71% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. 97% of that water can be found in our ocean; 2% is frozen in glaciers and ice caps, and 1% is fresh.  The ocean generates 50% of the oxygen we need to surviveabsorbs 31% of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90% of the excess heat generated by these emissions. It is not just 'the lungs of the planet' but also its largest 'carbon sink' – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.


  1. Our warming climate has affected water on earth in profoundly interconnected ways — as the oceans heat and the glaciers and ice shelves melt, they all contribute to sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification
  2. Global warming also increases water vapor in the atmosphere, which leads to more frequent heavy rain and snowstorms — all of which leads to heavier flooding. 
  3. Additionally, a warmer and more moist atmosphere over our warmer oceans makes it likely that the strongest hurricanes will be more intense, produce more rainfall, and possibly be larger.
  4. Climate change increases the odds of worsening drought.


Since tracking began in 1980 through 2024, the top four most economically costly US weather and climate disasters are water-related

  1. Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) at $1,411.2B billion
  2. Severe storms at $485.2 billion
  3. Droughts at $360.2 billion
  4. Inland flooding at $200.2 billion


Although the oceans are warming about 40% faster than the UN had previously predicted, a report published by The World Resources Institute in 2023, The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action, imagines the ocean as a powerful source that could deliver up to 35% of emission cuts needed to limit temp rise to 1.5°C by 2050. Some of these changes include:

  1. Scaling ocean-based renewable energy
  2. Decarbonizing ocean-based transport
  3. Conserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems 
  4. Utilizing low carbon food from the ocean 
  5. Developing marine carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage under the seabed 
  6. Decarbonizing ocean-based tourism 
  7. Reducing offshore oil and gas extraction

Maybe it is time to visit these 10 incredible places before they vanish — all due to climate change-related water issues.

More to learn about water here.

Notes: * To stay under a 1.5°C change relative to pre-industrial levels

Figure 2: Summary of Wider Impact of Ocean-based interventions on Sustainable Development Dimensions

Notes: Wider-impact dimensions cover various sustainable development dimension indicators as well as 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SD). The figure shows the relative strength of the relationship between the ocean-based areas of interventions and the SDGs. The relationship between each ocean-based mitigation option and SDG is given a linkage score, positive scores shown by green boxes and negative scores shown by yellow/red boxes. Scores range from +3 (indivisible) to -3 [cancelling) (Nilsson et al. 2016). A zero score (no bar and no colour) means no impact was found in this review of the literature. For intervention areas where there is more than one mitigation option, an average of the linkage score is taken among the mitigation options in that area. Further information on the linkage scores and the associated confidence levels are provided in the Annex.


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