Learning Pathways

The ocean and climate change

Target Group
  • Community workers,
  • Policy makers,
  • Researchers,
  • Students,
  • Teachers,
  • Youth
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The ocean-climate nexus is crucial for addressing environmental challenges. It absorbs carbon dioxide but also suffers from climate change impacts. Integrating the ocean into climate strategies is vital for protecting human rights and a sustainable future. This is the One Ocean Learn's seventh learning pathway, launched in September 2023.

Pathway Description

The ocean provides over fifty percent of the world’s oxygen, it absorbs a significant amount of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, and heat. In other words, the ocean contributes to the regulation of the global climate and contributes to climate change mitigation. However, the ocean and marine life also suffer from climate change impacts. Therefore, integrating the ocean into climate strategies is thus vital for protecting human rights and a sustainable future.

The ocean-climate nexus, representing the link between the ocean and climate change, is vital for addressing environmental challenges and is thus a key part of sustainable development. Since the ocean suffers from climate change impacts, this exacerbates other threats to the ocean’s health like over-exploitation of marine resources and marine pollution. The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in 2022, known as COP26, recognized the ocean’s importance and aimed to integrate it into climate-related actions.

From a human rights perspective, a healthy ocean is crucial for life, health, food, water, and culture. Ocean acidification, caused by carbon dioxide emissions dissolving in seawater, poses risks to marine ecosystems and food chains, affecting human rights related to nutrition and health.

Integrating the ocean into climate strategies, like restoring marine ecosystems and reducing fossil fuel production, is vital for protecting human rights, especially for vulnerable communities. Research, collaboration, and public participation are essential to address the ocean-climate nexus, safeguarding human rights, and promoting a sustainable future.

Time Required for the completion of the full pathway – 1.5 hours

NOTE that you need not complete the entire learning pathway in one session.

Learning Outcomes

NOTE It is up to you to measure your progress against the learning outcomes indicated below, although you can test yourself with a closing quiz.

By the end of this course you should be able to discuss:

  • How climate change negatively affects the ocean’s health
  • The climate-related challenges facing the ocean, such as pollution and overfishing
  • Human rights implications of the ocean-climate nexus or interlinkages
  • Options for ocean-based climate action

Pathway Content

Module 1 An introduction to the ocean-climate nexus

The ocean-climate nexus is the crucial link between the ocean and climate change. It involves the ocean's role as a so-called carbon sink, absorbing a substantial amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps regulate the global climate. However, climate change also negatively affects the ocean's health, leading to various environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts. Integrating the ocean into climate strategies is essential for achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protecting human rights.

Module 2 Ocean and climate science

Understanding the ocean's role in regulating the global climate and contributing to climate change mitigation is essential for accurate climate modelling and predicting future climate scenarios. Additionally, ocean science helps assess the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and coastal communities. Integrating ocean, climate and biodiversity sciences is crucial for developing comprehensive strategies to address climate change and safeguard the health of our oceans.

Module 3 Human rights, biodiversity and the ocean-climate nexus

Human rights, biodiversity, and the ocean-climate nexus are interconnected. A healthy ocean is essential for human rights, providing food, livelihoods, and cultural identity. Climate change's impact on the ocean affects biodiversity and undermines human rights. Integrating these aspects is vital for sustainable ocean governance and climate action.

Module 4 Climate change and the international governance of the ocean

The impacts of climate on the ocean also undermine the efforts made in the context of the international governance of the ocean. Rising temperatures, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threaten marine ecosystems and the human rights of ocean-dependent communities. International cooperation is crucial to address the ocean-climate nexus, implement effective climate strategies, and protect the ocean's health, biodiversity, and human rights.

Module 5 Quiz on the ocean and climate change

Test your knowledge.

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