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Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC).

Dr Helene Hewitt, head of the Ocean Modelling group at The Met Office, said:

“With increasing climate change, it is becoming extremely hard for the planet to retain its naturally-occurring reservoirs of ice – known to climate scientists as the cryosphere.

“Meltwater from glaciers and ice-sheets entering the ocean has now become the dominant source of global sea level rise, overtaking the thermal expansion of water as the principal driver of rising sea levels.

“Under all greenhouse gas emission scenarios, sea levels are expected to continue rising. Although projections show there is an obvious reduction in rise following the greatest cuts in emissions.

“Today’s report makes a very strong link between future rises in sea levels and increased coastal flood risk with extreme sea level events that are historically rare becoming more common by 2100.

“Around the UK coasts, UKCP climate projections show that sea levels will continue to rise, with a possible increase in London of 115cm under the worst-case greenhouse gas emission scenario by 2100.”


Prof Jonathan Bamber, Director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre at the University of Bristol, said:

“The evidence is clearer than ever that most parts of the cryosphere and oceans are responding to anthropogenic-driven global warming and this is evident in this latest IPCC report.

“The result is that ice is going to disappear faster than ever: some mountain regions such as the Alps could be almost completely deglaciated by 2100. Sea level rise is projected to continue whatever the emission scenario and for something like business-as-usual the future for low lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak. The consequences will be felt by all of us.

“No one who has been paying attention needs another wake-up call about how bad things could get but, if they did, there is plenty to be concerned about for the future of humanity and social order from the headlines in this report.”

Dr Kate Hendry, Associate Professor of Geochemistry at the University of Bristol, said:

“The polar regions are the most rapidly changing places on Earth, with some parts warming at rates about double that of the global average. In the Arctic for example, the sea ice has retreated rapidly, and there’s less-and-less multi-year ice; the Arctic ocean warmed and acidified, nutrient cycling is changing, and the marine ecosystem is in transition. Each of these changes has direct consequences for the Indigenous populations, and exert influences worldwide through climatic and socio-economic drivers. There is a pressing need to understand how land ice, sea ice and the oceans are interacting under future scenarios, and the potential impact of these fundamental changes in global climate, productivity and economies on human populations both locally and globally.

“The new IPCC SROCC Summary for Policy Makers document is going to be a critical source of information for scientists on the policy-relevant questions surrounding changes in the Arctic and Antarctic, and the “third pole” mountain glaciers. As scientists, it’s going to be essential for us to align our own priorities to answer these questions, as shifts in polar systems are accelerating. Importantly for UK science in particular, the SPM release is coincident with the launch of our new polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough; the marine science and glaciology communities need to identify the key policy-relevant research targets for this new capability.

“However, we – as scientists – should no longer work in our ‘silos’. Collaboration between scientific disciplines and between countries is going to be essential to face the logistical and geopolitical challenges ahead. And the scientific community is recognising this reality.

“In recent years, there have been more large, multinational programs to understand the Arctic and Antarctic, embodied by the ice-drift projects led by Norwegian Polar Institute in 2015 (the Norwegian Young sea ICE cruise, N-ICE2015) and the ongoing Multi-Disciplinary drifting Observatory for the study of Arctic Climate programme (MOSAiC) led by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. These programs – gargantuan endeavours to understand seasonal and spatial variability in the Arctic Ocean – are only possible through international and cross-discipline collaboration. With such effort and cost (ships, research stations, satellites, robotics) it’s more crucial than ever that we that we fill in the most important gaps in our knowledge by addressing the questions that really matter to humanity.”


Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) was published by the IPCC at 10am UK time on Wednesday 25 September 2019.

Declared interests

Dr Hewitt is a coordinating lead author on the IPCC’s upcoming Sixth Assessment Report (2021)

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