If we continue polluting our atmosphere, the oceans will continue to cop it – and humans will bear the costs.

The world’s top climate scientists have issued a stark warning about climate inaction in a new assessment of what climate change is doing to the world’s oceans and frozen areas.

The special report on the world’s oceans and frozen areas by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released today in Monaco, finds:

  • Melting sea ice and glaciers will raise sea levels by 30–60cm by 2100, even if global warming is capped at two degrees, and by 60110cm if the world keeps polluting on current trajectories.
  • Climate change means more coral bleaching, more storms triggering coastal flooding, declining fish stocks and threats to food security.
  • Marine heatwaves have doubled in frequency since 1982 and are projected to increase in frequency, duration, extent and intensity.
  • There is the risk of significant damage and disruption to coastal homes and infrastructure, tourism operations that rely on coasts and reefs and recreational activities like days on the beach.
  • Extreme El Niños – which drive bushfires, cause disease outbreaks and affect cyclones – will become more frequent if climate pollution is not cut.

“Australians love days on the beach and getting out on the water – 21 million of us live within 50 kilometres of the coast – runaway climate change challenges all this and more,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy.

“This is a stark warning from the world’s best scientific minds that climate change is harming our oceans, meaning more coral bleaching, more storms that lead to flooding and more bushfire-fuelling El Niños if our pollution keeps rising.

“If we continue polluting our atmosphere, the oceans will continue to cop it – and humans will bear the costs.

“Australia has so much to lose. We love the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef and our other spectacular coral ecosystems. We love our beaches. We love fishing and water sports. We need to protect these with urgent climate action.

“As a big contributor to global carbon pollution, Australia should do our fair share to solve the problem. Instead our Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed to show at this week’s UN climate talks and spruiks Australia’s polluting fossil fuels to the world.

“Rapid, deep cuts to climate pollution are essential if we are to avoid the worst climate damage – that starts with switching from coal and gas to renewables.”

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