Response to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

VANCOUVER — Ocean health and the climate crisis are inextricably linked, according to an alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released as world leaders gather in New York for the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

“If the ocean were a patient, we’d be rushing them to the emergency room immediately,” said David Suzuki Foundation Western Canada director-general Jay Ritchlin. “The ocean works as an integral part of Earth’s ecosystems to keep climate functioning, and this report reveals that oceans have taken a beating, as they serve to protect our atmosphere from drastic temperature rises.”

Oceans play a crucial role in regulating Earth’s temperature and limiting climate change by storing almost all excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But oceans cannot take much more. They are warming 40 per cent faster than the IPCC predicted in 2013 and are showing signs of collapse, according to the report.

Rapid heating is changing the oceans’ chemical processes and sea water flow, which support life. Every mass extinction event in Earth’s history shared three major ocean factors: low oxygen, acidification and warming. This report confirms that all three are present and getting worse as the climate continues to destabilize.

Destructive human actions have devastated the oceans’ environmental services, from fisheries productivity to oxygen generation, and our communities are feeling the results. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, the resulting heat exacerbates ocean problems as well as other human impacts.

Oceans need to be resilient to withstand climate change and continue to help regulate global temperatures.

“A healthy person is in a better position to deal will sickness than someone who is already ill,” Ritchlin said. “In the same way, we need to support healthy oceans so they are better able to withstand the overwhelming effects of climate change.”

Protecting more ocean areas from harmful human activity by expanding marine protected areas to conserve ecosystems and retain biodiversity can help keep oceans healthy.

The David Suzuki Foundation, along with people of all ages and demographics, is calling for bold actions to restore ocean resilience and prevent a complete breakdown of the planet’s ecosystems. Tackling climate change and holding warming at 1.5 C is crucial to retain the ocean’s essential ecosystem services.

“We need a double-pronged approach to addressing climate and ocean,” said David Suzuki Foundation science projects manager Bill Wareham. “A healthy, resilient ocean is essential for the survival of all species on Earth, and it can be one of the most important buffers to climate change. The way to help oceans is for countries around the world to bring forward more ambitious climate plans and targets in parallel with ocean protection measures.”


The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate is available here:

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Bill Wareham, Science Projects Manager, B.C. and Western Canada,, 604-928-1150

Jay Ritchlin, Director-General of Western Canada,, 604-961-6840