Our Oceans at RISK

State of the ocean will ‘ultimately determine the survival of our species’

The health of the ocean will ultimately determine the survival of humankind on Earth, according to the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson. Marking the opening of the International Decade for Ocean Science, the former top Fijian diplomat and General Assembly president, told UN News that a healthy planet is inextricably linked to a healthy ocean.

At the moment, only around 10 per cent of the ocean’s make-up is understood.

Ocean science is a very broad field and a huge amount will be happening in the field in the next decade. For example, it’s expected that a global effort to map the entire ocean floor will be completed by 2030.

What will happen to the ocean if no action is taken?

The ocean is becoming more acidic and its oxygen levels are declining, largely because of our burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions. Over time this makes living conditions for many marine species increasingly difficult. Meanwhile the ocean is warming, causing marine life to move away from traditional habitats, adding to coral’s existential challenges, and leading to the rising sea levels that threaten to inundate atoll countries, low-lying coasts and river deltas around the world.

These threats are very real and I think the urgency of the message is finally getting through. As I’ve said, good science is required to give us the information we need to make the right decisions for our future security.