Climate Change Impacts UK Marine Environment

January 17, 2008

Climate change is having “a significant impact” on the marine environment in the UK, according to a new report from the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP).

The organization was established in March 2005. It is a partnership between scientists, Government and governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). The MCCIP’s principal aim is to develop a long-term approach to understanding and communicating the implications of climate change in the seas surrounding the British Isles.

Its newly published report card for 2007-08 “highlights just how much climate change has affected the United Kingdom’s marine environment and what the future impacts may be.”
Key findings from the report include the following:
— 2006 was the second warmest year for UK coastal waters since records began in 1870; seven of the 10 warmest years have been in the last decade.
— Warmer winters have been strongly linked to reduced breeding success and survival in some seabird populations.
— Models predict fewer storms in future but there will be increased numbers of severe storms
— Coastal erosion and flooding is expected to increase.

The Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead stated: “Climate change, including marine climate change, is one of the most serious threats facing us today. It is a truly global issue and can only be tackled if we work together. Our seas play a vital role in regulating our climate and are a lifeline for the communities that live around them.

“Our winters are getting wetter and warmer, sea levels are rising and coastal erosion is increasing. Our marine wildlife is now having to cope with these as well as other pressures, and is beginning to suffer as a result. Our marine industries also have to cope with changes. These are happening now and we must take action.” He described the report as painting “a disturbing picture.”

One of the first actions the Government has initiated calls for consultations on proposals for a Scottish Climate Change Bill, “including a mandatory target to achieve an 80 percent reduction in Scottish emissions by 2050,” said the MCCIP.

Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs, noted: “The report card is a vital piece in the jigsaw of evidence we need to help us to combat climate change. Healthy seas are central to our wellbeing, shaping our climate as well as providing food and livelihoods. The MCCIP project shows the value of working together to protect the marine environment and to find sustainable solutions to the challenges we all face.”

Other key findings from the report include:
— Marine climate change is having a significant impact on the marine environment and the goods and services it provides.
— Coastal erosion is occurring along 17 per cent of the UK coastline (30 per cent of England’s coastline; 23 per cent of Wales; 20 per cent of Northern Ireland; 12 per cent Scotland).
— Recent warmer conditions and associated shifts in the abundance and geographical distribution of plankton have led to reduced availability of prey fish for some seabirds, which has been strongly linked to recent poor breeding success and reduced survival rates.
— The impacts of climate change on the commercial services provided by our seas will be significant. Sea-level rise, coastal flooding, storms and bigger waves will affect ports, shipping and built structures. Fishing and fish farming will be affected by temperature change and plankton (prey) availability.

None of the above is good news for the UK’s insurers, who have already faced increased claims from flood losses and storm damage.

Source: Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership –

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