UK Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC) Statement on the Ocean and Climate Change: ‘The Ocean in a Changing Climate’

The Earth’s climate system is undergoing unprecedented change impacting nature and societies across the globe. At the heart of this system is the ocean.


The UK Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC) has released a Statement highlighting the importance of the ocean and how it impacts the economy, food security, societal wellbeing, jobs and climate change resilience. The MSCC Statement summarises the impact of marine climate change in the UK, the role the UK plays in maritime and polar research, and the next steps.

With full support from the MSCC Co-Chairs (Marine Scotland Chief Scientific Advisor and Defra Deputy Director) as well as a unanimous backing at the last MSCC plenary in September (where committee members in attendance included Defra Chief Scientific Advisor, high level policy makers from across UK government and leaders of various UK marine institutes), the MSCC is releasing this Statement. Led by Dr Tarquin Dorrington (Head of Ocean Climate and International Science at Defra), the MSCC are now in position to publicise this Statement to highlight the importance of the ocean in a changing climate. The Statement draws out a number of important points, such as:

Climate impacts

  • Mean sea level rise of 12-16 cm since 1900 and predictions sea level rise will accelerate over the next eighty years
  • Shift in marine species distributions and degradation of marine ecosystems due to warming and a change in ocean chemistry
  • Increase risk of damage to homes and infrastructure
  • Negative impacts of individual and societal health and wellbeing

 Role of the UK in maritime and polar research

  • Funding state of the art ships, sensors, drones and satellites, all of which play a role in understanding the range and scale of climate change
  • Research of natural and social sciences, from polar seas to tropical waters
  • Lead and participate in marine international initiatives
  • Having a key role in international initiatives to monitor the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) – a important driver of climate in North-West Europe

Next steps

  • The UK is co-hosting COP26 and hosting the G7 Presidency in 2021, it is also the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development – all these require continued evidence for policy and action
  • Understanding key challenges and emerging issues surrounding climate change
  • Researching societal impacts of climate change in the future
  • Continued work on climate projections, ocean acidification and climate mitigation and adaptation measures

Read the full statement here