One Billion People Threatened by Climate Change Risks to Oceans, Polar and Mountain Regions, UN Report Warns

Washington, DC (September 25, 2019) - No part of the world will be spared from the impacts of climate change as oceans warm and ice sheets and glaciers melt, causing rapid sea-level rise that could affect one billion people by 2050.

Accelerating changes in the oceans and cryosphere - the earth's snow and ice-covered places - is one of the most dramatic consequences of the climate crisis. A new UN report from the International Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that changes will continue and be irreversible even if the climate stabilizes. For instance, ice-dependent polar species such as walrus and penguins are threatened as their sea ice habitat is disappearing.

However, we can manage the worst risks by sharply cutting emissions. Leaders must rapidly scale up the use of renewable energy and significantly increase funding for resilience and adaptation. This will give people and nature more time to adapt. When ecosystems are protected and restored, they can continue to support human livelihoods and wellbeing and help mitigate climate risks as well. Coastal ecosystems like mangroves and salt marshes can protect against extreme weather and coastal erosion, remove carbon from the air and provide nurseries for fish.

This report follows Monday’s Climate Action Summit in New York City, where the world's biggest emitters failed to rally to the UN Secretary-General’s call to bring ambitious, concrete plans to further cut their emissions.

Margaret Williams, managing director of WWF’s Arctic Program said: “Oceans feed our families, economies and souls. This report tells us that oceans – especially those in the polar regions – can no longer endure the pressures of carbon-fueled industrialization we humans created.

“We urgently need political will to implement solutions, recognizing that investment in climate action and increased ocean conservation is a solid down payment on future human and economic wellbeing.”