Ocean Risk

The ocean is vital for supporting life on our planet. It is also a significant source of goods and services to the world economy.

But our ocean is changing faster today than at any time in human history. Ocean warming, rising sea levels, acidification, marine pollution and habitat destruction are all creating greater risk and uncertainty, with wide-ranging implications for coastal communities, infrastructure, biodiversity and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Sea level and population density projections indicate that 800 million people will be at risk of coastal flooding and storm surges by 2050. Changes in our ocean will also have major consequences for food security, human health and for national security and migration.

Communities in developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are the most threatened, with women and girls often on the front line of this change.

There is therefore an urgent need to better understand and mitigate ocean-derived risks, and to build resilience in our coastal natural capital and for the most vulnerable communities.

Learn more about Integrating the Ocean into the Global Climate Finance Architecture in December’s issue of the LSE Global Policy Lab: From “Green” to “Blue Finance”.

Ocean-derived risk can be categorised into three risk trends:


Immediate onset risks:

  • Tropical cyclones
  • Storm surge events
  • Flooding and inundation

Slow onset risk:

  • Sea-level rise
  • Acidification
  • Food security issues
  • Impacts on human health
  • Declines in biodiversity

Risk Multipliers:

  • Pollution
  • Resource exploitation (including overfishing)
  • Land-use change