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The Ocean and Climate Change


The importance of the ocean to global climate cannot be underestimated. It absorbs a significant part of carbon and an overwhelming portion of the excess heat. Warmer atmosphere and increasing concentration of greenhouse gases nevertheless exert an enormous pressure on the ocean's ability to regulate the climate.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is at the forefront of climate science and knowledge that inform and underpin meaningful actions to counteract climate change.


Ocean Decade

Leading the implementation of the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030), with its main mission to generate transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean. The Decade provides a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to create a new foundation for the scientific community, governments, civil society, and the UN system to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.

Climate Research 

The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) – an endeavor of IOC, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Science Council (ISC) – acts as an authoritative international platform to craft and implement the next generation of the research agenda on climate and climate change. WCRP is also responsible for developing the models on which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) bases its scenarios and, therefore, negotiations and decisions on climate change are based.

Ocean Acidification

IOC conducts work on the effects of CO2 emissions on ocean acidification and acts as a custodian agency for SDG Target Indicator 14.3.1 on ocean acidity.

Blue Carbon

IOC coordinates the International Partnership for Blue Carbon and co-hosts the Blue Carbon Initiative, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity and livelihoods.

Marine Spatial Planning

IOC supports its Member States to develop and implement Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which is a public process that aims to achieve ecological, social and economic objectives through multi-stakeholder dialogues and transdisciplinary knowledge. Its new international guide on MSP - jointly developed with the European Commission - highlights the need of MSP plans to adopt a ‘climate-smart MSP’ approach that includes objectives related to climate change responses, as well as uses data and knowledge about climate change impacts on marine ecosystems and human uses to develop resilient scenarios for the maritime domain. Within this context, IOC has supported the UN Global Compact (UNGC) initiative of developing a ‘Roadmap to Integrate Offshore Renewable Energy in a Climate-Smart Marine Spatial Plan.’

Ocean Carbon

Faced with the urgent need to find answers to this and other crucial scientific questions, five international research programmes on ocean and climate interaction (IOCCP, IMBeR, SOLAS, WCRP/CLIVAR and the Global Carbon Project) have joined IOC to develop and agree on a roadmap for future research, with the ultimate goal of providing decision-makers with the knowledge needed to implement effective climate change mitigation and adaptation policies in the next ten years.

Ocean Observations

IOC, WMO, the International Science Council (ISC) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) co-sponsor the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), which provides an increasingly comprehensive platform to integrated in situ and remote observations of the status of the world ocean and climate and climate change.

Ocean Hazards

The IOC portfolio of activities on early warning systems of tsunami events and other ocean hazards entails inter alia systematic observations of sea level and changes therein, which is of direct relevance to vulnerability and risks of coastal communities and ecosystems related to the effects of climate change.

Ocean Deoxygenation 

The Global Ocean Oxygen Network – IOC working group: The Network’s scientific work, outreach, and capacity building efforts include facilitating communication with other established networks and working groups (e.g. IOCCP, GOOS, IGMETS, GOA-ON, GlobalHAB, WESTPAC O2NE), improving observations systems, identifying and filling knowledge gaps, as well as developing related capacity development activities. GO2NE is moreover preparing a summary on deoxygenation for policy makers.

In collaboration with SFB754, it recently initiated the news site to provide information on deoxygenation to scientists, stakeholders and the interested public.