Ocean warming is “one of the greatest hidden challenges of our generation,” says a new report issued this week at the World Conservation Congress.

The report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature was compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries and describes the potential impacts these changes may have on businesses, society and ecosystems around the globe.

“It is clear that the scale of impacts described in this report underscores the need to review and reconsider the risks associated with the changing state of the ocean,” said Mike Maran, chief science officer at global re/insurer XL Catlin, which funded the report. “It is a powerful wake-up call about the risks posed by ocean warming. There is a lot more the insurance industry needs to do to understand ocean risk, what is happening to the ocean’s health, what risks it poses to our clients across industries and how we can help address these challenges.”

Among the potential risks from ocean warming:

  • Coastal communities at greater risk of inundation from storm surges, more intense tropical storms and rising sea levels.
  • Melting of glaciers and ice sheets from arctic warming.
  • Food shortages from shifting fish populations and depleted fish stocks.
  • Extremes in precipitation—both increased rainfall and drought—leading to reduced crop yields in key regions.
  • Increased spread of viruses, diseases and pathogens that can be passed to humans directly or through the food chain.
  • Rising water temperature could release the frozen methane hydrate stored in the sea floor, releasing the carbon into the ocean and ultimately into the atmosphere.
  • Global homogenization of biodiversity, as vulnerable species become extinct and “non-native” species from different biogeographic regions spread, overlap and become established across the world’s ocean.

For more information, see the full report: “Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences.”

Source: XL Catlin