It will be the clearest declaration yet on how an overheating world is hammering our oceans and frozen regions.Scientists have been meeting in Monaco to finalise a report on the seas and the cryosphere.
Released on Wednesday, it will show how the oceans have been a friend, helping us cope with rising temperatures.
But it will warn that warming is turning the seas into a huge potential threat to humanity.
Researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were encouraged by Prince Albert II and the Monaco government in 2015 to produce a special report on the oceans and cryosphere – the Earth’s surface where water is frozen solid.
For the past three years, the scientists have been reviewing hundreds of published papers on how climate change affects the seas, the poles and glaciers.
Their report will track the flow of water from the frozen tops of mountains to the bottom of the seas, and how this is changing in a warmer world.
Over the past few days, they have been trying to agree a short summary of their findings with government representatives that will be published on Wednesday.
It will likely detail the growing threat from rising sea levels that could imperil hundreds of millions of people before the end of this century.
It will also warn of the threat posed by the growing acidification of the seas, the threats to coral and fisheries and the possibility that warming might melt permafrost, releasing huge amounts of the CO2 gas that’s the key to rising temperatures.
At current emissions rates, we are effectively dumping one million tonnes of CO2 into the oceans every hour,” said Melissa Wang, a scientist with Greenpeace.
Unless we accelerate efforts to curb carbon emissions and take greater steps to protect our oceans, there will be devastating human, environmental and economic consequences.
The heating of the world is having a profound impact on all things frozen. So the IPCC report will look at the loss of ice from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as well as from glaciers on mountains around the planet.
It will chart the rise of CO2 that is making the waters more acidic and more difficult for sea life. It will also link the warming to the rise of “superstorms”.
One of the big changes has been in the impact of warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which has grown substantially in recent decades.
These frozen regions are critically important for global sea levels, which impact flooding around the world.
It is likely that much of the report will focus on the growing threat posed by rising sea waters. There is an expectation that some of the existing predictions for sea level will be revised upwards, with the threat posed to small island states and large cities increasing substantially by the middle of this century.
By the end of this century, and if current adaptation efforts are not substantially scaled up, we must expect high levels of risk on low coasts such as atoll islands like the Maldives, and some Arctic communities even in a low-emission scenario,” said Alexandre Magnan, a research fellow at the policy research institute IDDRI in Paris, and a co-author of the IPCC Ocean Report.
Yes – the report will also show that the oceans could hold some important solutions to the threats posed by climate change.
There is great scope for renewable energy systems based on the oceans, while cutting carbon from shipping would be a major step forward. Planting more mangroves and sea grass could remove huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Even the potential to switch diets to get more of our protein from the oceans would likely help cut carbon.