Best Practices of Oceans Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Dr. Areti Tseliou
Agricultural University of Athens, Greece

Ocean climate change mitigation is absolutely critical to avoid long-term climate change, the impacts of which are already seen by humans and ecosystems in many regions of the world. Before mentioning the best practices it is really important to recall the Ocean significance on Ear th climate change so as to realise the importance of taking protective actions.

The Ocean significance on regulating CO2 on Earth

The Ocean absorbs almost 1/3 of all the carbon dioxide (CO2) human emits each year, consisting of vital carbon pool and sink. Marine vegetated habitats such as seagrasses, salt-marshes, macroalgae, mangroves and coral reefs occupy only 0.2% of the ocean surface, but contribute 50% of carbon burial in marine sediments. The carbon buried by the indicative sediments may be 50 times higher that of the land sinks. The oceanic flora and the ocean floor itself holds ancient carbon stores. Moreover, their canopies dissipate wave energy and high burial rates raise the seafloor, buffering the impacts of rising sea level and wave action that are associated with climate change. The world’s oceans play a crucial role in regulating global climate processes that is generating oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide, and regulating climate and temperature. Till now Oceans have served as a buffer against damaging consequences of human-caused climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel burning and the excess heat that the greenhouse gas adds to Earth systems.

The problem of climate change on Oceans

Climate change is threatening the ability of the oceans to provide the above mentioned vital services. As the ocean becomes warmer and of higher content in CO2, expanses of Deep Ocean have also experienced reductions in pH, leading to ocean acidification, and oxygen content. This decreases the Ocean capacity to store new carbon emissions while Ocean acidification is jeopardizing food security, shoreline protection, livelihood sources and sustainable economic development. The increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events have caused the reduction of 1/3 of the global cover of aquatic and marine ecosystems and that involves a loss of CO2 sinks and the emission of 1 Pg CO2 annually.

Best Practices of Ocean climate change Mitigation and Adaptation include:

1. Research and Strategies in Large Marine Ecosystems

  • A global effort is already underway by scientists, stakeholders, resource managers, and multisectoral ministerial representatives from 110 economically developing countries to implement ecosystem-based management at the Large Marine Ecosystem scale (LMEs). This effort is supported by $3.1 billion in financial assistance from the Global Environmental Facility and World Bank to assess and manage goods and services of LMEs along the coasts of economically developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

  • The adaptive management regimes for the reduction of coastal pollution, the recovering of depleted fisheries conserve biodiversity, the control of nutrient over-enrichment and ocean acidification, and the mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate warming. Application of ecosystem-based adaptive management practices presently underway by the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea are discussed for the Yellow Sea LME.

  • Ongoing and future research on the systematic spatial and temporal monitoring of the annual changes in LMEs productivity, fish and fisheries, pollution and ecosystem health.

2. Strategies in Natural coastal carbon sinks management

  • The Conservation and restoration strategies along with the use of vegetated coastal habitats in eco-engineering solutions for coastal protection provide a promising strategy, delivering significant capacity for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

  • The integrated coastal zone management is used in order to increase the world’s natural coastal carbon sinks (mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses) and support other ecosystem functions and services.

3. Research and Strategies in regards of ocean and global carbon cycle

  • The promotion of further research in long-term monitoring of carbon in the ocean supporting further efforts to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle

  • The engaging of industry and other sectoral management bodies in efforts to enhance research and sharing of data on ocean health, human activities and impacts and the general ocean’s role in the Earth system.

  • The development and improvement of simulation models, in collaboration with field studies, tools for improving and enhancing management plans, including optimal scenarios for carbon allocation, CO2 uptake and carbon management schemes.

4. The Identification and protection of areas most likely to maintain stable sea ice.

The Ross Sea, in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean is a prime location. In addition to being a climate refugium, the Ross Sea, as the region of the world’s oceans least impacted by human activity, can also serve as an excellent reference site for the study of climate change impacts. Such research will be important to inform adaptive management decisions for the rest of the Southern Ocean.

5. Offshore Renewable development

Issues surrounding offshore renewable energy are discussed and policy recommendations put forth. The Offshore renewable energy includes the harness of wind energy, wave energy, tidal energy, ocean current energy, the energy derived from temperature differences and thermal energy conversion and the energy derived from the different salt content of freshwater and saltwater. Experts estimate that offshore wind power alone could in future supply about 5000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity a year worldwide – approximately a third of the world’s current annual electricity consumption of about 15,500 terawatt-hours (1 terawatt-hour = 1 trillion watts). Whereas at the beginning of this century we were building in coastal areas at depths of 2 to 6 metres, wind turbine towers are now anchored to the ocean floor at depths of more than 40 metres. Obstacles include technical issues, potential ecological impacts, and lack of funding. Small island states present a unique context for offshore renewable energy. Various policy options are being examined and implemented, with varying success.


Nowadays, the interlinkages between oceans and climate are beyond any dispute, however, only recently it has been articulated the need for an integrated strategy for oceans and coasts within and beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address the various interconnected elements associated with oceans and climate, including provisions for mitigation, adaptation, capacity development, scientific monitoring, and public education. United Nation on 8th April, 2016 identified the key elements for a new treaty to better protect and sustain the marine environment and marine life in the two thirds of the ocean beyond national boundaries and adopted a roadmap for the path ahead. The next session of UN Preparatory Committee sessions will be convened from 26 August to 9 September 2016. The effects of climate change have been already experienced by more than 50% of the human population living in 183 coastal nations. Due to significant geophysical time lags, anthropogenic effects on these natural processes will continue to affect the state of the world’s ocean for millennia to come.

References and photo sources

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