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The ocean crisis: climate change's silent victim and the path to SDG14

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By Gokul Shekar

· 4 min read


The world's oceans, covering over 70% of our planet's surface, are in a state of crisis. Climate change is causing a ripple effect through the oceans, impacting marine life, ecosystems, and the millions of people who rely on these vast bodies of water for their livelihoods. In this article, we will explore the ocean crisis, the intricate relationship between climate change and the world's oceans, and what can be done to address this pressing issue while focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

The ocean crisis and climate change

  1. Ocean Acidification: Ocean acidification is a direct consequence of the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. As the oceans absorb excess CO2, their pH levels decrease, making them more acidic. This increased acidity threatens marine life, particularly those with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons. This includes coral reefs, mollusks, and certain types of plankton. As these organisms play vital roles in marine ecosystems, their decline can have cascading effects on the entire ocean food web.
  2. Rising Sea Levels: Global warming, driven by the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, leads to the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers. This results in rising sea levels, which pose a significant threat to coastal communities and ecosystems. Coastal regions are experiencing more frequent and severe inundation, coastal erosion, and the loss of land and infrastructure.
  3. Ocean Warming: Ocean temperatures are rising due to climate change, with consequences for marine life. Warming can disrupt marine ecosystems and the distribution of species, leading to shifts in migration patterns and the abundance of certain species. One of the most visible effects is coral bleaching, which can lead to the loss of biodiversity in fragile coral reef ecosystems.
  4. Extreme Weather Events: The warming of the oceans contributes to the intensification of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. These events have direct and indirect impacts on ocean health. They can cause devastation to coastal communities, leading to pollution and habitat destruction, further stressing already vulnerable marine ecosystems

Addressing the ocean crisis through SDG14

Sustainable Development Goal 14, known as "Life Below Water," aims to preserve and sustainably manage our oceans, seas, and marine resources. Achieving this goal is essential to mitigate the effects of climate change on the oceans. Here are more detailed strategies to address the ocean crisis while focusing on SDG 14:

  1. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: To tackle the root cause of climate change and ocean acidification, it's crucial to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This requires transitioning to clean energy sources, adopting sustainable transportation options, and promoting energy efficiency in industries and homes.
  2. Marine Protected Areas: Establishing marine protected areas is crucial to safeguard vulnerable marine ecosystems. These areas serve as sanctuaries for marine life, allowing populations to recover and providing researchers with valuable insights into preserving biodiversity.
  3. Sustainable Fishing Practices: Overfishing is a severe threat to marine biodiversity. Implementing and enforcing sustainable fishing practices, such as catch quotas and gear restrictions, are key to maintaining healthy fish populations and supporting the livelihoods of coastal communities.
  4. Plastic Pollution Reduction: Plastic pollution poses a growing threat to ocean health. Initiatives to reduce single-use plastics, improve recycling systems, and clean up existing plastic waste are essential to mitigate this issue.
  5. Promote Climate Resilience: Coastal communities must adopt climate-resilient strategies. This includes building stronger infrastructure to withstand rising sea levels and extreme weather events, improving disaster preparedness, and restoring and protecting natural buffers like mangroves, which can act as natural flood barriers.
  6. International Cooperation: Given the global nature of the ocean crisis, international cooperation is critical. Agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for countries to collaborate and take coordinated actions to address the ocean crisis and climate change.


The ocean crisis is a profound issue with far-reaching consequences for our planet. It is intricately linked to climate change, and addressing it requires concerted efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect marine ecosystems, promote sustainable fishing, reduce plastic pollution, and enhance the resilience of coastal communities. Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 14, we can work collectively to protect our oceans and secure a sustainable future for generations to come. It's a complex challenge, but with global cooperation and sustained commitment, we can make significant progress in conserving and sustaining our precious oceans.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Gokul Shekar has over 18 years of experience in B2B education and global team leadership across regions such as the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and India. He is currently Head of ESG & Climate Change at The Carbon Collective Company, where he drives impactful decarbonization journeys.

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