The OSPAR Commission considers the impacts of climate change in the contexts of its strategies, acknowledging that currently, each year the world’s ocean absorbs approximately 25% of all the carbon dioxide (CO2). The North Atlantic Basin represents 15% of the oceans’ surface, but stores 23% of the total amount of anthropogenic CO2 absorbed by the ocean.
Climate change has the potential to affect key aspects of the North-East Atlantic ecosystems ranging from physical parameters, such as sea temperature or ocean circulation, to biodiversity and ecological processes. Indirect effects include acidification of the oceans and potential changes in land-based inputs to the sea. In its 2005 State of the Environment report the European Environment Agency indicated early signs that Europe's marine and coastal ecosystems are undergoing structural changes due to climate change resulting in the loss of key species, large concentrations of planktonic species replacing other species and a spread of invasive specie.
In the context of the Quality Status Report 2010, the OSPAR Commission has produced documents about the effects of climate change on the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic that will also inform the wider international discussions. The Quality Status Report 2010 will reflect the impact of climate change on the marine environment. It will be supported by two assessments related to climate change:
The report provides an overview of the main challenges for OSPAR to adapt current policies and objectives for the protection of the marine environment. It assesses the needs and options to mitigate climate change relevant for OSPAR’s work and to adapt to the consequences of climate change and how this will influence OSPAR’s future work. It sets out conclusions and recommendations for OSPAR to respond to the challenges of climate change and ocean acidification.
Assessment of the Impacts of climate change on the North-East Atlantic ecosystem
This assessment details the wide range of impacts on marine ecosystems that have been linked to changing climate. These include both the direct physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment and the subsequent impacts occurring in the ecosystems and their biodiversity (publication pending).
OSPAR Commission Contracting Parties continue to establish ways in which to incorporate both climate change and ocean acidification considerations into future work. The QSR 2010 and its two supporting assessments on climate change will provide a sound scientific basis to the OSPAR Commission Ministerial Meeting (23-24 September 2010, Bergen) to consider development of climate change mitigation measures at sea and means of adaptation, but also to develop and apply key tools of an integrated approach to ocean management such as marine spatial planning.