Climate change is devastating our seas and frozen regions as never before, a major new United Nations report warns.
According to a UN panel of scientists, waters are rising, the ice is melting, and species are moving habitat due to human activities.
And the loss of permanently frozen lands threatens to unleash even more carbon, hastening the decline.
There is some guarded hope that the worst impacts can be avoided, with deep and immediate cuts to carbon emissions.
This is the third in a series of special reports that have been produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past 12 months.
“The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions and it’s our fault,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a co-ordinating lead author of the report.
The scientists are “virtually certain” that the global ocean has now warmed without pause since 1970.
The waters have soaked up more than 90% of the extra heat generated by humans over the past decades, and the rate at which it has taken up this heat has doubled since 1993.
Where the seas were once rising mainly due to thermal expansion, the IPCC says this is now happening principally because of the melting of Greenland and Antarctica.
Does the report offer some guarded hope?
Yes. Definitely. The report makes a strong play of the fact that the future of our oceans is still in our hands.
The formula is well worn at this stage – deep, rapid cuts in carbon emissions in line with the IPCC report last year that required 45% reductions by 2030.
“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC.
Indeed, some of the scientists involved in the report believe that public pressure on politicians is a crucial part of increasing ambition.
“After the demonstrations of young people last week, I think they are the best chance for us,,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso.
“They are dynamic, they are active I am hopeful they will continue their actions and they will make society change.”.