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New IPPC report highlights urgent need to address climate change impacts on oceans and cryosphere, including high mountain regions


Annie Webb


Oct 2, 2019


Oct 2, 2019


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released their Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) highlighting the urgency to act in a timely, ambitious and coordinated action to address the severe impacts of climate change on oceans and the cryosphere, the frozen part of the planet. More than 100 experts from 36 countries contributed to the report, which drew on the results of about 7,000 scientific studies.

All people on earth depend on the ocean and cryosphere, which have a key role in the planet’s climate system through an interchange of water, energy and carbon.  About 10% of the world is comprised of cryosphere spread between polar and mountain regions.  The Mountain Research Initiative recently discussed the report with their Executive Director Dr. Carolina Adler, who is the Lead Author of the of the second chapter of the SROCC focusing on the changes occurring in high mountain areas.


Figure: Schematic illustration of key components and changes of the ocean and cryosphere, and their linkages in the Earth system through the movement of heat, water, and carbon. Source: IPCC SROCC report 2019.

Glaciers, permafrost, ice sheets, lake ice and snow – which comprise the mountain cryosphere –  are melting at a rapid pace, causing sea levels to rise. Under high emissions scenarios, glaciers in mid-latitude countries (e.g. Europe, eastern Africa, the tropical Andes, and Indonesia) are projected to lose over 80 per cent of their mass by the end of the century, affecting the water supply of hundreds of millions of people who are at risk of drought and floods. This negatively impacts agriculture, food security, infrastructure, livelihoods, health and well-being, particularly among Indigenous people. Shrinking mountain ice also causes ecological disturbances, shifts in the distribution of plant and animal species and contracts the habitat of high mountain species.

Dr. Adler indicates that the report not only highlights these devastating impacts of climate change but also the benefits of ambitious and effective adaptation to reduce the risk of large impacts. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and managing the use of natural resources are the main opportunities that would support adaptation and limit risks to livelihoods, wildlife and ecosystems. For mountain systems, these measures include adaptation design and implementation into all aspects of development, management and governance of mountain spaces with a core focus on community participation.

Download the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

See the SROCC Factsheet, press release and summary for policy-makers on the IPCC website

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