September 25, 2019

IPCC Oceans report. “Continuing our fossil fuel addiction is akin to drowning ourselves. We need radical policies now”

Scientists warn that continued use of fossil fuels is already causing rapid sea level rise, decline in fish stocks, thawing of Arctic permafrost.

GLOBAL — Today the IPCC released a special report on Oceans and the Cryospher – meaning the ice cover at high altitudes and at the poles. The findings of the report, backed by government representatives gathered in Monaco, paint a bleak picture of extensive ecosystem loss and water stress, likely to lead to loss of livelihoods and massive displacements. The report confirms that unless we start phasing out fossil fuels immediately, the consequences on our oceans and on the ice caps storing most of the planet’s freshwater will be devastating, and they will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. 

Continuing our fossil fuel addiction is akin to literally drowning ourselves. Unless we start substantially reducing fossil fuel use now and go completely fossil free by 2050 at the latest, hundreds of millions of people will be displaced due to rising sea levels. Our marine ecosystems, already under stress from pollution and overfishing, will not be able to cope with unchecked climate change. We are not only damaging our life-giving oceans but we are also destroying their capacity as a carbon sink, risking even more runaway climate change. It’s time to stop this madness and preserve what we have. This means enacting radical policies to protect marine ecosystems, stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and phase out existing ones” commented Mahir Ilgaz, Research and Grants Coordinator at

According to scientists’ assessment, the areas most vulnerable to extreme weather events today will also be the hardest hit tomorrow. There is a significant risk that the combination of extended droughts, rising sea levels and decreasing fish catches will eventually force many communities in coastal areas off their homes. Fishing supports the livelihoods of between 660 and 820 million people: globally, the maximum catch potential is predicted to decline about 16 to 25 per cent by the end of the century, if emissions continue.

Other potential risks highlighted in the report, some less likely than others, include massive disruption to ocean currents, release of hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 by way of thawing of permafrost in the Arctic and spreading of dead zones in the oceans.

Between the 20th and 27th of September a wave of global strikes for climate is seeing millions leave schools and workplaces to call for immediate and radical climate action consistent with science and for an end to the age of fossil fuels. 

“Countries in the Pacific like Tuvalu, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Kiribati have very limited potential for agriculture because of their soil, and rely on the ocean as a primary source of protein,” said Joseph-Zane Sikulu, Pacific Regional Campaign Specialist.  

“Apart from subsistence fishery, agriculture and commercial fishing are the main sectors that contribute to economic growth in the Pacific – all of which are threatened because of the  unabated use of fossil fuels. This has been an ongoing battle against polluters like our neighbours, Australia, but the Pacific will not back down. When governments like Australia keep turning a deaf ear to the plight of those living on the frontlines, people power has been proven to deliver results – to hold politicians and corporate cronies accountable for the immense damage they continue to cause.”


The IPCC special report on Oceans and the Cryosphere is one of two reports coming out this year as follow-up to the landmark 1.5°C report released last October. The first one, a special report on Land and Climate Change was released in August.

In response to the evidence of the 1.5°C report, developed a People’s Dossier on 1.5°C highlighting 13 stories of local resistance to fossil fuels by vulnerable communities.