Deep Dive: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate | Wilson Center
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Deep Dive: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading global body on climate science. On September 25, it released its first-ever Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. More than 100 scientists from 80 countries assessed the latest scientific knowledge about how climate change is impacting the ocean, coastal, polar, and mountain ecosystems, and the communities that depend on them.

Ko Barrett, Vice Chair of the IPCC presented the key findings of the report. Following her remarks, experts explored the future of ice loss, sea-level rise and its cascading impacts, coral bleaching, and how the international policy community can meaningfully respond to the Special Report.

Selected Quotes

Keynote: Ko Barrett, IPCC Vice Chair

“The ocean and the cryosphere, the frozen parts of our planet, might feel remote to some people, but they impact all of us for their role in weather and climate, food and water, for energy, trade, transport for health and well-being, for culture and society. The ocean and cryosphere are critical for all life on Earth, as you will hear. While this report doesn’t center on mitigation issues in-depth, it has shown that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, global warming will drastically alter these systems.”

“Taken together these changes show the world’s ocean and cryosphere have been taking the heat for climate change for decades. The consequences for nature and humanity are swift and severe.”

“When I was in Alaska two weeks ago, I happened to be in Nome when two cruise ships came in to port within a 24-hour period … I did get a chance to talk to some of the folks who were on those ships, and they showed me pictures on their cell phone of polar bears on ice and all these wondrous things that you can only see in the wildest places of the North. And yet, this report kind of demonstrates that exactly what they’re looking to find as they go north is in really grave danger. And I think there is an existential threat about ‘How do we treat these very wildest places where explorers have gone for centuries?’ They kind of hold our imagination, or in their case, kind of our pictures that they’ll share with their children.”

Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, Ambassador to the United States, Norway

“2014 to 2019 was the warmest five-year period on record. So, there is obvious reason for serious concern, and we should spend our time and resources finding solutions; not wasting time debating the cause of climate change or who is more culpable. We have to speed up our efforts considerably—political determination from all corners of the world for action at national level and through international cooperation is, indeed, necessary.”

“It will come as no surprise to you that Norway would like to see continued American engagement on climate change. As one of the largest economies, and with incredible advances and innovation, the United States’ role in driving the world toward lower emissions will be significant.”

“The results are clear; a transition to a sustainable ocean economy will play a significant role in the global response to climate change. Ocean-based climate solutions can deliver up to one-fifth of the annual cut to greenhouse gas emissions needed by 2050 to keep global temperature rise below one-and-a-half degrees Celsius. That is the equivalent of taking two-and-a-half billion cars off the road.”




Welcome Remarks

  • Ambassador David Balton, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center
  • Pete Ogden, Vice President for Energy, Climate, and the Environment, United Nations Foundation


Keynote Presentation

  • Ko Barrett, IPCC Vice Chair


Panel Report Findings Discussion: Ice Loss, Sea Level Rise, and Coral Bleaching

  • Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University; IPCC Coordinating Lead Author
  • Robert DeConto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; IPCC Lead Author
  • Mark Eakin, IPCC Contributing Author
  • Ko Barrett, IPCC Vice Chair
  • Moderator: Monica Medina, Founder and Publisher, Our Daily Planet


Panel International Policy Response

  • Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, Ambassador to the United States, Norway
  • Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General, Nordic Council of Ministers (invited)
  • Honorable Carolina Schmidt, Minister for the Environment, Chile; President of COP 25 (invited)
  • Honorable Simonetta Sommaruga, Vice President of the Federal Council, Switzerland (invited)
  • Moderator: Sherri Goodman, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center


Concluding Remarks

  • Ambassador David Balton, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center
  • Rafe Pomerance, Chair, Arctic 21