In the wake of the newly declared climate emergency, a major new publication by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) highlights the current and future impacts of climate change on UK seas and dependent industries and society.

More than 150 scientists from over 50 leading research organisations have contributed to this comprehensive, updated review on the range and scale of physical, ecological and societal impacts of climate change on UK coasts and seas.

Read the Report Cards

The report shows that climate impacts for UK coasts and seas are varied and far-reaching, from effects on sea temperatures, oxygen levels and ocean pH, through to shifting species distributions and impacts on habitats, as well as social and economic impacts including risks to cultural heritage sites, potential implications for human health, and likely increases in future coastal flooding. This confirms findings reported at a global level by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate report last year, who reported climate change as having significant consequences on marine environments globally.

Some key headlines from the MCCIP Report Card 2020 include:

  • There is clear evidence that warming seas, reduced oxygen, ocean acidification and sea-level rise are already affecting UK coasts and seas. Increasingly, these changes are having an impact on food webs, with effects seen in seabed-dwelling species, as well as plankton, fish, birds and mammals.
  • The upper range for the latest UK sea-level rise projections is higher than previous estimates, implying increased coastal-flood risk. The likelihood of combined effects from tidal flooding and extreme rainfall is increasing, which can greatly worsen flood impacts.
  • Oxygen concentrations in UK seas are projected to decline more than the global average, especially in the North Sea, with likely negative implications for marine species and habitats.
  • Fisheries productivity in some UK waters has been negatively impacted by ocean warming and historical overexploitation. This emphasises the need for sustainable management of stocks that accounts for climate change impacts.
  • Impacts of climate change have already been observed at a range of heritage sites. Coastal assets will be subjected to enhanced rates of erosion, inundation and weathering or decay.

This report collates important new evidence which highlights how climate change has already affected UK coasts and sea, and the ways it will continue to do so in the coming decades. This information is crucial to not only help develop adaptation measures and management actions to support vulnerable marine life and habitats, but also to help UK industries and wider society prepare for and adapt to these far-reaching marine climate impacts.

Matt Frost, MCCIP Chair, states:

“Both climate change and the marine environment are topics that have never been so high on the national and international agenda. It is therefore a privilege for MCCIP to be able to work with our world-class marine science community in providing evidence to inform decisions on the future of our seas”.

Full detailed findings from the report card are available from Jan 15th on their website. This Report Card summarises information from 26 individual, peer-reviewed scientific reports commissioned by MCCIP and written by scientists from across the UK, providing detailed evidence of observed and projected climate-change impacts which highlight emerging issues and knowledge gaps.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) is a partnership between scientists, government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry. The principal aim is to provide a co-ordinating framework for the UK, to be able to transfer high quality evidence on marine climate change impacts, and guidance on adaptation and related advice, to policy advisers and decision-makers.