Knowledge for better food systems

IPCC report on oceans and frozen landscapes

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a special report reviewing the impacts of climate change on the oceans and cryosphere (ice gaps, glaciers and frozen ground), incorporating evidence that has been published since the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. It finds that climate change has shrunk ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice as well as heated permafrost (ground that normally remains frozen all year).

Points that may be of particular interest to FCRN readers include:

  • In the Arctic, changes in snow cover, ice and permafrost have lead to water contamination, higher risk of food- and water-borne diseases, and disrupted access to food from hunting, herding and fishing.
  • Ocean warming has led to both increases and decreases in yields from fisheries and shellfish, depending on the geographical area.
  • Harmful algal blooms have increased in both geographic range and frequency in response to both a changing climate and nutrient run-off.
  • Under all emissions scenarios, the global biomass of marine animals and fisheries catch potential are projected to decrease across a range of ocean ecosystems, with the highest impacts in the tropics.
  • Ocean warming could increase the risk of human exposure to biohazards through seafood, such as persistent organic pollutants, mercury, waterborne pathogens and harmful algal blooms.
  • Irrigated agriculture in or near mountain areas could be affected by cryosphere changes.
  • Rebuilding currently depleted fisheries could improve their resilience to future climate change.

Read the full report, Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, here and download the summary for policymakers here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource chapter Impacts of climatic and environmental change on food systems.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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