that the only way to avoid huge additional costs and disastrous consequences in the future is by dramatically cutting CO2 emissions.

Valuing the Oceans will be published in the summer of 2012. To view the executive summary, click here.

For more information, click here.

In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Group

Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A field of sunflowers near the Mehrum coal-fired power station, wind turbines and high-voltage lines in the Peine district of Germany on Aug. 3, 2020. Julian Stratenschulte / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.

Read More Show Less
Monarch butterflies in Mexico's Oyamel forest in Michoacan, Mexico after migrating from Canada. Luis Acosta / AFP / Getty Images

By D. André Green II

One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.

Read More Show Less
The 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on Sept. 17 introduced ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners, each intended to make people "laugh then think." Improbable Research / YouTube

The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch