How will ecosystems react to global warming

Climate change threatens ecosystems in the oceans

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will present the Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) in Monaco on September 25, 2019. The report contains the latest research results on the effects of climate change on the oceans and snow and ice areas of the earth, and shows options for action to deal with the expected changes.

For example, so that politicians can better classify these risks and set the course for climate protection, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes the scientific knowledge about climate change, oceans and the snow and ice areas in mountains and the polar regions in a special report.

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet and are the most important regulating force of our climate system. The huge bodies of water store and transport heat and thus influence our weather and climate. They take away most of the human-made warming of the Earth system and around a third of the world's human-made CO2 Emissions on. At the same time, they react to changes in the climate. The resulting acidification and rising ocean temperatures threaten numerous marine organisms and lead to shifts and, in the worst case, to the loss of habitats. The rise in sea level, the accumulation and intensification of extreme events such as floods and flood disasters are further consequences of climate change. As the warming progresses, increasingly more serious consequences are to be expected.

The ice surface, the so-called cryosphere consisting of polar regions with their permafrost areas and snow and ice areas in mountains, plays a central role in the energy balance of the earth. Because ice sheets and glaciers control the global sea level to a large extent and influence the circulation of the ocean. In addition, the cryosphere has extremely sensitive ecosystems and at the same time provides important drinking water reservoirs in many regions of the world. Advancing climate change threatens the homeland and livelihood, especially indigenous peoples, flora and fauna. At the same time, the melting of the ice sheets on the mainland such as Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating sea level rise.

The consequences of climate change are already clear and verifiable

Climate change is particularly evident in global warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification. The negative effects can already be demonstrated today, for example for marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, for fishing, the stability of permafrost or the melting of glaciers.

We have to counter these developments effectively through extensive climate protection measures and at the same time adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change. To do this, we must tackle the necessary measures for climate protection and, overall, switch to a climate-friendly way of life and economy. In order to achieve this, science has a decisive role to play.

What is the Federal Ministry of Research doing?

By funding research projects, the BMBF has climate change and its consequences for people and the environment examined in detail and invests over 300 million euros every year in climate research in order to obtain knowledge for early warning and innovations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This creates new knowledge on how to deal with climate change and how to implement the Paris Climate Agreement for politics, business and society.

Important information on how the oceans are changing as a result of climate change and what effects this has on the absorption of CO2, the temperature or the salinity of the oceans is collected, for example, with the European greenhouse gas observation network "ICOS". In order to improve knowledge about extreme events and the influence of environmental changes on these events, the “ClimXtreme” funding priority is researching the effects of climate change on the frequency, intensity and spatial occurrence of extreme events.

The climate cabinet: BM Anja Karliczek presents the work of the BMBF

The climate cabinet: BM Anja Karliczek presents the work of the BMBF
Copyright: BMBF

With the MOSAiC expedition - the largest and logistically most complex Arctic research expedition of all time - 600 scientists from 19 nations will collect important measurement data in the Arctic for over a year from September 2019. Enclosed in the ice of the Arctic Ocean, the research vessel POLARSTERN drifts over the polar cap with a network of observation stations and provides insights into the exchange processes between ocean, ice and atmosphere as well as a better understanding of the influence of the Arctic region on the climate of our latitudes. The funding priority “Research in Coastal Engineering” researches sustainable coastal protection measures.

The focus here is on the effects of climate change on sea level and the development of short-term and long-term adaptation strategies for the North and Baltic Seas. The German-British research program "Arctic in Transition" examines many of the decisive effects of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem and develops, among other things, forecast models for Arctic and European climate and fisheries research. The German research association BIOACID (Biological Effects of Ocean Acidification) researched from 2009 to 2017 how marine communities react to the increasing carbon dioxide content. The consequences for the food web and the material and energy turnover in the sea as well as for the economy and society have been published in around 580 peer-reviewed publications - and have made a significant contribution to the database of the IPCC reports.

Adoption of the IPCC special report SROCC in Monaco

From 20 to 23 September 2019, the roughly 30-page summary for political decision-makers of the IPCC special report will be adopted sentence by sentence by the governments in a plenary meeting chaired by scientists. The government representatives make sure that the statements are complete, understandable and balanced. The scientific authors have the last word, because they decide whether the formulations proposed by the governments are correct. Through this process, governments acknowledge the scientific statements of the IPCC reports.

Information on the IPCC and the Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere

For the new special report, a good 100 experts in the core team of authors have brought together the latest scientific findings on oceans and the cryosphere in a changing climate, including six from Germany. The authors from a total of 36 nations come from various research disciplines, ranging from the natural sciences to the social sciences.

They have been working on the report since autumn 2017 and scientifically evaluating the literature that is available worldwide. The balance, reliability and completeness of the statements in the report are guaranteed by detailed procedural rules with a multi-stage assessment process and worldwide expert participation.